Bringing It

Bringing It #97: An Innovative Environmental Curriculum, BT2P Reception, and Research Seminar Opportunity

January 17, 2023

Dear friends,

The new year brings moments to consider milestones of the past year and opportunities to look forward to the good work ahead. 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Bringing Theory to Practice. Over the next months, we will be celebrating the contributions of the many educators, supporters, and collaborators in our network. As one occasion, we warmly invite those who are attending AAC&U’s Annual Meeting to our reception for reflection, community, and conversation about our current work on the Paradigm Project. Details are below.

In this issue, we are also excited to continue our practice of highlighting examples of transformative educational practices. Paradigm Working Group member Randy Bass describes how the proposal for an undergraduate degree in Environment and Sustainability at Georgetown points to an emerging educational paradigm. The degree’s innovative curriculum connects holistic student development with a multifaceted engagement with environmental issues. It is a model that centers student well-being and belonging and empowers students in the creation of their own educational pathways.

Readers who are inspired by Georgetown’s example may also be interested in David’s conversation from 2021 with Paul Hanstedt, author of Creating Wicked Students, which explores how an engagement with wicked social problems can foster student development and empowerment.

Lastly, we expect that many readers are looking for ways to strengthen equitable and impactful mentoring relationships with students. We are excited to publicize an important opportunity to be part of a research seminar on “Mentoring Meaningful Learning Experiences” through the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University, our home institution. You can read about it below, and follow the links to apply.

The Environment and Sustainability Degree: An Emerging Educational Paradigm at Georgetown

The most salient question that we ask every day at the Red House (a curriculum incubator at Georgetown) is how learning innovation can help in some small way to bring a new emerging paradigm for education into existence. The creation of a new undergraduate degree in Environment and Sustainability at Georgetown provided one opportunity to explore what this emerging paradigm might look like.

The newly designed proposed degree in Environment and Sustainability responds to the urgency and complexity of the deepening environmental crisis. It seeks to create transformational interdisciplinary learning experiences that teach students to understand their environment, appreciate human impact across sectors, and advance sustainable practices. The degree design has been a collaboration of the Red House and the Earth Commons, Georgetown’s institute for Environment and Sustainability. A joint degree with the College of Arts and Sciences, the proposal is heading into the faculty governance process now, with hope that it will launch in academic year 2023-24.

The degree puts a values-based high-impact practice approach to liberal education at the center, including:

  • Experience-based learning, emphasizing interdisciplinary research, and action
  • Development of global consciousness, cultural humility, and intercultural competence
  • Working knowledge of theories of change and environmental change-making

Additionally, we tried to design additional dimensions of an emerging paradigm that educate a new kind of consciousness, to go along with transdisciplinary skills and mindsets. Two curricular features that address this goal include:

  • Focus on “ecological belonging” and the role of inner transformation in social change
  • Integrated emphasis on professional and personal formation and wellbeing

We use the term “ecological belonging” to refer to the inner work that is needed to see oneself generously in relation to the multiple ecosystems in which we live. Rather than seeing this as an abstract value or something that happens in the co-curriculum, we have built this into the structure of the degree. At the beginning of each of the first four semesters, students engage in one-credit modules focused on ecological belonging, personal and ecological well-being, and a sense of personal responsibility, purpose, and hope in relation to the environment. In the final week of each of the first four semesters, students will engage in an integrative simulation that asks them to work collaboratively on topics related to “designing a sustainable campus,” and “designing a sustainable city,” as well as environmental conflict resolution in international contexts.

Student as Partners 
Because the degree is committed to an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to student learning, a significant portion of credits are dedicated to both experiential learning and professional formation throughout all four years. The Formation component of the degree includes six required credits for every upper-division student to serve as a peer leader, mentor, or peer teacher supporting students in the lower-division curriculum in ways that are integral to the overall design of the degree.
Students were also active partners in creating the curriculum itself, as the design of the degree deeply involved 20 undergraduate students in a year-long credit-bearing design course developing key dimensions of the proposal, with a particular focus on the infusion of wellbeing, equity, peer leadership, and high-impact learning practices. Students will continue to be integral to the evolution of the degree, whether it is developing community-based strategies through our emerging downtown campus (where students will spend their upper division years) or the global environmental immersions that will be part of every student’s educational journey. 
We know that many aspects of the degree will evolve over time, but the seeds for a new kind of degree have been sown. 

Submitted by Randy Bass, with the collaboration of the Environment and Sustainability Degree Proposal team: Earth Commons (Pete Marra, Jesse Meiller, Mike Tschiderer, Andela Van Dorn); Red House (Randall Amster, Noah Martin, Jan Menafee, Keaton Nara); student fellows, Jessie Cheng, Sarah Craig, Jane Doherty, Peris Lopez; and all the students of IDST 325/326, “University as a Design Problem.”

Join Us for BT2P’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

BT2P is turning 20 years old, and we’d love to celebrate with you! We will host a casual reception at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Please join us from 6:45-7:45 p.m. PT Thursday, Jan. 19, in the Bayview Room A at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, the convention hotel. This will be a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends in person, a chance to hear an update about the Paradigm Project, andperhaps most importantlya great occasion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BT2P’s work. Light snacks and a cash bar will be available. If you plan to attend the AAC&U meeting, please join us and let us know you’re coming by emailing [email protected].

CEL at Elon Invites Applications for 2023-2025 Research Seminar

The Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University invites interested scholars and practitioners, regardless of discipline, to apply for the 2023-2025 Research Seminar on Mentoring Meaningful Learning Experiences. Accepted participants will join a multi-institutional cohort of researchers collaborating to investigate the quality characteristics of mentoring and how colleges and universities can foster equitable cultures of mentoring. Read the full call for applications to learn more. The application deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Thanks for staying in touch, contributing to our work, and for all that you do,
David, Paul, Todd, Tammy