Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 68.95
Liaison Jenny McNamara
Submission Date June 30, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Portland State University
AC-1: Academic Courses

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 5.94 / 14.00 Beth Lloyd-Pool
Program Administrator
Institute for Sustainable Solutions
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the percentage of courses with sustainability content::
Undergraduate Graduate
Total number of courses offered by the institution 6,683 3,293
Number of sustainability courses offered 216 45
Number of courses offered that include sustainability 121 56

Number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer at least one sustainability course and/or course that includes sustainability (at any level):
37

Total number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that offer courses (at any level):
59

Number of years covered by the data:
One

A copy of the institution’s inventory of its course offerings with sustainability content (and course descriptions):
An inventory of the institution's course offerings with sustainability content (and course descriptions):
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The website URL where the inventory of course offerings with sustainability content is publicly available:
A brief description of the methodology the institution followed to complete the course inventory:

Students are not going to achieve all of the PSU campus wide sustainability learning outcomes or gain a complete understanding of sustainability through one course. Therefore, the question for sustainability course identification becomes what is the most basic concept of sustainability that must be present in a single course’s content regardless of the topic area.

To answer this one can think about the inherent nature of sustainability. At its core, sustainability is about interconnectedness or interrelationships between economic, equity, and environmental systems, i.e. the three E’s of sustainability. Building from this, one can then identify a sustainability course by looking at its content to see if it identifies and describes the relationship between the course topic and at least 2 of the 3 E’s of sustainability. A minimum of 2 is required because it’s the articulation of the intersections that define sustainability and not the areas themselves. Therefore if a course identifies and describes the relationships between the course topic and 2 dimensions of sustainability it is sustainability-related. If the content identifies and describes the relationship with all 3 dimensions of sustainability it is sustainability-focused.

This corresponds with the AASHE definitions for sustainability courses and courses that include sustainability while maintaining interdisciplinary aspects. It also helps deter the notion that a course about equity or the environment is about sustainability. (STARS version 2 definitions were used as criteria in the most current inventory, but spreadsheet labels do not reflect that.)

By focusing on course content only, it also avoids pedagogical questions and assumptions about how much lecture time or coursework is needed to educate students about sustainability concepts or what constitutes a “concentration” in sustainability. Depending on an instructor’s style and teaching methods, a course with one strong sustainability module or comprehensive assignment may be more focused on sustainability than a course that weaves sustainability principles throughout.

For 2014-2015, the sustainability course rubric and evaluation form (available online at sustainability course inventory website) uses the criteria of “recognizes interrelationships” and the following levels:

Sustainability Focused - Course content identifies and describes the relationship between the course topic, equity, economy, and environmental dimensions

Sustainability Related - Course content identifies and describes the relationship between the course topic and 2 of the 3 dimensions of equity, economy, and environment

Not a Sustainability Course - Course content identifies and describes relationship between the course topic and 1 of the 3 dimensions of equity, economy, and environment or course topic is only about 1 or none of the 3 dimensions.

To keep the course listings up to date, previously identified courses not offered as of Fall 2012 were removed from the sample and not included in the online course listing.

Sustainability course identification is considered to be a work in progress, and the course evaluation form is a reflection of current best thinking. All identified sustainability courses are subject to review and reclassification as more progress is made and new methodologies are developed. The posted sustainability course inventory is not a complete list of all sustainability courses offered at PSU.


How did the institution count courses with multiple offerings or sections in the inventory?:
Each offering or section of a course was counted as an individual course

A brief description of how courses with multiple offerings or sections were counted (if different from the options outlined above):

Excludes By Arrangement sections, Applied Music sections, and non-credit sections such as labs.


Which of the following course types were included in the inventory?:
Yes or No
Internships No
Practicums No
Independent study No
Special topics Yes
Thesis/dissertation No
Clinical No
Physical education Yes
Performance arts Yes

Does the institution designate sustainability courses in its catalog of course offerings?:
No

Does the institution designate sustainability courses on student transcripts?:
No

Sustainability course identification is considered to be a work in progress. The posted sustainability course inventory is not a complete list of all sustainability courses offered at PSU.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.