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Tri-campus community comes together for sustainability class

| Friday, September 2, 2016

Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross are united by a shared history, community and strong connection with the Congregation of Holy Cross. For the first time ever, the three schools are coming together in one classroom to learn about sustainability in a new course this fall.

Saint Mary’s associate professor of English and environmental studies Christopher Cobb said the goal of the course is to increase everyone’s knowledge of how sustainability works and how it relates to the identity of a Holy Cross community, and to explore whether sustainability is working on the three campuses. 

A conversation between faculty from the three schools more than a year ago provided the inspiration for the class, he said.

“We talked about what we could do to foster a tri-campus approach to sustainability, what we could we do to foster sustainability on three campuses and also to build connections between the campuses, because sustainability is usually something that happens in community,” Cobb said.

The course will have three titles, depending on which school a student attends: “Sustainability at Notre Dame,” “Sustainability at Saint Mary’s” or “Sustainability at Holy Cross.”

Cobb proposed the idea of a team-taught course because of the previous success Saint Mary’s had with such a course in the environmental studies department. He said a team-taught course allows the workload of an important class to be delegated to several faculty members who may not have the time to teach the class on their own.

“We really wanted a situation where anyone who wanted to study sustainability could take this course,” Cobb said. “I said, ‘We had great success with that class here at Saint Mary’s, so could we collaborate?’ That would enable us to do something together that none of us could accomplish individually. The group liked the idea so we started building the course, and now we’re offering it.”

Other collaborating faculty members include Notre Dames’ Rachel Novick and Margaret Pfeil — director of the minor of sustainability and associate professional specialist in moral theology, respectively — and three Holy Cross faculty: director of service learning Michael Griffin, director of Campus Ministry Andrew Polaniecki and associate professor of biology Br. Lawrence Unfried.

The course is structured into three parts, Cobb said.

“We’re looking at landscape, energy and food,” he said. “We’re going to look at each of those topics on each of the campuses and so the course meets alternately, one week at Holy Cross, one week at Saint Mary’s, one week at Notre Dame and so on.”

Saint Mary’s junior Jennifer Hagenauer, a global studies and environmental studies double major, said she joined the class because she enjoyed a previous sustainability course and is excited about the link the class has to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si,” which she fell in love with her freshman year.

Hagenauer said the course met for an introduction session last week at Holy Cross and will take an ecological tour of Notre Dame this week.

“Getting involved with Notre Dame and Holy Cross makes me really excited,” she said. “It’s great getting different perspectives and different settings as we rotate classrooms each week.”

The first meeting of the course stressed the importance of community and highlighted how the students involved are ambassadors for sustainability at their respective schools, Hagenauer said.

“I want to know what Saint Mary’s is doing, what Notre Dame is doing, what Holy Cross is doing and how it’s shifting, and what I can do to implement sustainable practices in the future,” she said.

Cobb said the final project of the course will be designing a proposal for a sustainability project, but the implementation of that project is something that would take place as the next step after the class.

“One goal for this first time around was just to get the course on the books and figure out how to manage a tri-campus course,” he said.

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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

Contact Kathryn