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Magnolias Project Archives - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Posts Tagged ‘Magnolias Project’

Sustainability through Place Values

Saturday, December 7th, 2013
Photo by WFU photographer Ken Bennett

Photo credit: Ken Bennett

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

Community of Scholars Grows

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Rain garden at Winston HallEleven 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

Writing 111: Thinking Like a Mountain

Friday, September 27th, 2013

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