WCSU State of Sustainability 2015: A Working Report is the product of the a one-semester honors course entitled Nature, Sustainability, and Capitalism taught by Dr. Mary B. O’Neill, a lecturer in the department of Philosophy and Humanistic Studies.
The students in the class were hungry for a learning experience that had a connection to their lives. Dr. O’Neill proposed the idea of a class project. This project would assess the state of sustainability and environmental awareness of the University at a point in time—fall 2015. It would be an authentic consulting project where students would apply concepts learned in class; learn valuable work skills; approach a large task and break it into manageable “chunks” with mini-deadlines; learn to work as part of a team toward a common goal; and make a tangible and worthwhile contribution to the University. The students were enthusiastic and willing to take on this exciting task.
Using a definition of sustainability from the class textbook, the students:
- Created teams based on stakeholder groups in the University.
- Devised a purpose for their research and the resulting report.
- Identified, contacted, and interviewed University staff, faculty, and students.
- Created and administered a student survey to identify student awareness of and commitment to sustainability and environmental issues.
- Scoured the WCSU website for work already in progress or planned with regard to sustainability and environmental issues.
- Worked with a WCSU librarian to “benchmark” WCSU with other educational institutions to determine what other colleges and universities, particularly those in the CSCU system were doing in the area of sustainability and environmental issues.
- Proposed what we called “realistically idealistic” recommendations for the University to consider and implement in the short- and long-term.
- Authored an Executive Summary to summarize the report’s purpose and contents.
The result of their collective effort is this report, issued in December 2015 and celebrated with sparkling grape juice and a toast to their efforts.