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  1. Understanding, teaching, and influencing campus sustainability from a systems perspective Oct. 10, 2011 AASHE 2011 Stephen Posner Sustainability Fellow/Eco-Reps Coordinator Office of Sustainability Anna Mika Sustainability Fellow Office of Sustainability University of Vermont (UVM)

  2. Brief history of campus sustainability at UVM

  3. Course history How are decisions with environmental impacts made within the University? • Environmental Management Systems (2006-2008) • 6 - 8 upper class students • Taught by UVM staff involved in campus environmental programs • SL: Campus Sustainability (2009-2011) • Over 20 primarily 2nd and 3rd year students • Taught by UVM staff and graduate fellows • Listed as Service-Learning course in sustainability studies track of Environmental Program

  4. Collaboration at multiple levels • Ongoing campus greening work: • Greening UVM • Tracking UVM • Cooling UVM? • Middle management interest in sustainability • Upper management support of UVM as “Environmental University” • Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS)

  5. 2010 Course focus • Two Service-Learning Courses: • ENVS 195 “Campus Sustainability” • Operations • CDAE 295 “Sustainable Development Policy” • Planning, Administration & Engagement • Preliminary research and formulating questions • Helped the Office of Sustainability and instructors focus the students • Interviews and write-up of credits • Development of professional skills for students ?

  6. 2010 Course focus • STARS Systems Thinking • Visualization of potential credits for UVM

  7. 2011 Course focus • Multi-media learning • Field trips • Presentations • Group activities • Technical topics included in 2011 • Environmental aspects and impacts as defined by STARS • Climate action planning and GHG accounting • Systems thinking • Teachers’ expertise • environmental management systems • ecological economics • GHG accounting and climate action planning • campus sustainability

  8. Systems thinking • Donella Meadows, especially Leverage Points • Conceptual system dynamics applied to campus • Viewed whole systems related to specific aspects of campus sustainability • Within university • Between university and environmental and social contexts

  9. Environment Matter Matter Campus Campus Energy Energy • Optimal scale Environment Campus Campus Environment Extraction Waste

  10. Student reflections: Mind Map by Caylin McKee Focus on waste Relationships with other aspects Connection to personal experience

  11. Poster project outlines facts

  12. Media project focus on key elements within system

  13. Student reactions to unit on systems thinking • Systems was most, and least, liked part of course • Not the way we usually teach • Comes naturally to some, more difficult for others • Low turnout at first systems class • Need common definition • Different backgrounds and perspectives • Define our purpose and questions first

  14. Challenges to systems approach and recommended solutions • Intermediate course that does not fit into traditional academic subjects • Develop two campus sustainability classes: one intro, one advanced focusing on intervening in systems • Different kinds of thinking and learning required • Natural systems thinkers; those who find systems difficult • Systems squeezed into just 2 classes • Integrate better throughout course

  15. Strengths to systems approach • Applied learning in immediate environment • Awareness of how we are part of university system • Leverage points offer opportunities for strategic change • Connections among students, staff, and administrative decision-makers • Courageous and creative (re)design of campus sustainability solutions

  16. Main points • Characterizing universities as complex systems makes sense • Systems thinking can be used to identify leverage points for change and to evaluate sustainability programs • Teaching with systems thinking can help students • see relationships • understand system behavior • more effectively act as agents of change

  17. Understanding, teaching, and influencing campus sustainability from a systems perspective Thank You Questions?