Green Paper: The Sustainability-Across-the-Curriculum Framework at Dickinson College
This position paper lays out in broad stokes a vision for Sustainability-Across-the-Curriculum as a
defining characteristic of Dickinson College. We see the Sustainability framework as one lens through
which a Dickinson graduate would see his or her specific liberal arts education coherently and
holistically. This paper will serve as a starting point for one or more open hearings in spring 2012
from which members of the College community can discuss the role of Sustainability across the
Definition of Sustainability:
We propose to use a broad and generally accepted definition, which is inclusive of all ways of
knowing (i.e. environmental, economic, social, ethical, spiritual, historical, cultural, and so on).
Our working definition: sustainability is the capacity to improve the human condition in this
and future generations without degrading the natural world.
Scope of Sustainability at Dickinson (the defining characteristic):
We seek to engage all Dickinson students in education for sustainability, whatever their chosen
field of study, with the goal of building their competencies to:
o Think critically about human interactions in and with the environment, the motivations
and consequences of the interactions, and the challenges of improving the quality of life
for all people while protecting and enhancing the natural world for future generations;
o Make informed decisions to advance sustainability goals that are based on credible
evidence, meet clearly articulated decision criteria, are appropriate to their cultural
context, and are guided by carefully considered values;
o Communicate effectively with diverse audiences in a variety of media to raise awareness,
increase understanding and motivate action for sustainability; and
o Solve problems with others and individually their professional, civic and personal lives by
applying sustainability concepts, values, and approaches.
We propose a framework for Sustainability-Across-the-Curriculum that encompasses breadth
and depth of understanding AND applies and practices that understanding locally, nationally,
Breadth and depth in the curriculum are presently provided by Sustainability Investigations
(SINV) and Connections (SCON) courses that are offered in all three academic divisions and
more than 20 departments, ranging from introductory to advanced levels. We will continue
efforts to build and maintain a significant and diverse set of Sustainability Connections and
Investigations courses through faculty study groups and other programs to support faculty and
Sustainability learning occurs both in and outside of the classroom. The framework includes a
rich variety of curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences such as first-year
seminars and learning communities, introductory gateway courses, mosaics, "global"
experiences of all sorts and durations, capstone experiences (e.g., independent study/research
and seminars), service learning, internships, and co- and extra-curricular activities.
The framework mandates no requirements at the College level. Students would engage
voluntarily in the study of sustainability. Some will choose to master the sustainability
competencies at a basic level, some at more advanced levels, and others not at all. Those who
master sustainability competencies at the highest level will earn a credential.
We envision a quadripartite structure of learning (see Matrix):
o Sustainability Leadership
o Sustainability Coursework
o Sustainability Service
o Sustainability Independent Project
We propose a credential (e.g., Baird Sustainability Scholar) for those students who complete all
aspects of the Sustainability framework and demonstrate attainment of the sustainability
competencies. The credential would be indicated on the official transcript upon graduation and
in the commencement program.
The framework would not preclude incorporation of sustainability within existing programs,
such as concentrations, thematic clusters, and/or tracks within majors.
This effort will build on and further organize what already happens on campus. We intend to complete
the development of the full curriculum framework within a four-year period. Assuming efficacious
timing we intend for the class of 2016 to have available to it the full range of offerings. Advising
would be provided throughout the Sustainability experience using a pool of CSE administrators and
faculty representing all academic divisions. In sum, the route of an individual's pathway through the
various offerings would be unique to that person but would include both courses and experiential
education and result in attainment of a common set of competencies that give valuable insight into the
world at large. We would encourage participating students to keep a portfolio or other vehicle of
course and project outcomes that presents meaningful reflection on their experience.
Sustainability-across-the-Curriculum for students can be envisioned as a bifurcated pyramid
(see diagram) of academic offerings surrounded by a universe of diverse and individualized
activities. We foresee faculty engagement with Sustainability paralleling student interests
through course offerings, co-curricular interests, experiences off-campus, and independent
The proposed framework is meant to afford students ample opportunity to engage with
sustainability issues at any point in their college career, and in a wide variety of ways. At the
same time, this framework allows for rigor in determining how a student is credentialed at
completion. We envision that many or most students will have some sustainability academic,
extra- and/or co-curricular experience but relatively few will attain the credential.
Entrance to one's Sustainability education could be at any point in a students' tenure at
Dickinson via an SCON or SINV course. Some First-years wishing to start right away may
choose a First-Year Sustainability Learning Community/Collective seminar as well as
coursework. For others, a co- or extra-curricular activity might serve as the entry point that
sparks an interest in formal study of sustainability.
Typically sophomores would continue with coursework at the 200- and 300-levels, and might
also become involved, or increase their involvement, in internship, co- and extra-curricular
Juniors choosing to go off campus (global and domestic) would have Sustainability offerings at
all or most of Dickinson's sites or could develop their own experience. Those staying on
campus could continue with coursework and/or non-coursework experiences at a higher level
(e.g., apprenticeships, senior interns), start independent projects, or engage in other unique
learning experiences (e.g., mosaics, service learning).
Seniors would develop capstone experiences via independent research, departmentally-based
seminars, interdisciplinary seminars, or mosaics.
Students seeking the Sustainability credential would present to a faculty committee a portfolio
of selected work that demonstrates attainment of sustainability competencies and includes
examples of the quadripartite of Sustainability Leadership, Service, Coursework, and
Independent Project. A reflective essay that interprets the student’s liberal arts education
through a lens of sustainability will be included.
All courses that contribute to the Sustainability-Across-the-Curriculum framework would be
designated as fulfilling one or more of the learning goals for sustainability in addition to the
content designation of SCON or SINV.
The Center for Sustainability Education (CSE) will assess sustainability education at Dickinson
quantitatively, by tracking the number of SCON and SINV courses offered, the distribution of
courses across departments, student enrollments in the courses, and the number and percentage
of graduating seniors who have taken two or more SINV or SCON courses, participated in one
or more sustainability related co- or extra-curricular activities, and earned the sustainability
Sustainability education will be assessed qualitatively by evaluating learning outcomes. Each
year a sample of SINV and SCON courses will be selected for assessment. The sample will
focus on a different aspect of the sustainability curriculum each year, e.g. introductory gateway
courses, service learning courses, living laboratory courses, capstone courses, clusters of
disciplines, etc. Course syllabi, assignments, rubrics, and examples of student work will be
collected from the instructors of the selected sample of courses. Departmental assessments of
these courses and student and faculty evaluations will also be collected. The collected materials
will be reviewed from the perspective of the sustainability competencies.
Learning outcomes of sustainability internships, extracurricular and co-curricular activities with
a sustainability dimension will also be assessed.
Over time, these metrics will allow us to make meaningful judgments about the success of
various parts of our program and will also create an objective framework for future
developments and modifications.
Sustainability Curriculum Framework Sub-committee of the Steering Committee on Sustainability
Neil Leary, Director, CSE
Michael Beevers, Environmental Studies
Michael Fratantuono, International Business and Management
Lindsay Lyons, Assoc. Director, CSE
Ash Nichols, English
Jeff Niemitz, Earth Sciences
Meghan Reedy, Classics
Sustainability Sustainability Sustainability
Activities Leadership Coursework Independent
(SL) (SC) Projects (SP)
1stYr Seminars X
X X X
X X X
Research X X X
Curricular X X
Internships X X
Apprenticeships X X X
X X X
X X X
Mosaics X X X
X X X X
Sustainability-Across-The-Curriculum Framework Pyramid
-SENIOR INTERNS (D’SON & ABROAD)
-INTERNSHIPS -200-LEVEL SCON/SINV
-CO- AND EXTRA- -DEVELOPING CONC.,
CURRICULAR THEMES, CLUSTERS IN
ACTIVITIES MAJOR; METHODS
-LEARNING COMMUNITIES -100-LEVEL "GATEWAY" COURSES
AND DISCIPLINARY AS WAYS OF KNOWING
-1ST YR SEMINARS W/SUSTAINAB.