Advancing sustainability across curriculum


Radford University Sustainability is embarking on an initiative designed to support faculty toward revising existing or creating new curriculum to include sustainability components and outcomes.

The initiative, Sustainability Across Curriculum, is a multi-discipline program that “teaches our students about sustainability and that meeting current needs does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs as it pertains to natural systems, human communities and economic welfare,” said RU Sustainability Manager Josh Nease.

Important to the program is capitalizing on participating faculty’s expertise by facilitating activities that spark creativity and provide space for conversation and collaboration.

School of Education and Leadership Assistant Professor Terry Smith is among those faculty exploring various avenues in which to drive sustainability curriculum in his science education courses.

Smith is planning a unit for his elementary science methods course that focuses on the “impact of science in areas such as nutritional needs and innovations for feeding the world,” he said.

New teachers who have graduated from the Radford University teacher education program, Smith noted, should understand the importance of more focused, high-impact science in their classrooms, as well as outdoor experiences with the environment.

“In their role as teachers, they will be in a position to foster sustainability knowledge in the materials they choose, the quality of life connections they make with content in all areas, and the way they personally model sustainability in their own lives,” Smith said.

Director of International Studies Tay Keong Tan taught a senior seminar on global issues in the spring, with a “new focus,” he said, on sustainable development. 

In the course, Tan used student engagement activities to “speak to the hearts, not just inform the minds” of the students.

A political science faculty member who has co-edited two books on sustainability, Tan said “we need to prepare students to become not just competent professionals but also responsible leaders - global citizens who understand their social responsibility to other stakeholders, future generations, other species and the planet as our sustaining environment.”

In May, RU Sustainability held a day-long workshop for faculty to explore how they can “meaningfully integrate sustainability – broadly defined – into the classroom,” Nease said. “We will start by taking a close look at Radford and the New River Valley and invite participants to engage in local and global comparisons.”

Participating faculty received a stipend developing sustainability curriculum and a plan for implementation.

Through educational endeavors, such as the workshop, RU Sustainability’s goal is to expand sustainability principles to new courses and disciplines and assist faculty in creating new curriculum that charges students to think about sustainability and their connection to earth, campus, people around the world and the environment.

During the 2015-16 academic year, 46 percent of Radford University graduating students completed at least one course with sustainability learning outcomes.

To learn more, contact Nease at 540-831-5223 or

Jun 5, 2017
Chad Osborne