The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) approved the creation of a Sustainability & Environmental Justice Course Cluster on Feb. 7. The cluster contains courses from the Anthropology, Biology, Psychology, American Studies, and Philosophy Departments, among others.
“Encompassing the climate change, ecological sustainability, and environmental justice, this course cluster recognizes that sustainability and environmental justice are (or should be) central to public policy debates, scientific and intellectual inquiry, and the foundations of social and economic life,” the cluster’s description reads. “A course cluster also makes these courses easier to find for both students and faculty advisors (especially important as they cross both disciplinary and divisional lines), attract prospective students to Wesleyan, and raise awareness of this field among students and faculty.”
Cluster Coordinator Anthony Hatch, who teaches courses cross-listed in Science in Society, African American Studies, the College of the Environment, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Sociology Department, finds the interdisciplinary nature of the cluster essential to its success.
“The courses that are currently listed within the cluster often originate in intellectual spaces that move across disciplinary boundaries,” Hatch wrote in an email to The Argus. “This makes sense because practices of sustainability and the realities of environmental injustice are implicated across domains of scientific inquiry, a diverse range of ecosystems, and the social lives of all sorts of living things and not just humans.”
Hatch also spoke to the overall ease of the EPC approval process.
“Professor Basak Kus (Sociology), chair of the EPC, was open and kindly receptive to our proposal and took it before the EPC ahead of the schedule we were expecting,” Professor Hatch wrote. “Their unanimous support for the cluster signals how important Wesleyan faculty believe issues of sustainability and environmental justice are to what we research and teach.”
WSA Representative Ariel Deutsch ’21, who serves on the EPC as a student representative alongside Rosanne Ng ’19, pointed out that the cluster serves to guide students’ course selection but does not have a designation on transcripts like minors or certificates. Deutsch believes that the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Cluster is a step in the right direction for the University.
“I was thrilled by the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Course Cluster because I believe that the issue of environmental sustainability underlines almost all public-policy discussions relating to everything from economic to social life, and this grouping of courses is a clear representation of that,” Deutsch wrote in an email to The Argus. “I also think that the creation of this course cluster speaks to the commitment of both the University and the student body to expand spaces to have these important conversations around social inequality and sustainability.”
The creation of this cluster comes as part of executing the University’s Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), explained Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst.
“Integrating sustainability into the curriculum is one of the three current pillars of the Sustainability Office (the other two are reducing environmental impact and building sustainability into campus culture),” Kleindienst wrote in an email to The Argus. “I see the course cluster as one of many ways to achieve this integration, alongside incentivizing faculty to bring sustainability and environmental justice into their courses and providing opportunities for faculty to connect across disciplines.”
As part of the SAP, professors can apply for $500-$1,000 stipends through the Sustainability & Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative if they shift the contents of their curricula to better involve concepts of sustainability and environmental justice. The initiative has been around since the 2016-2017 academic year and works alongside the Sustainability Across the Curriculum workshop and seminars, which guide professors to productively amending their syllabi.
The EPC recently approved changes to the art history major and minor and has proposed a Bachelor of Liberal Studies program to faculty, which they are expected to vote on next month.
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