Archive for August, 2015

Climate Change Prompts Transdisciplinary Curriculum & Cross-School Collaboration

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

The essential question posed in our Summer 2015 virtual fireside chat was Does climate change “change everything” in higher education and beyond? The answer, from various vantage points, was a resounding “Yes.”

We had a far ranging conversation that even touched upon the profound reality that climate change  changes our sense of time.

Professor Richard Rood set the stage for the conversation. Professor Rood, a climate scientist at University of Michigan who teaches multidisciplinary courses on climate impacts and adaptation, painted a picture of a world in which we are not only seeing droughts and extreme weather events, but severe wild fires in unlikely spots such as Alaska.

Professor Nancy Tuchman, founding Director of Loyola University’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability in Chicago, reminded us that climate change threatens the security and stability of our food system as well– a reality, I would add, that is likely to touch all of our lives to varying degrees, particularly those living in poverty.

Climate change represents not just a threat but an opportunity for new models for innovation and collaboration, however. Professor Tuchman shared the story of how a student-driven enterprise at Loyola to reduce food waste and fossil fuel use has led to Loyola working with other schools, such as Northwestern University and University of Illinois-Chicago, to use waste grease from their kitchens to run campus buses. Such projects not only reduce climate impacts and afford hands-on learning for students, but forge new alliances that can wield more effective levers for necessary collective change to tackle climate change. The sphere of influence of each institution expands by virtue of such collaborations.

Professor Joel Towers, Executive Dean of the Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York, spoke to meta-level effects on our sense of place and time. As a psychologist, I was particularly struck by his remarks about our sense of time being disrupted when what have historically been “100 year storms” become frequent occurrences. Climate change can disorient us.

Professor Towers remarked upon how the urgency of climate change is driving Parsons to a transdisciplinary approach to pedagogy, again underscoring how climate change can crack open new possibilities that may yield benefits beyond environmental sustainability.

Listen here to the conversation among these thoughtful experts about what I call the need to prepare the next generation to work, live and lead in a hot, crowded world:






August 12, 2015 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

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