In our effort to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability we have developed two core courses: Sustainability Leadership 1 and Sustainability Leadership 2. Students in the program are required to take 1.5 credits each semester, including one core course and a .5 credit practicum course. The core courses are taught by faculty from humanities, social and natural sciences. In addition to the required core courses, students have the option of enrolling in elective courses offered on the farm. Students will be given first priority for seats in these elective courses and will be joined by on-campus students who fill out the remaining seats. Program students who do not opt to register for these elective courses will work with their on-campus advisor to fill out their course schedule by selecting on-campus courses required for their major or distribution requirements. Finally, students who desire are able to develop their own 1 or .5 credit independent studies as part of the program.
Our core courses are integrated and scaffolded. What this means is that the Sustainability Leadership courses and the practicum courses are designed collectively by program faculty to inform and build on one another. The courses from the fall provide a base for the courses in the spring.
Currently, our fall credits provide students with an understanding of what sustainability is, how to think through systems involved in sustainability, how to identify problems regarding sustainability, and how to develop and evaluate potential solutions to those problems. The spring courses allow students to continue building problem-solving skills while focusing on implementation of solutions and communicating with stakeholders and audiences to educate and persuade. By taking the 3 credits of course work throughout the year of the program, students gain five competencies of sustainability:
- Systems Thinking: Understanding the complex relationships among and between social, political, and environmental systems involved in sustainability questions.
- Anticipatory Analysis: Thinking into the future to predict future consequences of actions and policies.
- Normative Thinking: Recognizing how social beliefs and values impact how we frame issues, develop strategies for solutions, and evaluate decisions about future actions.
- Strategic Application: Identifying various strategies for solving recognized problems.
- Interpersonal Skills: Working within communities and with others to develop and implement solutions to problems.
These competencies are essential for those interested in being leaders in areas of sustainability, whether in their professional lives or communities. In reality, these skills are essential for taking leadership positions in any field. So, while our courses are focused on learning theories of sustainability and engaging in hands-on experiences in sustainability efforts, the core courses have much to offer anyone interested in being a leader in their chosen field.
Elective courses, primarily independent studies or SYE research projects are chosen to further expose students to interdiscuplinary approaches to examining the concept of sustainability.