Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 72.17
Liaison Chris Frantsvog
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Luther College
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Toby Cain
Sustainability Coordinator
Center for Sustainable Communities
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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:

Luther offers many immersive courses and experience that include or focus on sustainability. The majority of these immersive experiences take place over the course of 4 weeks during January Term, though some span a semester and others occur during orientation.

Since 2015, the Center for Sustainable Communities has offered a week-long immersive outdoor pre-orientation program focused on building camaraderie, developing community and building self-confidence for incoming first-year students. In addition, the outdoor immersive experience drives students to develop a greater sense of place and awareness for the natural world. In 2017, working in conjunction with our Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success team we were able to grow the scope and size of our program and bridge the gap between our other pre-orientation programs that were geared towards international students and domestic students of color. Together, we launched Endeavor Together, one unifying college-wide pre-orientation program with the goal of creating a more inclusive college campus while developing renewed confidence and an emerging sense of place for our students. This unique approach to pre-orientation is highlighted in our Innovation Credits.

As mentioned, a large number of immersive, sustainability-focused courses are taught during Luther College's January Term. Here are descriptions for several of the 2018 and 2019 January Term courses that focused on sustainability.

Paideia 450: People and Parks: Pastoralism and Conservation in East Africa
Course Description: This course will examine the tensions between the national parks movement and pastoralist societies through the lens of the Maasai people of northern Tanzania. Of particular interest is how wildlife conservation efforts and ecotourism have impacted the relationship of the Maasai to their environment, in turn causing rapid cultural change such as shifts from herding to agropastoralism and wage labor; modification of coming-of-age rituals; and increasing adoption of formal modes of education and Christianity in place of or alongside traditional modes and beliefs. From bases near the city of Arusha and the small town of Moduli, we will study “traditional” Maasai culture and examine the ways in which the Maasai of northern Tanzania are adapting to changing social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. Students will interact with Maasai people in urban and rural marketplaces; in schools, medical facilities, and places of worship; and at Maasai bomas (multi-family homesteads) in the bush. We will also visit Olduvai Gorge, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and the Oldoinyo Lengai volcano in order to explore points of intersection between wildlife conservation programs, ecotourism, and pastoralist societies.

Paideia 450: Removal and Restitution: Building Sustainable Communities in South Africa
Course Description: What happens when communities have been forcibly removed from their homes due to misguided and even racist government policies? Do the people ever return to their homes? If so, how? If not, why not? This course will examine the fate of two South African communities that were forcibly removed during apartheid. We will first look at the historical removal of peoples from areas that are now part of the newly created Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Removed from Kruger National Park in 1969, the Makuleke land restitution case came to represent the solution to the dilemmas of how to address the often contentious relationships between communities and conservationists, people and parks. The Makuleke community, among whom the students will spend some time, are considered to be a model. As victims of apartheid forced removals, they opted for the goals of national reconciliation, conservation, and sustainable development, thus giving a boost to what is widely celebrated as the new blueprint for people-nature interaction, namely the community based natural resource management (CBNRM). The second half of the course will examine the removal of peoples from District Six (1966-1982), a vibrant multicultural area in Cape Town that was bulldozed over as the apartheid regime sought to reserve the land for whites. Unlike the Makuleke people, most of the residents of District Six have not returned to their homes, as a variety of stakeholders—government officials, NGOs, business interests, and community organizations—struggle about how best to restore an old community even as they seek to build a new one. In both case studies we will talk with government officials, policy experts, academics, and local peoples to explore why these removals took place, how people were affected, and ways in which the removed communities have fought to secure their homes and their fundamental human rights.

Biology 140/240: Introduction to Ecology of the Southwest/Ecology of the Southwest
Course Description: Field study of the ecology of the arid Southwest, with a focus on adaptations of organisms to arid conditions and understanding the challenges of setting environmental policy. Course activities include hiking in the deserts, mountains, and riparian areas of Arizona; daily readings and discussions; a paper exploring the ethical dimensions of environmental policy; and a research project including statistical analysis of data.

International Studies 239: Roatan: Ethical Engagement in a Changing World
Course Description: This course uses the island of Roatan as a case study to examine how individuals can engage ethically with social and environmental challenges in the developing world. Roatan, Honduras is home to the world’s second largest coral reef and the tourist industry it supports, as well as a long history of colonialism that has left the island with an ethnically and linguistically divided population, widespread poverty and environmental degradation. During their month on the island, students will examine the ways in which the people, culture, and ecosystems of Roatan are responding to changing social, economic, political, technological, and environmental factors. Working closely with local health, education, and conservation centers, we will observe the individual loci of change, and explore the systemic forces that are helping to shape the island. Daily presentations, excursions, and group reflection time will lay the foundation for students to understand the rich history and culture of the island. Each student will also undertake an internship with a local NGO, such as a private medical clinic, bilingual school, or marine conservation institute. The course is valuable for students of all majors and is ideal for students who dream about a life of meaningful engagement in a much larger world.

Paideia 450: Green Europe: Advanced Models of Sustainability
Course Description: Why do Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) lead Europe in the development of wind, solar, biomass, and nuclear power? How has the education of citizens about global warming and climate change undergirded key public policies to drive this energy transition? Why do Germany and the UK disagree, however, over nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing, and reliance on coal? We will explore these questions and others through site visits and discussions with representatives from the energy industry, government officials, local politicians, and energy activists. We will begin in Berlin and then head north to the region that hosts most of Germany’s onshore and offshore wind energy facilities and is at risk due to rising sea-levels. The second half of the course will begin in London with a focus on UK energy and climate policy, move on to explore various initiatives near Oxford, and end in York, from which we will tour an underground coal mine and the largest biomass power plant in the world.

Science 140: Belize: Environmental Implications of Eco-Adventure Growth in Central America
Course Description: This course will be based on Ambergris Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize. Students will spend a significant amount of time studying the ecology and taxonomy of the many ecosystems this unique area provides. We will take daily field excursions to the barrier reef and mainland rainforest destinations. Students will explore relationships between adventure recreation and ecotourism in the responsible use of natural resources. Additionally, we will learn of the opportunities and challenges presented to Belizeans by the rapid growth of adventure-related tourism. Activities will include kayaking, snorkeling, cave tubing, canopy tours, field observations, and assigned readings.

Paideia 450: Exploring the Ethics of Sustainable Organizations (Norway/Sweden)
Course Description: This course explores the questions of cultural norms and values and their influence on the development of today’s organizations in the Nordic region. Through site visits to organizations in Norway and Sweden, cultural interactions and discussions, personal and guided research on ethics and the “triple bottom line” approach (a balance between care for the environment, people and profit) to leading organizations, and the development of an e-portfolio of writing, students will demonstrate their growth in understanding the ethical dimensions that shape sustainable design for organizations in these Nordic countries.

Environmental Studies 240: Environmental Issues in the Pacific Northwest
Course Description: This course examines environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest and the policies that are used or proposed to address them. Case studies—on issues such as wilderness, endangered species, mining, hydroelectric dams, water rights, public lands management, logging, and outdoor recreation—will be used to better understand the political process in the United States, the role of economics in addressing environmental issues, and the particular challenges in human-nature relations within the intermountain west. The course will be taught at Holden Village, an ecumenical retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.

Biology 247: Subtropical and Marine Biology (Bahamas)
Course Description: An introduction to the ecology and taxonomy of coral reef, tide pool, tidal creek, high and low energy beaches, hypersaline lake, mangrove, and upland organisms and ecosystems of the Bahamas. In addition to field excursions and snorkeling, students develop and carry out independent research projects.

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