Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.15
Liaison Kelly Wellman
Submission Date Dec. 19, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Texas A&M University
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Ben Kalscheur
Sustainability Assistant Manager
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:
Yes

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:

Geography 380, Workshop in Environmental Studies, is designed to allow students to immerse themselves in real issues of sustainability and the environment using an experiential learning approach. Class size is limited to 18 undergraduates. Each semester the class explores a specific theme related to sustainability and students work in groups to tackle projects centered around that theme. All projects require hands on active fieldwork that engages the local community in some manner.

Recent topics have included:
• Working with community members and leaders to assess and analyze levels of food security in the Brazos Valley. (Fall 2014, Spring 2015)
• Engaging with University Sustainability officials to evaluate campus waste management practices. (Fall 2015, Spring 2016)
• Conducting greenhouse gas assessments/carbon footprints of Brazos Valley small businesses. (Fall 2016)
• Estimating peatland carbon stocks in southern Patagonia and developing a methodology to make this stock available on the voluntary carbon market (Spring 2017).
• The importance of soil security in addressing the world’s food, energy, and water crises, as well as biodiversity loss and climate change (Spring 2018)
• Urban sustainability with a focus on developing alternative future scenarios as storylines that explore the challenges and opportunities faced by major urban areas around the world (Fall 2018, 2019)
• Ecosystem services, valuation systems, and conservation strategies that pertain to climate change mitigation and carbon emission reduction (Spring 2019)

The first month of the course, students read around key issues centered on the current course theme. For example, during the waste management course, students developed a deeper understanding of the broader social context of waste management by reading about the history of waste, discussing issues surrounding various waste management practices (including concerns of environmental justice), and visiting with local community stakeholders to better understand what happens at the landfill and the local recycling facility. Using the knowledge gained in the first few weeks, students then tackled waste management on campus by conducting waste audits of various campus waste streams. The ultimate goal of the varied campus audits was to provide the university with specific waste management and waste minimization guidance based on what was being thrown out, and how it was arriving to waste bins. The two semesters culminated with a white paper summarizing that guidance based on students’ research. This white paper was presented to campus waste management stakeholders. This course allows students to interact with a broad range of local stakeholders from within academia and within the local community, on issues of sustainability that affect us all. Geography 380 at Texas A&M University promotes professionalism and a deep understanding of sustainability issues from multiple perspectives, through immersion experience in research.

Multiple professors teach Geography 380 and have slight variations on the description above. For example, the course consists of two primary components: 1 – an introduction to contemporary urbanization, urban sustainability, and scenario building/visioning literature, and 2 – the design, execution and delivery of scenarios on urban futures. The first component will be primarily in seminar format with a collection of short lectures, multi-media, and discussions of assigned readings. The second component of the course will be devoted to the design, execution, presentation, and reporting of group research projects. Students will work in groups of three or four to develop a set of alternative future scenarios that explore the challenges and opportunities faced by major urban areas around the world.

The Texas Target Communities Program (TTCP) at Texas A&M provides training, tools, and assistance necessary to facilitate the transformation of communities from high risk/low opportunity to equitable, resilient, and adaptive by mitigating threats to the economy, environment, and culture. TTCP, a part of the Public Partnership and outreach office of the Provost, works with at least 8 courses per semester to immerse students in community needs related to sustainability and resilience. Going forward, TTCP plans to include more courses on campus as a way to meet the needs of under-served Texans.


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