We invite WFU faculty to enhance teaching and engagement with sustainability issues by participating in the Magnolias Curriculum Project. No prior experience with sustainability-related issues in the classroom or in research is necessary, and faculty at all ranks and career stages are welcome!
This innovative approach to curricular change, modeled on the nationally renowned Piedmont Project (Emory University) and Ponderosa Project (Northern Arizona University), provides faculty with an intellectually stimulating and collegial experience to pool their expertise.
The workshop explores how we can meaningfully integrate sustainability—broadly defined—into our classrooms. Although we start by taking a close look at Wake Forest University and the larger Piedmont region, we invite participants to engage in local to global comparisons.
The Magnolia Project kicks off with a two-day workshop in May that offers opportunities to extend research and teaching horizons across disciplines and create new networks with fellow colleagues. Following the workshop, faculty participants prepare discipline-specific course materials on their own over the summer. They reconvene in early August to discuss their insights and experiences. Participants receive a stipend of $500 ($250 upon completion of the workshop; $250 upon completion of a new or revised syllabus).
Project participants agree to:
- Read some materials prior to the workshop
- Participate in the full 2-day workshop on May 11-12, 2016
- Commit time during the summer to prepare or revise a syllabus and submit it in August
- Report back to the group in August.
Magnolias Project 2016 — Accepting Applications
We will accept applications for the May 2016 workshop through April 22, 2016. Click here to apply for the 2016 Magnolias Project.
Syllabi and Statements of Participants
Each cohort of the Magnolias Project has contributed to this list of books that they have found relevant in teaching sustainability-related courses.
The Wake Forest faculty offer many courses that stimulate and facilitate learning for sustainability. A snapshot of the course inventory is pictured below. Click here for the full inventory of courses.
The fifth annual Magnolias Curriculum Project brought together ten faculty members on May 11-12, 2016, to explore extending sustainability education across disciplines. Ron Von Burg, assistant professor in the Department of Communications, and Luke Johnston, associate professor of Religion and Environmental Studies, facilitated this year’s workshop.
The workshop aims to build an interdisciplinary community of scholars dedicated to addressing sustainability and empowering these scholars to incorporate sustainability into their own courses.
This year’s cohort was a great illustration of the breadth of faculty with participation from the following departments: divinity, art, politics and international affairs, education, English, psychology and anthropology.
“I was probably most wonderfully surprised by the range of colleagues I met and formed relationships with—I really feel everyone brought something new and interesting to my world and I want to continue these relationships,” a Magnolias Curriculum Project participant said.
During this two-day workshop, participants discussed sustainability literature, developed key learning objectives for their students, and shared information from their own unique fields of study. This innovative approach to curricular change provides faculty with an intellectually stimulating environment.
“I left the workshop invigorated with new ideas and with a better framework for understanding sustainability at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, regionally and globally,” a participant stated in the workshop evaluation.
Following the workshop, faculty participants submitted a syllabus for a course in which sustainability-related outcomes are integrated. These courses are either classes the faculty have been teaching and plan to teach again, or completely new courses they are developing.
An example of a new sustainability course offering is Andrew Gurstelle’s Introduction to Museum Studies which explores sustainable heritage development, the long-term sustainability of cultural sites, and the idea of cultural landscapes as social constructs.
Each year this workshop results in an increased number of courses that support a wide variety of sustainability learning objectives. This gives students from all disciplines the opportunity to pursue knowledge about sustainability through a variety of lenses. The 2016 cohort brought the number of Magnolias Curriculum Project participants up to 52.
The faculty’s revised and new syllabi are available online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, change agents for sustainability across the Wake Forest campus gathered for the Champions of Change campus sustainability awards. The awards program recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability into operations, teaching, and engagement. Dean of the School of Divinity, Gail O’Day, and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President, Mary Pugel, presented the awards.
Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.
- The Office of the Registrar and the Surplus Property Program won in the Resource Conservation category. This year, the Office of the University Registrar completed four projects that saved over 13,000 pieces of paper, as well as printing and mailing costs for the university. Since its start in 2011, the Surplus Property Program has diverted nearly 250,000 lbs. of waste from the landfill, repurposed over 3,000 pieces of furniture and other items for use on campus, captured close to 30,000 lbs of residential electronic waste through a free pickup program, and helped the university avoid over $1 million dollars of new purchase costs.
- Department of Religion faculty member Steve Boyd was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Steve was recognized for his leadership of the Religion and Public Engagement Program and his statewide organizing of Scholars for North Carolina’s Future. Since its approval in 2011, 17 students have graduated with the Religion and Public Engagement concentration, and a record 12 more are set to graduate this year.
- Ron Von Burg was recognized for Teaching, Research and Engagement. Ron teaches the popular interdisciplinary undergraduate course Humanity & Nature; taught the communications workshop and led a graduate research course on Coasts and Climate Change in Belize this year for the new MA in Sustainability; and directs undergraduate students in writing and performing plays for school-aged children and “moot court”-style debates on sustainability issues annually. He is also an alumnus of Wake Forest’s own sustainability-across-the curriculum workshop, the Magnolias Project, and is co-facilitating that workshop for the second time this year.
- JL Bolt and the construction team of Facilities and Campus Services and Frank Shelton with Residence Life and Housing were recognized for a Bright Idea partnership. The construction team upcycled discarded bed frames from residence halls into white boards, bulletin board frames, safety bed rails, storage racks, benches, tables, mirror replacements, and mail boxes.
Additionally, Green Team captains Barbara Macri and Kate Ruley were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. As the Green Team captain for Human Resources, Barbara facilitated a department-wide sustainability goal-setting pilot, working collaboratively to develop a range of goals to meet the varying needs of her colleagues.
Kate coordinates the tracking of our institutional food purchases, identifying and calculating what we spend on regionally-grown, organic, and fair-trade-certified items. She mentors the team’s sustainability intern, and advocates for sustainable choices in menu development and procurement.
65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.
Dance is an increasingly popular art form for the investigation of cultural understandings of nature. Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, engaged her students in just such an investigation this semester. Soriano, who was a member of the 2014 Magnolias Curriculum Project cohort, modified her Dance Composition class to incorporate sustainability.
Soriano challenged her students to choreograph a piece based on nature, specifically something growing in Reynolda Gardens. She asked them to observe various plants, and then choose one to explore, taking into account its color, structure, growth and movement; how it might change with the seasons, and how it might react to light. With this information, the students developed their own movement studies, aligning their dances with nature.
After the assignment, the class performed Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance to witness how other choreographers integrate nature themes into their work.
The students were also asked to consider how an art form like dance might become more sustainable through rehearsal, repetition, and thoughtful use of time and resources. She encouraged them to consider what made dance sustainable, and to journal their thoughts and experiences.
Annie Stockstill, a student in Soriano’s class, reflected that by continuing to dance well-known pieces, “I am preserving the ongoing life of the dances, and therefore acting out sustainability.” Serena Cates expressed similar feelings, stating “Personally, I choose to perceive dance as sustainable because, although the technique, style, or choreography alters over time, the motivation and impact of it has remained.”
My family and I live on a 22-acre farm in Stokes County. We are serious gardeners. I can’t remember the last time I bought a tomato at the store and I have saved my own okra and basil seeds each year for over a decade. Now late October, we have over 60 garlic heads up in the garden and have put the cold frame in place. We also raise Shetland sheep, a very hardy heritage wool breed. For a few years we raised heritage turkeys (Bourbon Reds) and maintain a flock of about 30 free-range laying hens and sell their eggs to wonderful people on campus. Sometimes I go to meetings and people say, “Oh, you are the egg lady.” All of this effort supplies fabulous, fresh and taste-laden ingredients to cook with. At my house, we eat very well.
But all of these farming endeavors do not pay the mortgage. My husband and I are both faculty in the Department of Chemistry, and Bruce currently serves as Associate Provost of Research. In the Chemistry Department, teaching slots are a common topic of discussion. We never have enough faculty members to meet demand for all the courses required for our majors and pre-med students. We run out of faculty teaching slots every semester and work hard to fill the needs of our students. Because of this, we are truly limited in the number of First Year Seminars (FYS) we can offer each year. Faculty who have developed FYS offerings offer them on a rotating basis.
I have taught the FYS True Value Meals several times in the past. According to the syllabus, True Value Meals “has been designed to develop the analytical and critical thinking skills of students, and their ability to express in writing and aloud their opinions and ideas, in a setting that focuses on the production, processing distribution and eating of food.” It is an ideal topic for the FYS, and a topic that I am passionate about. Luckily, my turn in the rotation came during the fall 2014 semester.
By coincidence, the semester I was offering a food-centered FYS class, the Office of Sustainability organized Make Every Bite Count, a speaker series about the food we grow and eat that challenges us to imagine how we can sustainably feed the world. Students are required to attend the events and we sit together as a group. In the following class meeting, the discussion is centered on frank analysis of each event and how it compares with other course material. In twenty years of teaching at Wake, I have never seen students as fired up as they were the day after viewing the documentary GMO OMG. I have no doubt that the talk by Vandana Shiva on the challenges of feeding a growing world population will be just as powerful, if not more so.
Since I taught True Value Meals last, the sustainability movement on campus has blossomed. I was able to participate in the Magnolias Project, which strives to integrate sustainability across the curriculum. The campus garden has grown both in size and organization. Campus Kitchen now has dedicated space on campus and has expanded its programming. All of these have combined for wonderful service-learning opportunities for my students. Each student is required to complete 18 hours of food-related service with community partners to enhance their readings for the course and aid class discussion. What have they been doing? The mid-term logs of service hours showed that they have been gleaning food from the Cobblestone Farmers Market for redistribution to food-insecure families; repackaging food from the on-campus dining hall for delivery to persons in need; making sandwiches for homeless individuals on Saturday mornings; turning plots, compost and planting fall crops. All of this effort has helped the partner agencies AND the students’ learning. Our class discussions are livelier because they are all experiencing different aspects of food culture in their work outside of class. And the students actually enjoy their service learning hours. It’s a nice break from reading and writing and gives them time to reflect on course material and try to integrate all the different pieces. Some students have found a “niche” at the university through their service learning partners. I am astounded by the number of students who want to become shift leaders for Campus Kitchen or interns with the campus garden. It’s helped me realize how important extra-curricular activities are to students’ overall wellness.
I can say with confidence that this semester students are the most engaged in my FYS material, thinking more deeply and broadly. I encourage all faculty to find a topic they are passionate about and use the plentiful teaching resources here at Wake to develop a class that will impact students. From teaching workshops on community engagement and sustainability to on-campus service learning opportunities, our university has a bounty of support for engaged learning.
By Dr. Angela King, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry
In the spring of 2012 I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Magnolias Curriculum Project. The readings and discussions in the workshop quickly revealed the big questions of sustainability: How does personal behavior and choice relate to global phenomenon? What do we hope to sustain, and who benefits? These issues are not only about the earth’s future, but also prompt deeper reflection about our history, relationships to places, capacity for self-awareness and change, and sense of responsibility to others.
I wanted to further explore these big questions in a First Year Seminar that I offered in spring 2014 titled Nature, Environments, and Place in American Thought. My intention was to introduce students to traditions of environmental thought and help them explore their relationships to places, nature and social action. The class was organized as a journey from inner reflection to public outreach, culminating in a web exhibit. After reading classic and contemporary nature writing pieces, the students first created group photo essays that visually tell a story and make an interpretive point about human relationships to nature. Some groups chose to investigate personal relationships to significant places, while others depicted Wake Forest’s efforts to promote sustainability.
Meanwhile, the class visited Old Salem’s heritage gardens, Reynolda House Museum of Art, and Reynolda Village to make connections to scholarly arguments about landscape design, cultural values, and sustainability featured in the readings. Each student then chose one place in Winston-Salem to research in-depth, endeavoring to interpret the environmental and social histories of familiar and everyday places – a trail, lake, neighborhood, park – in novel ways. The final project was to create a podcast based on an interview with an environmental actor. The groups traveled around the Piedmont to visit organic farms, a prayer center, and the site of the Dan River coal ash spill to conduct interviews. Throughout the semester the students worked with Digital Initiatives Librarian Chelcie Rowell to build a digital exhibit featuring text, images, audiovisual presentations, and a map of place studies. In doing so, students had the opportunity to reflect on the power and limitations of technology to represent nature and educate and inspire others. Most crucially, the course allowed students to both think through their personal relationship to environments within the context of intellectual traditions, and to link these ideas to cooperative action and collective responsibility.
View the students’ web exhibit at: http://cloud.lib.wfu.edu/fys100fff
By Lisa Blee, Assistant Professor of History
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 13-14, 2014 for the 3rd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was co-facilitated by communications professor Ron Von Burg, an alumnus of last year’s cohort, and Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the university’s director of sustainability.
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed provocative literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and is launching a new Master’s in sustainability this fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from art, management, sociology, history, classical languages, economics, dance, business, documentary film, and writing.
Closing words of appreciation from participants in the 2014 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model:
What a treat to meet colleagues from other parts of the university. It’s very easy to hole away and neither learn about nor appreciate what they are doing.
Meeting people from other departments. Hearing things from a different perspective.
Opportunity to learn about sustainability as a field, here on campus and amongst colleagues. Loved outside time…on schedule.
So glad I participated in the workshop!
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Students in my fall 2013 Literature and the Environment seminar (ENG 341G) spent the semester exploring different sites of belonging through world literature. Their course work carried them through critical discussions on the anthropocene, bioregionalism, deep ecology, ecotones and general systems theory. In their final class unit, they targeted their analysis toward key issues of sustainability. Several groups of students got together to reflect on the ways sustainability connected them to different communities of practice. Prominent among such communities was Wake Forest.
In the following essays, students consider the ways environments are composed through participation. They urge other students to be more fully present in the ways they interact with their campus environment, and they propose solutions for more sustainable technological practices. Other essays reflect on the ways Wake Forest has shaped students as engaged individuals; students consider the ways the college’s environs have provided a vital resource for their spirits. Though all these short essays are quite different in their approaches to place values, all share an important central insight: Sustainability is something that needs to be grounded in communities of belonging.
By Dr. Judith Madera, Magnolias Project Participant 2012
As a chemistry major with an environmental studies minor, I enjoy the chances I get to take classes that depart from the sciences. I have developed a great fondness for a course I am currently taking – Religion and Ecology, with Dr. Lucas Johnston. It has made me look beyond my knowledge of the environment, beyond my knowledge of religion, and realize that human history is not necessarily a story of the conflict between religion and nature. Religion and Ecology merges what seem to be two very different bodies of study into one, examining preconceived notions, and taking a deeper look into the impacts of each upon the other.
During the first weeks of class we addressed the intimate dance between the roots of various religions and the environment. The class is mainly discussion-based, and requires students to lead two of the classes in the semester on selected readings. The readings are captivating and diverse, covering topics related to environmental history in Eastern and Western religions, American romanticism, and radical environmentalism. We also read The Story of B by Daniel Quinn and essays from American Indian environmental activist, Winona LaDuke, who spoke on campus this semester. The final project for the course is the presentation of either an annotated bibliography on a topic of choice related to the course, or an engaged project which explores the relationships between religions and their habitats.
This class has given me a chance to discuss the history of how and why religions ranging from Christianity to Hinduism to Radical Environmentalism began, and what kinds of values shape these ways of viewing the world. Religions often define how nature should be viewed and valued, whether it is claiming “dominion” over the land, or connecting with the gods that reside in rivers and mountains. Conversely, there are also cases where habitats shape religious expression.
This class has caused me to examine more closely the culture in which we live, as well as other cultures and habitats around the world. For me, it’s more scientific than an anthropology class, more discussion-based than a religion class, and more historical than an environmental studies class. It links the human species with their habitats, and explores how the values we place on those habitats shape our lives and determine whether we thrive or struggle within them.
Contributed by Claire Nagy-Kato (‘14)
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 15-16, 2013 for the 2nd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was facilitated by alumni from last year’s inaugural project: Sarah Mason (mathematics) and Luke Johnston (religion).
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed relevant literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and plans to launch a new Master’s in sustainability next fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from communication, Divinity, education, entrepreneurship, humanities, math, physics, psychology, and writing.
Closing comments from participants in the 2013 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model; when asked what they enjoyed most about the experience they said:
Bringing together folks from different disciplines and allowing the conversation to unfold organically.
Interacting with colleagues and bouncing ideas off each other. The outdoor excursion was great!
The camaraderie of the instructors and participants.
I think it did a good job providing substantive introductions to the constellation of issues that make up sustainability without being overly long or too one-track.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
A few years ago I happened upon an intriguing article written about an indigenous tribe nestled deep in the amazon forest. Some members of this tribe, as far as researchers can gather, have never had any substantial, meaningful contact with the modern world. Observed only from a distance, the Awa know nothing of the cultural and historical events that have shaped our collective understanding of Western reality. For subsistence, they depend on profoundly nuanced relationships to the natural systems that support them, and have amassed an extensive and intimate body of knowledge about flora, fauna, climate, and geology that the Western world has all but lost. The plight of the Awa, who are under constant threat from global agribusinesses, inspire questions about how differently our two cultures engage reality, an interface with the more-than-human world that we commonly, but erroneously, think of as universal. If we could talk to them, would they be able to teach us something profound about our human relationships to the environment? Or would our two realities be so incompatible that any real communication would be impossible? What precisely have we lost—and have long since forgotten about—in our efforts to insulate ourselves from nature? To explore these questions, I designed a writing and critical thinking course that would engage students in a semester-long philosophical inquiry, one that would ask them to methodically examine their lives, their perceptions, and their relationships to the more-than-human world – Thinking Like a Mountain: Environmental Sustainability in an Age of Mass Distraction.
Although generally successful, I realized after a few semesters of teaching the course that something was missing. Something practical. Something concrete. Other than reevaluating their perceptions and their lives, how might students effect change in a world that flirts quite closely with global environmental collapse? On cue, enter Wake Forest University’s Magnolias Curriculum Project. Through this project, and with the help of some very knowledgeable peers (Luke Johnston and Sarah Mason especially), I redesigned the course to incorporate a hands-on approach to local and global sustainability issues. The students in the course maintain their scholarly pursuit of academic writing and environmental philosophy. But now they ground their inquiries by exploring and writing about Wake Forest’s many sustainability initiatives, from the Campus Kitchen and the Campus Garden to the Sustainability Theme House, recycling, LEED certification, and energy conservation. Although I am in the middle of the first semester with this redesigned course, the results are palpable. Wake Forest students strive for a balance between their interior lives and the demands of the material world that surrounds them. As such, the course empowers them to connect their desires for positive, mindful change with realistic, real-world opportunities.
By Dr. Eric Stottlemyer, Magnolias Project Participant 2013