Everybody talks about sustainability these days. So much so that many people predict the word itself has become unsustainable. Yet, overused or not, students continue to be enthusiastic about the concept of building a sustainable future. This spring dozens of student leaders came together to cast their visions for sustainability at UVA. Overwhelmingly, students felt that “sustainability should be a part of every students’ education.”
This statement was confirmed by a 1525 person survey that found 68% of students agreed, 22% were indifferent, and only 10% disagreed. After these findings, the University Committee on Sustainability’s student subcommittee presented their Vision story and supporting resolution to Student Council, which, after examination and discussion, unanimously endorsed both documents.
To make students’ vision a reality, we are asking decision-makers across the University to create school-specific sustainability learning outcomes for all students. With (or without) learning outcomes in place, faculty from any discipline would be able to attend two-day summer workshops to learn more about how to integrate sustainability into their curriculum. A modest stipend would then be awarded to those who attend the workshops and whose syllabi are revised to incorporate relevant sustainability principles. This proposed strategy is the cheapest and most effective that students have identified to realize their vision, outcompete peer institutions and enable the University to better fulfill its mission.
With a top tier institution engaging a broad array of its faculty and all of its students in these sustainability themes, the University can reap the benefits of innovative and impactful research. Additionally, thousands of alumni will be equipped to face the challenges of 21st century. If we invest in our own intellectual and natural capital, we can fulfill students’ vision of “leading the world through the 21st century.”
Students will be hosting three brownbag lunch events this summer at OpenGrounds to discuss ways we can collaborate across disciplines to educate our students and faculty about sustainability. To request an invitation or solicit more information please email Sheffield Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to continue to use OpenGrounds as a hub to learn from each other about the issue that will define our generation, and many generations to come.
Submitted by Sheffield Hale, Environmental Thought and Practice Major and 2012 graduate