ONE UW-WIDE SUSTAINABILITY FRAMEWORK BY 2022
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FY 2022 Progress
Action: Finalize and publish the university-wide definition of sustainability
This past year the UW finalized an institutional definition of sustainability, which was endorsed by UW President Ana Mari Cauce and adopted by the University. The process of creating the definition involved gathering input from faculty, staff and students from all three campuses. The definition and full information on the process can be found at sustainability.uw.edu/definition.
At the University of Washington, we define sustainability as the capacity to create and maintain healthy, equitable and diverse communities and ecosystems. That capacity comprises 1) an understanding and respect for the interdependence of the atmosphere, the waters, the land, and all life on Earth, 2) a full recognition of legacy and on-going impacts of human activity, and 3) a commitment to cultivate collective wisdom and to deliberately act out of that understanding, respect and recognition.
Action: Develop standardized reporting of academic content
UW Sustainability worked with a pair of Environmental Studies Capstone students to examine existing courses offered by all UW departments, and identify courses which were sustainability focused or sustainability inclusive, using the UW sustainability definition as a guide.
UW Sustainability then created an interactive webpage to make the sustainability courses easily browsable by users. Course information used in the interactive webpage was identified by the title and description from the course catalog. The Sustainability Office recognizes that this initial effort most likely did not capture all of the evolving subjects and courses UW has to offer. Our office plans to build off of this initial effort, and next steps will include engaging with departments to develop an on-going process to identify and update sustainability course offerings.
This action calls us to build a centralized reporting platform for identifying and reporting courses that incorporate sustainability. The UW’s central course registration system (MyPlan) currently only has flags to identify graduation requirements. UW Sustainability has started discussions with stakeholders to determine the possibility of incorporating an identifier for sustainability courses without a UW-wide sustainability requirement, and those discussions are ongoing.
Action: Identify minimum learning outcomes
In December 2021, a small, multi-campus group of faculty who teach sustainability-focused courses convened to discuss identifying minimal learning outcomes for sustainability at the UW. Below is a summary of the insights gathered from this conversation. They will inform the our SAP for 2022-2023:
Our learning objectives should focus on what students will be able to do out in the world. Learning should be experiential and participative to be impactful. We need to address the different domains of learning: knowledge, experience/exposure, commitment, critical reflection. We should think about healing as important aspect embedded in this exploration; recognize the importance of acknowledging traumas to help us move to a different relationship with how we manage time and the idea of success.
How to incentivize this work:
- Align with UW-wide initiatives to get engagement across the University.
- Create a fellowship (to allow people time to do this work and to create a support network). The UBC fellows program is a model. It has shown impact in advancing sustainability as a core value for the university.
- Another model is COE's workshop for faculty to incorporate environmental justice into their curriculum
- A model for aligning course objectives is Bothell's work on courses that use COIL (Collaborative, Online, International Learning)
- There are many parallel efforts across campus - we should be leveraging and connecting those rather than creating new ones. We need to provide transparency; to see that we're in sync and having common ideas.
Action: Determine feasibility of a student sustainability hub
In Winter quarter 2022, UW Sustainability worked with the Environmental Studies Sustainability Studio course. Students in the course researched the need for a Student Sustainability Hub at the university, including a recommendation for a dedicated physical space. UW Sustainability has also started a review of peer institutions to learn how they support student sustainability.
During work planning strategy sessions in Summer 2022, the UW Sustainability focus around the concept shifted from a physical space to a Hub framework that increases student engagement and collaboration opportunities. This summer, the Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) team conducted an impact assessment, and is currently re-evaluating the current funding model. Ultimately, the CSF team intends to move to a more student-centered sustainability HUB program model, supporting a variety of student sustainability projects, organizations, and efforts.
In the upcoming year, UW Sustainability and the CSF will work to create a Student Sustainability Committee (see the actions for Target 1) which will also help determine the best future path to support student sustainability at the UW.
Previous status reports
Metrics to track progress toward this target are being developed.