Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 71.65
Liaison Laura Bain
Submission Date Jan. 19, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Furman University
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Laura Bain
Associate Director of Sustainability Assessment
David E. Shi Center for Sustainability
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Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution, including how each program addresses the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability:

Furman offers May Experience programs, many of which include sustainability-focused topics. May Experience is an optional three-week term following the spring semester that allows students to explore topics, frequently outside of their majors, in courses that will not be offered during the academic year. The cost of May Experience courses is included with tuition. Affiliate and Exchange University study away programs are also available.

MAY X Slow Food Italy
Slow Food Italy proposes to engage students in an extended, in-depth discussion about ways to promote and maintain healthy, environmentally responsible food production, procurement and preparation in modern society. Readings will motivate discussion on current problems posed by industrial food production; solutions will be considered through the examples offered by traditional foodways as observed and experienced on an organic farm in Italy, where students will be in residence. Activities may include working in the farm’s gardens, watching fresh cheese being made, hunting for truffles and other wild foods, visiting an organic winery, and preparing handmade pasta and other foods. Short stays in Rome at the beginning and end of the program will give insights into Italians’ attitudes about eating and provide the experience of shopping for fresh foods in urban markets.
The course will introduce students to Slow Food, an international grassroots movement and cultural philosophy that was born out of a non-profit organization founded in Italy in 1986. After a crash course on the economic, social, culinary and ecological underpinnings of the Slow Food mission, and an exploration of how the organization has evolved in the US context, the group will travel to Rome and then on to the town of Sora, in the Lazio region of Italy. Here students will be in residence on an organic farm for two weeks to learn about the ideals espoused by the Slow Food movement both through readings and discussion and by experiencing traditional farming and gastronomy firsthand. By closely observing traditional Italian foodways, they will learn about alternatives to industrial food production while debating the relative merits of American and Italian approaches to eating. Students will reflect on the experience through a final paper and an oral presentation to be delivered at the end of the stay.

MAY X Farm
"After many years in which agricultural interest groups crafted agricultural policy with few contenders, grass-roots citizens are advocating for changes in US agriculture policy on environmental, animal welfare, and public health fronts. The new actors in agricultural policy advocate for sustainable agriculture and argue for policies that favor local, organic foods. Added to the mix are questions about farm subsidies, ethanol, and crop insurance. This debate between sustainable and commodity agriculture has put the American farm at the center of a growing political controversy. Farm brings students to Iowa, the leading corn, soy, egg, and hog producer in the nation. The state also is home to a strong network of sustainable agriculture groups. During Farm, students will speak to farmers employing a wide variety of agricultural practices. If you are concerned about the future of food, there are few places better to learn about it than in Iowa.
Students in Farm will have the opportunity to plant corn and/or soybeans, learn about precision agriculture, work on an organic farm, shop at a Farmer’s Market, and visit farms and facilities that specialize in production animal agriculture. All of these activities and experiences are to provide the students with insights into the impact of agricultural practices and to better understand how the current food system operates, its strengths and flaws. By understanding the variety of agricultural practices employed in Iowa, students can better evaluate for themselves the claims being made in support of or against organic food, local food, animal welfare standards, nutrient management strategies, no-till farming, and crop "

Lost Horizons in China: Shangri-La, Pandas, and the Environment
China, the world’s most populated country, is facing environmental challenges unparalleled in human history. The challenges themselves are not unique, as all industrialized countries face issues of environmental degradation, excess urbanization, loss of natural habitat, and resource scarcity. China is unique, however, in that it is facing these challenges with rapid social transformation, ethnic diversity, institutional policies, and population density. Taught on site by a scientist and a China expert, this program will provide a unique learning experience that examines the dimensions of these environmental challenges from both scientific and humanistic perspectives. Activities will include learning about panda conservation efforts at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, working with faculty and students from Yunnan Minority University on environmental issues and a service learning project specific to the Yunnan Province, and finally, contrasting these areas with the highly urbanized Beijing region.

This program allows students to gain an understanding of the biological interactions between organisms and their environments in tropical ecosystems. Tropical forests possess the greatest biodiversity of any terrestrial biomes on our planet. They are also the earth’s main engines for photosynthesis, releasing oxygen, consuming carbon dioxide, and trapping solar energy. They remain poorly understood by science, containing vast numbers of species that have never been named, much less studied. Many of these species may have utilitarian value to society, such as new foods or medicines. Yet tropical forests are disappearing at a frightening pace, with accompanying extinction of species, through deforestation motivated by the demand for timber and agricultural land. We will spend three weeks in the spectacular tropical forests of Costa Rica, becoming intimately familiar with their plants, animals, and ecology. In the words of a former student, “It’s like walking through the pages of National Geographic.”

While a small country, Costa Rica possesses incredible biological diversity, and habitats ranging from wet tropical forest on the Caribbean slope to dry seasonal forest in the Pacific lowlands, with mountain cloud forest in between. The extensive network of nature preserves in Costa Rica is a model for the rest of the world, and provides many pristine habitats to visit. However, the rapid pace of development outside these preserves is also putting great pressure on the natural environment, allowing us to study the sometimes tense relationship between development and conservation.

The academic content of this program will primarily be taught in the field, using both observational and investigative approaches. Nature walks led by Furman professors and local guides will familiarize students with the local flora and fauna, and illustrate important ecological principles. Inquiry-based learning will be used extensively. Students will conduct field and laboratory research projects, including projects assigned by the professors and projects the students design independently. Students will participate in the entire research cycle, from formulation of hypotheses, through experimental design, collection of data, statistical analysis, and preparation of scientific papers.

Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice: a field study of modern tectonic, volcanic, and glacial processes in Iceland, an active mid-ocean ridge hotspot system. Emphasis on the impacts of volcanism and climate change on glaciers; geothermal energy and sustainability; and farming and food production.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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