Campus News

November 9, 2011

Piedmont Project infuses sustainability into curriculum

Faculty in the Piedmont Project learn about local ecosystems firsthand through field trips and woods walks. (Photo by Anne L. Hall)

Throughout its 10-year existence, the Piedmont Project has become a national model for faculty development and curricular innovation around sustainability. The program offers conferences for multi-disciplinary brainstorming around sustainability issues; experiential learning about place; and educational exercises designed to help faculty develop new courses or modules for existing courses.

Since 2001, the project has sustained a continuing interest with more than 400 faculty nationwide participating in the program. As a result, thousands of students are affected annually by new or revamped courses taught by Piedmont Project cohorts.

Piedmont Project alums, like Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology Robert Agnew, have discovered creative ways to incorporate sustainability into their curriculum on a full-time basis.

In Agnew’s course “The Sociology of Climate Change,” students are challenged to examine the social consequences and causes of climate change and how sociologists might facilitate a more effective response to this issue. Students also study ways to change certain behaviors that impact climate change.

“Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat that humanity has faced,” says Agnew. “Sociology can play a major role in the response to this issue, because the obstacles to action are largely social in nature.”

Workshop continues momentum

The Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE) has worked in tandem with the Piedmont Project since 2008 by encouraging active involvement inside and outside the classroom.

During a seminar in early November, Piedmont Project alumni from all 10 years came together in a workshop to share their experiences and explore approaches on how to better embed sustainability into the curriculum in the future.

“Piedmont II: Embedding Sustainability into the University” was presented by the CFDE and supported by the Office of Sustainability Initiatives and others. Piedmont graduates examined the history, definition and dilemmas of sustainability; explored teaching strategies for sustainability; and investigated emerging research clusters and connections across the University.  

“This two-day workshop is one way to keep the sustainability educational efforts for faculty alive and thriving,” says Steve Everett, CFDE director and professor of music composition.

“We examined ways to further the future of sustainability and faculty involvement and explored techniques to design new courses,” he says. 

Piedmont Project recognized nationally

A Piedmont Project founder, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology Peggy Barlett, was recently honored with the inaugural Faculty Sustainability Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for her efforts to develop these annual workshops.

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