This document is a draft of the final report from the Teaching, Research, & Service group. Along with the reports of several other groups, it will eventually comprise a final, working document regarding the plan and implementation of the Sustainability Initiative at Lewis & Clark.
Teaching, Research, and Service
Teaching, research, and service are central to Lewis & Clark College as well as virtually all other institutions of higher education. Oddly, however, these dimensions have not to date been prioritized in college sustainability oversight efforts, resulting in a mismatch of missions and the marginalization of sustainability from the academic core of higher education. For instance, the widely known College Sustainability Report Card prepared by the Sustainable Endowments Institute includes only one related item, “sustainability internship opportunities for students on campus,” which contributes roughly three percent to the Report Card total, while the remainder of the Report Card is dedicated to sustainability practices and administration without mention of integration with learning. The more comprehensive STARS rubric developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education includes Education and Research as one of three major categories of assessment, but this component of STARS has only been recently introduced, and profiles of participating institutions on the AASHE and STARS websites rarely feature academic dimensions.
The Sustainability Task Force recognizes the importance of other dimensions of sustainability, such as the Operations and Planning, Administration, & Engagement categories of STARS. But we know that Lewis & Clark College will not take sustainability seriously, and will not serve in an academic leadership role relative to other colleges, if we do not prioritize teaching, research, and service-related learning as the core of our sustainability mission. We also recognize that sustainability has not generally been practiced in a manner that presents opportunities for diverse intellectual engagement: in short, the “sustainability as good green practices” approach that prevails among institutions of higher education today has failed to make significant inroads into the academic core of these institutions, and thus has failed to advance intellectually as a result. Our challenge at Lewis & Clark is to deepen our understandings and practices related to sustainability via greater academic engagement while raising its profile across the academic programs comprising our institution.
Priority outcomes and indicators
We recommend four priority outcomes in the Teaching, Research, and Service area:
1. Learning opportunities are prominent in sustainability-related actions at Lewis & Clark. This overarching outcome reflects the challenge we face in higher education sustainability today, as summarized above. Yet rather than being a separate set of pursuits, learning-related benefits will ideally be derived from each and every sustainability-related action we take at Lewis & Clark, whether in the classroom, in the laboratory, on our campus grounds, in the surrounding community, or in our international efforts. It may well be administratively simpler, for instance, for operations practices such as energy monitoring to be done by Lewis & Clark staff, and for larger conversations around the scope and possibility of sustainability to be the focus of dedicated courses; but we strongly caution against this administrative separation, as it will inevitably further a disconnect between thought and practice that liberal arts schools such as Lewis & Clark must strive to overcome. In our assessment, the Lewis & Clark community will develop a more robust concept of sustainability by weaving together its related practices, and will take action in a more informed way if learning and reflection elements are included.
2. Each student at Lewis & Clark benefits from a healthy number and diversity of interrelated courses that tie into sustainability. The STARS rubric refers to “sustainability-focused” and “sustainability-related” courses, where the former engage more fully with the concept and practice of sustainability than the latter; we find value in both for our learning community. The “number and diversity” approach is analogous to richness vs. evenness measures of biodiversity, where the former typically involves a count of how many species are present, and the latter checks for adequate distribution of each these species in the overall mix. As one example, courses that address ecological dimensions of sustainability are popular among our students, but without adequate course-related opportunities to consider other dimensions–such as equity–our overall picture of sustainability will remain uneven. The “interrelated” term builds on this attention toward richness and evenness by suggesting that our instructors and students across all departments may well benefit not only from the courses they teach or take, but from opportunities for engagement and information sharing with other courses as well.
3. Sustainability courses at Lewis & Clark include research and service opportunities. The STARS rubric includes a Sustainability Research Identification area that prioritizes efforts among institutions of higher education to define exactly what sustainability research is; but in our estimate, integration of sustainability into top-quality academic research on our (indeed, any) campus will remain elusive, in large part due to the variety of pressures that drive faculty research.
On the other end, sustainability-related service opportunities are by far the lowest-hanging of the teaching, research, and service fruits, with a good deal of notable campus and community service already in evidence at Lewis & Clark and other institutions. In this level-of-difficulty hierarchy, sustainability-related courses lie somewhere in the middle, and could actually serve to integrate the three if research and service opportunities were prioritized. Such courses would encourage a raising of the intellectual bar on service projects, and create greater opportunities for sustainability-related research by students, with possible carryover to faculty supervisors.
4. A healthy number and diversity of sustainability-related service opportunities are available at Lewis & Clark. Though, as mentioned above, a wide range of service opportunities is available to students in all three Lewis & Clark schools, these opportunities could be coordinated more extensively and related more specifically to sustainability concerns. Consistent with the Task Force’s proposed Lewis & Clark sustainability mission, attention to sustainability-related service opportunities prioritizing ecological, economic, or equity dimensions at local to global scales would thus not only offer greater and more diverse availability for student engagement, but would serve to help our Lewis & Clark community develop and demonstrate a much broader concept and practice of sustainability.
[Note: at this point I’m not listing detailed indicators for each of the above, as they’d be relatively straightforward and we may not see robust indicators in other action area reports; if so, we’ll include an aggregated section on indicators in another portion of the report.]
Stakeholders and consultation process
In order to explore further the opportunities and challenges in teaching, research, and service facing the Lewis & Clark community, we identified representatives for key stakeholders in our community and conducted a series of interviews in February and March. As stated above, our approach views learning as a potentially integrative element across all dimensions of sustainability at Lewis & Clark. To simplify the consultation process we primarily focused on key officials representing the academic mission of the institution, or staff/administrators whose purview connected to this academic mission in a significant manner. The main officials we have interviewed include:
· Jane Atkinson, Vice President and Provost. In addition to her oversight of “essential functions that affect the daily lives of Lewis & Clark faculty and students,” including LC Sustainability Council efforts to date, the Provost is a longstanding faculty member in CAS and deeply appreciates to need to integrate learning dimensions into our community life.
· Lucrecia Choto, CAS Overseas and Off-Campus Programs. With Director Larry Meyers engaged in field reconnaissance, Lucrecia kindly volunteered to discuss learning-related elements of the undergraduate overseas programs their office oversees.
· Scott Fletcher, Dean, Graduate School. The mission statement of our Graduate School of Education and Counseling supports a strong moral voice and commitment to action. Dean Fletcher thus heads a segment of our Lewis & Clark community that has maintained a keen interest in promoting sustainability [more promoting social justice and equity than sustainability per se] in both professional and personal contexts.
· Minda Heyman, Director, Center for Career & Community Engagement. 3CE is the coordinating office for service and professional opportunities among undergraduates in CAS; a wide variety of opportunities of relevance to sustainability already exist, though they are not organized or promoted as such.
· Jane Hunter, Interim Dean, CAS. The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the three schools at Lewis & Clark, covers a wide variety of dimensions of sustainability in its teaching and research, though relatively few CAS faculty view their work as such. Under Dean Hunter’s purview, then, is an impressive set of relatively untapped opportunities to deepen our intellectual grasp of sustainability.
· Robert Klonoff, Dean, Law School. Though the Law School supports a wide range of professional law degrees, its nation-leading reputation in environmental law attracts students and connects to professional opportunities that highly prioritize sustainability. In addition, international dimensions related to sustainable development are increasingly prominent in Dean Klonoff’s vision of the Law Schools’ trajectory.
Without exception, consultations with these officials revealed strong support for a more coordinated, prominent, academically-rich approach to sustainability at Lewis & Clark. They also offered anecdotes to suggest the opportunities and challenges we face in doing do. As one example, Jane Atkinson reviewed the growth of Gender Studies in CAS over the last three decades, arguing that what was once an intellectually constrained endeavor has retained its activist fervor while considerably deepening and diversifying its academic roots. Might the same be possible at Lewis & Clark with sustainability? A number of challenges were acknowledged in multiple interviews, perhaps the most prominent of which involved coordination of efforts across (sometimes within!) the three schools, and consistent support for these efforts via staff and budgeting.
Each of these interviews suggested a set of wide-open doors we could walk through in our learning-centered sustainability efforts, though it will only be via adequate coordination, staffing, and funding that Lewis & Clark will be able to build on its existing teaching, research, and service strengths.
Based on the prioritized outcomes and consultations noted above, we recommend the following near- and longer-term actions at Lewis & Clark so that teaching, research, and service play a prominent part in our sustainability agenda.
o Conduct a survey of existing course and research efforts that connect to sustainability. A draft summary for the Graduate School exists, but efforts for the Law School and CAS remain to be initiated and will require considerable effort. We strongly urge a spirit of discovery, in which both those doing the survey and the faculty participating in the survey benefit by learning more about the various dimensionalities and relevance of sustainability across the span of Lewis & Clark academic programs. We recommend that this process include conversations with professors teaching courses that could potentially connect to sustainability. The aim is not to persuade unwilling professors to teach more of A or B but rather to reach a mutual understanding of sustainability and potential connections. We hope to tap into interests that are already there and facilitate more explicit connections.
o Develop an annotated online reading and resource list on sustainability. We have discovered a number of campus offices and faculty who have a nominal interest in sustainability, yet would benefit from a set of readings and resources (e.g., organizational links) they could use in their courses or as a part of service, overseas, and other activities. Ideally the list would build in an incremental manner via student input.
o Create a tri-campus recurrent sustainability speaker and film series. Regular sustainability-related events could generate not only interest but greater reflection on the concept and best practices. Such a series should strive to offer value to our Lewis & Clark community not already found in Portland, and offer distinctive voices on sustainability not already generally reflected in campus sustainability discourse, so as to provide the greatest possible learning value.
o Start to build partnerships across campuses involving research, teaching, and service. These could take the form of, for instance, CAS undergraduates partnering with law students in sustainability-related research projects, Grad School-initiated courses related to sustainability available to undergraduates, collaborative research between law students and CAS faculty, and CAS courses on international sustainable development available to law students. We recommend that the three schools work together to facilitate academic exchange and formalize a process for credit transfer between schools.
o Host a New Directions in Sustainability conference at Lewis & Clark. This action, based on an initial suggestion by President Barry Glassner, requires further investigation given the current plethora of sustainability-related meetings on college campuses across the United States. President Glassner is correct, however, in noting the relatively depauperate academic state of many of these meetings, and the opportunity Lewis & Clark may have to lend a distinctive voice to this large conversation.
o Develop a Sustainability Center at Lewis & Clark to further integrate teaching, research, and service as a priority in our sustainability efforts. A physical space with adequate staffing, a meeting/gathering room, reading resources, and web support would be the physical manifestation of Lewis & Clark’s long-term commitment to learning as the heart of its sustainability actions, provide a place for students and other members of the community to discover and communicate opportunities, organize resources for browsing and research, and better integrate sustainability-related thought and practice into the daily life of our community. . This would help ensure that these sustainability efforts are visible, accessible, and continue to grow in successive years.
· [I wonder whether another longer term goal should be the identification of courses in each CAS academic department and at the Law School and Grad School that explore sustainability issues. You talk earlier about identifying such courses—but say nothing about actually doing anything with these findings. Professional development aimed at effecting the kind of cultural change that Minda talked about would also be helpful.