Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 70.12
Liaison Amir Nadav
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of St. Thomas
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Kendra Boyle Hoban
Office of Study Abroad
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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:


Since 1987, St. Thomas’ Center for Campus Ministry’s Office for Service and Social Justice offers January and Spring Break VISION Global Community Building Programs. VISION provides global community building opportunities for St. Thomas students, faculty, and staff 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/

Students spend 10 days to 3 weeks in a variety of embedded experiences. Examples of J-Term programs offered since 2018 include:
• 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 a part 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.

Spring programs include:
• White Rose Catholic Worker Farm (10 students, one week program): The farm is an intentional community that practices integral nonviolence including caring for those in need, striving towards electricity & petroleum free living, gift economy, communal living, simplicity, etc. They are part of Bear Creek Community Land Trust, which is a 190 acre off-the-grid community shared with their immediate neighbors the Peace & Permaculture Center as well as 3 other individual and family homesteads. The students participate in early spring on a small-scale organic farm where they learn how permaculture practices transform agricultural approaches to food production.

• Grand Canyon National Park (10 students, One week program): The Grand Canyon National Park is a world heritage site and one of the most iconic national parks in the United States. VISION partners with the National Parks Service to work on projects to preserve and protect the park's natural and cultural resources while learning more about this unique community. The Student groups work on maintaining Park infrastructure (including trails and buildings), help with invasive plant eradication programs, and participate in educational programs around, conservation and natural history.

• Camp Campbell YMCA Camp (10 students, One week program): YMCA Camp Campbell is located in the Redwoods in Boulder Creek. Our VISION Team volunteered as camp counselors to 6th graders in camps focused on outdoor and educational learning. Students also learned about forest ecology and efforts to save and protect remnant forests.

• Virgin Island National Park (10 students, One week program): Park Staff host the ST Thomas Team as they work on a variety of conservation projects including mangrove and beach cleanups, and invasive species removal. The Team also works with the park archeologists on collecting a preserving historical artifacts.

VISION also runs a Student Leader practice trip, a week-long summer training program at Sweet Grass Farm, which is owned by 2 VISION alumni. During this experience, the team learns about the principles of VISION leadership and also participate in land conservation projects on the farm.

2. St. Thomas Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs
School of Engineering Senior Design Clinic in Peru (In partnership with AASD) Summer 2019
As part of the Engineering Global Summers program, St. Thomas will send a team of senior design engineering students to Calca, Peru during the summer of 2021 to work with local organizations and develop engineering solutions that meet community needs. Students will explore current issues in Peru and encourage students work across cultures to address real-world problems through innovative, project-based coursework. Over the eight-week program, students work on a high-altitude environmental project in partnership with Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development under the guidance of a St. Thomas faculty member who will connect virtually with students on a regular basis. Students will live with homestay families, participate on regular site visits and attend lectures by local experts. Students will continue to work with AASD upon their return in the fall as they complete the second semester of Senior Design (ENGR 481).

Engineering and Design for Sustainable Environments in Jordan (In partnership with SIT) Summer 2019
Senior design engineering students work with local organizations in Amman, Jordan to develop engineering solutions that meet community needs. Students explore current issues in Jordan and work across cultures to address real-world problems through innovative, project-based coursework. Over the seven-week program from June 6th through July 26th, students learn about technologies for sustainable water use and treated wastewater reuse, renewable energy, and organic farming; explore human-centered design by developing a project that addresses the needs of a Jordanian community; visit the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and water treatment plants to learn about the local and regional issues of arid countries and how scarcity plays a role in the larger dynamics of the Middle East; and are exposed to different perspectives on resource management during the homestay in Amman and field visits with Bedouin families in the desert. Students continue to work with the Jordanian community organization upon their return in the fall as they complete the second semester of Senior Design (ENGR 481).

Alternative Energy for a Sustainable Future (Prof. Greg Mowry & Prof. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman) Summer 2018
This course introduces students to the cutting edge of alternative energy in the areas of tidal, wind, nuclear, hydrogen, and solar power generation in Europe. Discussions and lectures by the course directors are used to teach the fundamentals of each technology while guest lectures by resident European experts currently working on research in the field will provide a more in-depth understanding. Lectures are supplemented by readings and assignments from the textbook and supplemental articles. Students experience alternative energy in action at several different power plants throughout France and western Germany weekly. In France, aspects of nuclear fission and fusion power will be covered, and in Germany, biofuels, wind, and solar based sources of alternative energy will be covered In addition to technical knowledge, students grow in their understanding of other cultures and how those cultures address different types of alternative energy generation on both a political and societal level.

Field Methods and Sustainable Energy Use in Iceland (Dr. Kevin Theissen & Prof. Jeni McDermott) Summer 2018
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.

Introduction to Field Ecology in Costa Rica (Chip Small & Jerry Husak, Biology) J-term 2020
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.

Psychology of Sustainability in Germany & Denmark (Dr. Elise Amel, Psychology) J-term 2020
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

Regional Geology and Geological Field Methods in the Southwestern US (Prof. Jeni McDermott ) J-Term 2020
The field is geology's laboratory. Students will learn how to collect, synthesize, and analyze geological data in the field. Techniques will be taught in the context of the regional geology of an area so students will gain a critical appreciation of a geological terrain outside of their usual experience. Students will spend 3 weeks in the field examining geological structures, modern-day faults, modern processes that shape the earth's surface and examining the ancient record of past climate and environments preserved in the rock record. Student teams will learn basic techniques and instruments of geological mapping and rock description, how to recognize geological structures such as faults and folds, ways to interpret the evolution of the earth from sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, and to link surface processes with the rock record. Students learn many basic skills and concepts such as use of a brunton compass, topographic maps, as well as observation, recording, and analytical skills as they relate to geology and environmental science.

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/

4. Study abroad programs available to St. Thomas students through Other Approved Study Abroad Providers:
Australia – Rainforest to Reef
Australia – Rainforests of New Zealand and Australia
Australia – Watersheds of the Wet Tropics
Bhutan – Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition
Bhutan – Forests in the Land of the Thunder Dragon
Bhutan – Cats of the Himalayas: Tracking and Conservation
Cambodia – Climate Change, Ethics, and Conservation
Cambodia – Freshwater Ecology and Conservation
Cambodia – Elephants of the Cambodian Highlands
Chile – Wild Patagonia: Fire and Ice
Chile – Foundations of Patagonian Ecology
Costa Rica – Sustainable Development Studies
Costa Rica – Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems
Costa Rica – Biodiversity and Sustainable Food Systems
Kenya – Wildlife, Water, and Climate Resilience
Kenya – Foundations of Wildlife Management and Conservation
Kenya – Fundamentals of Wildlife Management
Kenya – Primates of the African Savanna
Panama – Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies
Panama – Tropical Island Ecosystems: The Human Impact
Peru – Biodiversity and Development in the Amazon
Tanzania – Wildlife Management Studies
Tanzania – Carnivores f the African Plains
Turks & Caicos Islands – Marine Resource Studies
Turks & Caicos Islands – Foundations of Tropical Marine Ecosystems
Turks & Caicos Islands – Fundamentals of Marine Conservation
Turks & Caicos Islands – Marine Megafauna

University of Minnesota:
Minnesota Studies in International Development – Ecuador
Minnesota Studies in International Development - Senegal
Minnesota Studies in International Development – Thailand

Freiburg – Environmental Studies & Sustainability
Nice – Business, Sustainability, and Immigration

Environmental Security & Sustainability of the Mediterranean Basin

Environmental Sustainability – Ecology, Policy, and Social Transformation
New Zealand – A Shared Future, Culture, and Environment

Sustainability, Environmental Science in the Arctic

Costa Rica – Sustainability and the Environment

Argentina – People, Environment & Climate Change in Patagonia & Antarctica
Australia – Rainforest, Reef & Cultural Ecology
Australia – Sustainability & Environmental Action
Ecuador – Virtual Internship in Environment, Conservation & Ecosystems
Ecuador – Comparative Ecology & Conservation
Iceland – Climate Change & the Arctic
Iceland – Renenwable Energy, Technology, and Resource Economics
International Honors Program – The Politics of Land, Water & Energy Justice
International Honors Program – Agriculture, Sustainability & Justice
India – Virtual Internship in Environment, Development & Sustainability
India – Sustainable Development & Social Change
India – Traditional Medicine and Healthcare Practices
Indonesia – Biodiversity and Conservation in Bali and Borneo
Jordan – Virtual Internship in Community Empowerment & Sustainable Environments
Jordan – Community Empowerment & Climate Change Internship
Madagascar – Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management
Malawi – Agroecology & Regenerative Design
Mongolia & Siberia – Nomadism, Geopolitics & the Environment
Nepal – Geoscience in the Himalaya
Panama – Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems & Biodiversity Conservation
Portugal – Sustainability & Environmental Justice
Samoa – Social and Environmental Change in Oceania
Spain – Sustainable Urban Development & Social Justice
Tanzania – Wildlife Conservation & Political Ecology
Tanzania – Anzibar Coastal Ecology & Natural Resource Management
Tanzania – Climate Change and Sustainability, Mount Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar

Website URL where information about the institution’s immersive education programs is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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