IV. Education

Luther’s Sesquicentennial Strategic Plan includes a recommendation to “make sustainability a part of every student’s learning experience.” As a way of enacting this recommendation, one task group of the Campus Sustainability Council is focused on student learning. This section of the climate action plan outlines ongoing efforts and future goals intended to integrate sustainability and climate neutrality into the curriculum, co-curriculum, and research in as many ways as possible. 

Why should sustainability be a part of every student’s learning experience? Sustainability education complements the goals of a liberal arts education and the mission of Luther College in many ways:

  • Sustainability education emphasizes an interdisciplinary, systems approach to thinking about problems. It promotes an understanding of social and ecological systems, an awareness of their interdependence, and an appreciation for the complexity of our world.
  • Sustainability education demands attention to the importance of place and community while simultaneously increasing students’ awareness of cross-cultural perspectives and global interconnectedness.
  • Sustainability education helps students become informed, ethical citizens. The ability to assess empirical claims, engage in political discourse, advocate change, and commit to action leads students toward a life of service.

How will we accomplish the goal of reaching every Luther student with sustainability education? Rather than assuming that one strategy is best or sufficient to meet this goal, Luther is working on education for sustainability on many different fronts. The objective is to integrate sustainability into the learning experience of students in multiple places, not simply to add an additional activity, course, or requirement. The following areas of emphasis and accompanying goals help to guide Luther’s work on education for sustainability:

Faculty Development: Since the faculty own the curriculum and are the cornerstone of any educational initiative, faculty development opportunities are a key element. Luther will build upon current efforts including the Oneota Project with the goal of reaching at least 1/3 of the full time faculty and at least one faculty member in every academic department with an on-campus workshop or off-campus conference on sustainability education. 

Existing Curriculum: Education for sustainability must be seen as a way to enhance and improve, not supplant, Luther’s existing liberal arts curriculum. Thus we must seek all available avenues to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. A survey in Spring 2009 found that faculty listed sustainability as “extremely important” or “very important” in 33 courses. Within two years, the College seeks to double the number of courses with this level of sustainability coverage. Specific opportunities that should be explored include: 

  • Promote sustainability education in the first year curriculum, especially Paideia I
  • Expand sustainability related offerings in Paideia II
  • Create more opportunities for sustainability education in the January term
  • Work with the Academic Planning Committee to investigate the role of sustainability within Luther’s general education requirements, for example a sustainability perspective requirement

Sustainability Major or Minor: While always remaining true to our liberal arts core, Luther must always be open to new opportunities for dedicated courses of study in emerging areas. Led by the Environmental Studies Steering Committee, the College will explore the feasibility of a formal course of study in sustainability, including the options of a concentration in sustainability within the environmental studies major or a minor in sustainability.

Co-Curricular Opportunities: Luther must constantly seek to increase opportunities for student involvement in sustainability projects, activities and events on campus and in the larger community. Specifically, Luther should initiate or continue the following projects:

  • Work with Student Life to enhance sustainability related programming including new student orientation
  • Establish a sustainable living house where student residents are committed to outreach, research, or service projects related to sustainability
  • Implement a campus sustainability fund to financially support student projects and activities
  • Establish a “clearing house” that connects faculty and staff doing sustainability work with students who are interested in assisting that work
  • Increase the annual number of work study positions related to sustainability 
  • Create an “eco-reps” program to provide targeted sustainability programming in all residence halls

Connection to Place: Since commitment to global issues such as climate change is usually grounded in connection to particular places, Luther is working to enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation and ecological restoration. An immersion program for incoming students has seen steady growth and provides a foundation for more outdoor programming. In addition, Luther has created a land intern program and is working to enhance trails and student engagement with Luther’s natural lands.

Regional Leadership: In addition to our work on education for sustainability on our campus, Luther College is committed to working with other schools and organizations on education for sustainability initiatives.  Luther faculty must continue current efforts and look for new opportunities to take leadership roles in working on curriculum initiatives with organizations including the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS), the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Luther must also take a lead in working with its sister colleges within the ELCA to identify and build upon the special opportunities that exist within colleges of the church to educate all students about creation care and sustainability.