Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 49.23
Liaison Maria Dahmus
Submission Date June 21, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of St. Thomas
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Elise Amel
Faculty Fellow
Office of Sustainability Initiatives
"---" 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?:

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:

Since 1987, St. Thomas’ Center for Campus Ministry’s Office for Service and Social Justice offers January and Spring Break VISION trips. VISION provides global community building opportunities for St. Thomas students to encounter and work alongside diverse communities that are dedicated to creating a more just world. Program website: https://www.stthomas.edu/serviceandsocialjustice/serviceprograms/vision/

For example, in J-Term 2018, students spent 10 days to 3 weeks in a variety of embedded experiences:
• Two weeks in Quail Springs is a leading environmental educational nonprofit that empowers students of all ages and backgrounds with knowledge, skills, and inspiration essential to cultivating ecological and social health. Students learn about permaculture and sustainable farming and engage in activities such as making adobe bricks, starting seedlings and making food with the farm’s bounty.

• 11 days at Plenitud, Puerto Rico, a non-profit educational farm and learning center that focuses on the research, demonstration, and dissemination of sustainable practices for today’s rural and urban environment. Each year, groups like VISION and hundreds of other visitors from around the world become apart of their collective effort to gather and share the skills and values for a more sustainable and healthy future.

• Three-week trip to Friends of San Lucas Mission in Guatemala, learning about and engaging in Fair Trade Coffee production.

2. Study Abroad
Introduction to Field Ecology in Costa Rica (Chip Small & Jerry Husak, Biology) J-term 2018
An experience in environmental problem solving. Students travel to Costa Rica for ~4 weeks. They work in teams to define appropriate questions, design research methods, collect and analyze data, and present oral and written reports. Emphasis is on the application of the scientific method to biological problem solving and the communication of findings to others as the end product of science. Areas of investigation vary with the interests of the students and instructors and with the availability of research organisms.

Multi-Cultural Communication in Diverse Organizations (Drs. Debra Petersen, Tim Scully & Kevins Sauter, Communication and Journalism) J-term 2017, 2018
Examine the concepts, theories, and realities of the way individuals and groups work and communicate in organizations where culture and multiculturalism play a primary or prominent role. Each year we partner with the Ke Kula Ni’ihau O' Kekaha Learning Center (KKNOK) to create a reciprocal service-learning experience on an environmental theme that meets the curricular needs of their forty students (pre-school - high school) and the learning objectives of our course. Previous activities with KKNOK include learning about an endangered Hawaiian duck—the kaloa maoli--in 2010. We contributed to the production of a dvd that features the art, music and literature projects on which our students and their students collaborated. They continue to use this dvd to educate Hawaiians about endangered species and to showcase their unique school at Hawai’i state education meetings. In 2014 our students and the KKNOK students learned about various aspects of the Waimea River, including ecological challenges to the river and surrounding watershed. Highlights included a presentation by an elder at the Waimea Technology Center and a day on and around the river in which the Kekaha students and our students taught others about the history and environmental challenges of this area.

Field Methods and Sustainable Energy Use in Iceland (Dr. Kevin Theissen & Dr. Tom Hickson; Geology) Summer 2015
An effort to train students in basic geological and environmental science field techniques including geologic mapping, topographic profiling, soil and sediment sample collection, and petrographic analysis. Students also explored and reflected on environmental sustainability issues, with a primary focus on sustainable energy use and alternative energy resources. We accomplished this through a series of 1 to 3-day field projects, discussions with local experts, and site visits to geothermal plants, fishing communities, and active volcanic centers. Four students took the course for upper-level credit and completed research projects investigating past volcanic eruptions and ongoing changes to Iceland's glaciers.

Psychology for Sustainability in Germany & Denmark (Dr. Elise Amel, Psychology) J-term 2016, 2018
Learning goals that foster critical thinking about environmental problems and solutions include: Understand the causes and consequences of environmental problems; Understand the psychological factors that lead people to engage in sustainable behavior and be able to describe the main theories guiding conservation psychology research; Have a clear understanding of the psychological underpinnings of the approaches being used to promote sustainable behavior; Be able to describe important social, cultural, and policy factors that influence sustainable behavior

Contemporary Research in Environmental Health in Croatia (Vanča Schrunk, History; Dalma Martinovic, Biology; Erin Curran, Statistics) Summer 2016
This course exposes students to current environmental health topics, myriad on-site and cross-cultural experiential learning opportunities, and immersion in real-world public health research. Course focuses on the intersections between water, environment, and health. Drs. Martinović-Weigelt and Schrunk are native-Croatian and offer invaluable, first-hand insights into the dramatic political, social and economic changes that have impacted Croatia, its people, and environmental health over the past 20 years.

Biology and Economics in Botswana: Health, Growth and the Environment (Dr. Jill Manske, Biology and Dr. Suzanne Wisniewski, Economics) Jterm 2017
This course introduces students to the unique country of Botswana and explores the country's challenges of poverty, growth, education, health and environmental sustainability through both a biological and economic lens. Botswana's history is rich in both economic success (due to diamond discovery) and public health crisis (HIV/AIDs epidemic). At the same time, the country is challenged by ecological, environmental, cultural and ethnic issues. The goal of the course is to bring Biology and Economic student perspectives together as we jointly gain an understanding of the integration of these issues and complexities they create for Botswana. Major topics to be explored are: public health, ecology and environmental sustainability, economic growth and outlook, urban and rural cultural differences.

Global Health in Uganda and Rwanda: Towards Analysis, Equity and Action in Social Medicine
(Amy Finnegan, Justice and Peace; Michael Westerhaus, U of Minnesota) J-term 2016, 2018
This course provides a structured global health immersion experience that emphasizes a biosocial framework. Such an approach appreciates how health and disease emerge through the interaction between biology and the social environment. Through exploration of social determinants of health, students will gain an appreciation for nuanced global and local contexts that influence health outcomes and the types of health interventions designed to address illness in those contexts. The course employs active learning pedagogy, dialogue with diverse groups of Ugandan and Rwandans, rigorous self reflection, visits to various health care treatment and service settings, and a robust introduction to a health advocacy skill set. As this course will be taught in partnership with the non-profit organization, SocMed, university students from several Sub-Saharan African countries will also participate regularly in the class. This presents an opportunity for formative cross-cultural student interaction, which is integral to building international solidarity and generating solutions to global health challenges facing societies throughout the world.

3. We March for Justice Program
A one-week study and tour of the American Civil Rights Movement with focus on the South. Led by Dr. David Williard and Dr. Todd Lawrence and Cynthia Fraction, M.A., students examine issues relating to race and oppression, Jim Crow, the strength of race and community as a collective, and how working together helps to move America forward. Through field experiences, readings, videos, meetings with foot soldiers, and class discussions, this study tour explores some challenging history centered on racial oppression and the struggles for equality; yesterday, and today. The study and tour seek to address the question: What provokes social change and justice in America?
Program website: https://www.stthomas.edu/excelresearch/wemarchforjustice/

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