Georgia Tech wins national award for teaching students to address sustainability, social justice
By David Pendered
Georgia Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain program received a first place award Thursday from the national campus sustainability association, AASHE, for its approach to teaching students methods to solve problems involving environmental sustainability and social justice.
Two other schools in Georgia were award finalists – Agnes Scott College and Georgia Southern University. In addition, a professor and assistant program director at Tech served on a team that made it to the finals, with colleagues from a university in Scotland.
These awards aren’t about commending a program that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions or addresses another issue of sustainability or racial justice.
Instead, these awards celebrate academic programs that aim to inspire the rising generation to create, recognize and embrace new methods for approaching humankind’s thorny challenges.
At Tech, an example of the award-winning concept is the fairly new minor degree in sustainable cities, according to Ruthie Yow, who serves on the SLS team and accepted the award on behalf of Tech. Yow said the minor is one of Tech’s more eclectic offerings, and a catalogue describes the degree as one that:
- “[E]mphasizes sustainability, community engagement, and social justice. It provides students with a deep learning experience that integrates classroom learning and real-world, community-based project experience in creating sustainable communities, with a focus on the built urban environment.”
In addition, Yow wrote a guest column for SaportaReport that appeared Aug. 23 and described how SLS’ summer internship program adapted to the coronavirus pandemic and renewed focus on social justice. Yow observed:
- “In partnership with the Center for Civic Innovation, SLS provided a more intensive seminar experience by linking the interns’ work with concepts of racial and health equity, and their connection to the development of sustainable communities.”
The awards on Thursday were presented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE may best be known for its annual STARS program, Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, a self-reported set of information on sustainability goals.
These are highlights of the winners and finalists:
- Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain’s Affiliated Courses Program won in the Campus Sustainability Achievement Award for institutions with 10,000 or more fulltime students.
- Agnes Scott College was a finalist in the same category as Tech, for its program, Building Trust and Community: The Transformative Experience of the Green Revolving Fund.
- In the category of Campus Sustainability Research at the graduate level, Georgia Southern University’s Bailey Chander was a finalist for Predicting Student Sustainability Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors: Effects of Demography, Environmental Science Education, and Sustainability Intervention Programs at Georgia Southern University.
- In the category of Published Research, Academic, the Georgia Tech faculty member founder of the Vertically Integrated Project Program, Ed Coyle, and Julie Sonnenberg-Klein, assistant director of the VIP program, shared the ranking with Scott Munro Strachan, Stephen Marshall and Paul Murray at the University of Strathclyde (U.K.) for Using Vertically Integrated Projects to embed research-based education for sustainable development in undergraduate curricula.