Students in the Master of Liberal Studies Program put sustainability into action through SUST-S610, Measuring Sustainability, taught by Krista Bailey. The course is designed to give the students the skills to “track sustainability in whatever way, shape, or form that it is being implemented.”
The course begins by looking at the different tools for measuring sustainability; they examine who made the tool and why, how it could be used and who it could be used by. Students then use that knowledge to identify an area of opportunity that addresses sustainability and to develop their own community-based project. From there, students meet with community partners to ask them about their goals, the nature of their service/product, and how the students can partner with them to achieve their goals.
Students have worked with the City of South Bend’s Office of Sustainability, the Elkhart Environmental Center, and the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown South Bend. This past year, students developed projects around gardening for wildlife, banning plastic bags, food waste reduction on campus, and a campus pride index.
At the end of the semester, students present their projects to the class and their community partner. The final presentations vary based on students’ goals. If a student has more of an academic focus, wants to publish, or become a teacher, the student may write a paper. Other students may create videos or art pieces. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s students were unable to present their findings in-person, so they recorded their presentations on the Center for Sustainability’s YouTube channel.
This course not only deepens students understanding of sustainability, it prepares them for professional life in this field. According to Bailey, “it gives them real life, real world experience on real issues and real opportunities so that they can build their own practical portfolio of projects.” It also provides a service to community organizations by bringing fresh eyes to sustainability challenges and new tools to address them.
If you’d like to watch students’ final presentations, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcEIlvG6Xjs