Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 57.73
Liaison Rochelle Owen
Submission Date Aug. 12, 2011
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.1

Dalhousie University
IN-1: Innovation 1

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00
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A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome :

College of Sustainability – Dalhousie University

Created in 2008, the Dalhousie College of Sustainability provides an interdisciplinary, forum for collaborative teaching and learning to address global issues in sustainability. A core of cross-appointed Dalhousie teachers are joined by visiting fellows from within the university and from other institutions and advocacy groups to collaborate with students in energetic, problem-based classes and community-based experiential learning opportunities. Teaching is integrated with a broad range of existing Dalhousie degrees and programs, providing a rigorous disciplinary basis for responsive, issues-oriented study. The continual flow of individual students, teachers and community leaders through the College creates an ongoing exchange of ideas, expertise and passions. The College provides a common place at the centre of the Dalhousie community for the study of sustainability-based problems, and hosts an exciting range of public lectures, seminars and other activities.

Since September 2009, the College offers the Major in Environment, Sustainability and Society in partnership with a number of degree programs across five Dalhousie Faculties – Architecture & Planning; Arts & Social Sciences; Computer Science; Management; and Science. The ESS Major is available only as a double major or combined honours degree, such that students graduate with the strengths of a traditional disciplinary education, enhanced by knowledge and experience of interdisciplinary collaboration. Classes are taught by teams of collaborating instructors from a variety of disciplines, who bring their different perspectives and methods to sharp focus in the classroom. First year SUST (sustainability) classes combine large-scale issues-oriented lecture sessions with small, graduate-student led tutorials. Second year classes introduce problem-based learning and experiential role-playing techniques. Third year classes examine the theory and practice of decision-making in an uncertain context, and provide students with the opportunity to undertake “real world” applied research through the “Campus as Living Laboratory.” The ESS Major culminates in a Capstone class that partners multi-disciplinary student teams with community agencies in a year-long community-based research project. Motivated students may also complete an honours thesis in ESS.

The SUST classes are supported by the Environment, Sustainability & Society Lectures. This weekly evening lecture series in required for students, and open to the public, and features speakers from the university, the regional community, and from around the world. The series provides a counterpoint to classes, and exposes students and the community to leading figures in sustainability.

Starting in the 2011/12 academic year, the College (in cooperation with the Faculty of Management) offers the Certificate in Sustainability Leadership. The certificate is awarded to students who complete 60 hours of sustainability leadership-oriented Community Service Learning; take part in three “Sustainability Leadership Weekends” over the course of their degree studies; and complete a portfolio of documentary and reflective exercises. The certificate is open to any student who has completed one foundation class in either the Bachelor of Management degree, or in the Environment, Sustainability & Society Major.

Anticipated to begin in the 2012/13 academic year, the College will offer the Minor in Sustainability. This minor will draw upon existing SUST classes and approved electives, and will be available to all Dalhousie undergraduate students.


The College and the ESS Major are demonstrations of innovation from within the university. The development was carried out by a pan-university steering committee of faculty and students, with the support of Deans and senior administrators, and approvals followed normal university procedures. Along the way, innovative methods of consultation and engagement were used, including a weekend workshop involving nearly 100 members of the university community, fromstudents to board members, along with interested members of the local community.

The College has a unique governance structure, reporting through a governing council of Deans of the partner faculties. Budgeting arrangements provide shared benefits of success to the College and to its partner faculties. Students in the ESS Major take elective classes from an approved list which includes classes from across the university, with benefits to the offering departments.

Teaching faculty are drawn from existing Dalhousie faculty members, seconded to the College on the basis of a mutually beneficial compensation scheme. Teaching in all SUST classes is by multi-disciplinary teams, supported by graduate student Teaching Assistants drawn from across the university.

Indicators of Success

Student numbers
The College planned for an initial first year class of 100-150 students in 2009, while actual enrolments reached nearly 300 students. In the first two years of operation, over 850 individual undergraduate students enrolled in a SUST class, and over 300 current students have declared their intent to complete the ESS Major.

In 2011/12, we expect 350 incoming first year students in SUST classes, and 150 second year students in the ESS Major, along with an initial graduating class of 30-45 ESS Majors in May 2012. Student surveys show that the ESS Major is a significant factor for half the incoming students in their choice to attend Dalhousie.

Faculty participation
Over 45 Dalhousie faculty members from 11 faculties are cross-appointed in the College. Of these, 12 individuals from 6 faculties currently hold appointments to teach SUST classes, and another 15 participate regularly in SUST classes.

Internal recognition
David Black, Deborah Buszard and Steven Mannell received the Dalhousie University Senate “Educational Leadership Award” for 2010 in recognition of their work leading the creation of the College of Sustainability and the Major in Environment, Sustainability & Society.

External recognition
The College of Sustainability and the Major in Environment, Sustainability & Society were recognized as one of 25 “World Good Practices in Education for Sustainable Development” at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, Bonn, March 2009.

The College of Sustainability and the Major in Environment, Sustainability & Society were among 16 finalists in the “Sustainability” theme of the World Innovation Summit for Education Awards, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation, October 2009.

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