Environmental consciousness is not something that can be tucked away
in the corner of some off-the-beaten-path academic department.
While it may not be apparent on the surface of many disciplines, the natural
environment pervades them all.
Doctors and hospitals heal the sick, yes, but they must also deal with
medical waste and its effect on the environment. The development of public
lands is very much the realm of lawyers. Even foreign language programs,
which deal with the cultures of the lands in which their tongues are spoken,
must take into account environmental concerns in Europe or Asia or South
It is this type of interdisciplinary attitude that is driving a new effort
to develop courses around environmental issues throughout Emory. The program
is called the Piedmont Project.
Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology, and Arri Eisen, senior lecturer
in biology, along with a dozen other faculty members are spearheading
the effort, which began this spring. The Piedmont Project received a $56,500
grant from the University Teaching Fund (UTF), and that cash immediately
was put to good use.
In May, Barlett, Eisen and the Faculty Science Councils Sally Pete
hosted a two-day workshop for 22 Emory faculty and resource experts called
Environmental Issues Across the Curriculum. The workshop featured
professors Paul Rowland and Geoffrey Chase of Northern Arizona University.
Rowland and Chase lead the Ponderosa Project, an interdisciplinary group
effort among NAU faculty to incorporate environmental sustainability issues
into university courses. The goal is to give students the education and
skills necessary to achieve sustainable communities and societies.
The Piedmont Project uses the nationally known Ponderosa Project as its
model, right down to its geographically attuned moniker.
Getting to know people from across the faculty was an interesting
experience, said Pete, who handled much of the planning, coordination
and communication among the attendees. A lot of people who had never
met before and would never have metfrom law and theology, for examplegot
together and are now friends.
This project has led to so many interdisciplinary conversationsfar
more than I expected, Barlett said. Im deeply satisfied
that a number of faculty have expressed the desire to talk with each other
about curriculum issues.
Whats exciting, Barlett continued, is that this
has brought together people who dont normally interact with the
college. Thats not an easy thing to do.
The prospective courses being investigated are as intriguing as they are
diverse, coming from subjects ranging from theology (Carol Newsoms
The Bible and the Environment) to public health (Howard Frumkins
Health Impacts of Urban Sprawl) to English (John Bugge is
developing a course on utopian literature in environmental perspectivesee
First Person). Participating professors came from all over
Emory and Oxford, and courses discussed would cover both undergraduate
and graduate students.
As part of the project, participating faculty set aside time over the
summer to create a syllabus and sketch out their ideas. They receive feedback
twiceonce in August, a projectwide event that took place at Oxford
College, and again in February.
Some effortsa revision of the curriculum in chemistry is onehave
already been or currently are being implemented. Others, primarily the
ones that require the creation of a new course, will not leave the drawing
board and become reality until next fall.
In the meantime, several members of the project, as well as other faculty
members, meet informally each month as part of a Green Lunch Group. About
2025 faculty members get together to discuss issues of the environment
and its relevance to their work. While each months attendees number
about two dozen, more than 70 professors have expressed interest, Barlett
That interest is not limited to lunch, either. Planning has already begun
for a workshop next May that will include a new list of participants,
and new UTF funding has been secured as well. The goal is to sign up 15
faculty and five administrators, and several of this years participants
will address the workshop.
Were quite happy, said Eisen, who, like Barlett and
Pete, will be organizing next years project. Just the fact
that this years activities have led to a second year of funding,
means that there has been an impact.
To document their current work, Eisen and Barlett are currently writing
a chapter for a book, Teaching Sustainability at Universities: Toward
Curriculum Greening, to be published next year.