Sustainability Program Questions and Answers

Q. What is the Flagship Sustainability Program?

A.  It is a year-long experiential living-learning program.  Students live on a local organic farm 5 miles from campus.  Each semester students take 1.5 credits together on site.  The 1 credit core class teaches sustainability ideas.  The half-credit course is based around the farm and living in the house.  The learning continues outside of the classroom in immersive experience.  Living in the house, working on the farm, cooking and eating food, are all learning moments that we can and should contemplate.  Our local consumption and lifestyle choices intersect with global issues of sustainability.  We can use living in the house together as a way to contemplate and understand the global systems.

Q. What is Sustainability?

A. This term is debated in academia.  One idea is how can we live today that fulfills our economic, social, and spiritual needs without degrading the environmental and social systems that support us.  How can we live today that allows everyone to live with equal opportunity?  How can we live today without denying future generations that same access?  Don't worry about a strict definition because we will explore this topic as a group.

Q. What is experiential learning?

It is the recognition that all learning moments are an experience by the learner, whether that experience is reading a book, listening to a lecture, or hands on practice. Once we recognize that fact we can intentionally supplement more conventional forms of learning with experiences to allow abstract concepts have tangible moments. For example learning about the food system in a textbook is a very different experience than engaging with a small diverse farm. Or can we learn to see how systems work through a household? Once we start to see systems in action we can apply these concepts to broader systems to enact change. Conflict resolution, problem solving, collective decision making are all skills that we intentionally and actively develop. Experiential learning takes on many forms and at the sustainability program we use place focused, project based, immersive learning.

Q. Who can apply to this program?

Any SLU student who has at least a sophomore standing at the beginning of the program.  The program is geared toward sophomores and juniors and welcomes students from all majors and all abilities.

Q. Must I complete any prerequisites to participate in the Sustainability Program?

No. There are no specific prerequisites required.

Q. Can first-year students apply for the program?

Yes. First-years are welcome to apply as long as they will be of sophomore standing by the time of their enrollment in the program.

Q. Do I need to major in a certain discipline to participate?

No. The Sustainability Program encourages all students to apply, even those who have yet to declare a major. We believe that all disciplines have something to contribute to the study of sustainability, and all students have the potential to become agents of change in our society, regardless of their major.

Q. I can’t afford to miss a class for my major. Can I still participate in the Sustainability Program?

Yes. The program only requires that students enroll in 1.5 units of study on the farm per semester, which entails a one-unit course in sustainability studies and a half-unit course in experiential learning practicum. The program will attempt to schedule these courses at times that reduce conflicts and allow students to fulfill the remainder of their coursework on campus.

Q. Can I participate in athletics or other extracurriculars while in the Sustainability Program?

Yes. You can participate in the Sustainability Program while also maintaining membership on an athletic team or in another campus activity. Of course, such participation will occasionally require special arrangements and an additional effort on your behalf to contribute meaningfully to the Sustainability House community and your chosen activity. For example, you may be responsible for transporting yourself to and from campus for these activities or working with your coach or advisor to schedule practices at times that limit conflicts with Sustainability Program requirements. 

Q. Can I participate in the program for just one semester?

During the application process, the Sustainability Program Selection Committee will favor those candidates who commit to a full academic year of participation and residency in the program. 

Q. Can I begin the program in the spring and finish in the fall? Or can I complete one semester during one year and the second semester during another year?

No. Students must enroll in the fall semester first and complete the full year in consecutive order. Only in special circumstances will a student be permitted to enter the program in the spring semester or divide their participation in the program over multiple years.

Q. Will the Sustainability Program count as one of my study abroad semesters?

No. The Sustainability Program do not count as off-campus study abroad programs. Instead, they are on-campus hybrid programs.

Q. Can I still sign up if I want to go abroad during one of the semesters?

We prefer participants to do both fall and spring semesters.

Q. How do students get to and from campus?

The program will provide a daily shuttle to and from campus. Details of this shuttle will be determined by the course schedules of students participating in the program, as well as the course schedule of the elective courses offered at the farm site. 

Q. Can I have my own car at the Sustainability Site?

Students can have their own car at the site, though there is limited parking.  For sustainability purposes, we encourage car-pooling and the use of the Sustainability Program shuttle to get to and from campus. 

Q. Are we allowed to have friends over to the Sustainability House?

Yes. Engagement with the larger campus community is encouraged.

Q. How do meals work?

A main feature of the program involves learning about food systems and growing our own food. Meals are an important part of the learning process, and therefore, students will often prepare—and eat!—their meals together at the Sustainability House. Family-style meals provide a chance to connect with your peers and to enjoy the satisfaction of your hard work in the fields. The house has a large, well-stocked kitchen. Certain meals will be designated as communal, where students prepare meals for all participants on a rotating schedule. Other meals will be on your own, but all resources of the kitchen are available. Food that is not grown on the farm will be purchased from sustainable sources, and students will participate in food selection.

Q. Should I still get a meal plan through dining services?

Students are still required to get a meal plan, but the food is provided by the sustainability program.  The farm grows a lot of the food the program consumes.  Other food is purchased with students having input on what is purchased and where it is sourced from with the goal of ethically and sustainable products in mind.  Students are encouraged to pack lunches to bring to campus.  In addition to food provided by the program, $400 is provided onto students' CWA, for use as lunches on campus.

Q. What will the experiential learning component be like?

The students’ experiential learning opportunities build on the rich agricultural heritage of the St. Lawrence River Valley and the area’s community of environmental educators, farmers, local living activists, green builders, artisans, and others.  At the Sustainability Program site, the students build structures needed by the program, including possible small housing units designed to minimize environmental impact, and infrastructure used for agricultural season extension or related to alternative energy systems.  With our program located on land leased from Cornell Cooperative Extension, our students interact with CCE’s high tunnel season extension structure, livestock herds and the CCE staff and educators.  As the students learn to live simply and sustainably, they grow, process/preserve and cook their own food, and, when possible, source additional supplies locally.  

Q. How many students will participate in the Sustainability Program?

The program can support 7-10 students.  

Q. Since the Sustainability Farm is relatively close to campus, how will it feel like living-learning community as opposed to just a residence a little further from campus?

One of the goals of the program is to: Foster a strong living and learning community. The students face issues regarding their consumption and its impacts on the natural environment.  Through the shared experience of low-impact living, they become more conscious of their personal and collective consumption patterns. They learn to function as a small community of shared values, balancing individual and communal interests and needs. The Sustainability Program is a living/learning community in which students share core courses and shared values of low-impact living and awareness of collective consumption patterns. How much to use cars, visit campus, and other behavior patterns are part of collaborative decision making that the students participate in, as they balance concerns about environmental impact with their personal and academic needs. Finally, efforts are made to ensure cross-fertilization and a sharing of values between those participating in the Sustainability Program and campus as we all work toward a more sustainable future.

Q. Does the Flagship Sustainability Program count towards any major or minors?

Yes, the Sustainability Program can count towards Environmental Studies & Sciences, Anthropology, Sociology, Education, Conservation Biology, Outdoor Studies, Global Studies. However, specific learning goals must be met so coordination with a program advisor is needed.  

Q. Sign me up. When is the deadline to apply?

The application for 2023-2024 is due March 31, 2023.  Apply.