Sustainability semester

UM Morris

Among the projects funded in part by recent Institute on the Environment Mini Grants is a new course in sustainability being offered this summer at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Students taking part in this innovative “Sustainability Semester” will make connections between food, renewable energy, history, and culture while networking with peers interested in sustainability and making change. Participants may choose from two complementary courses – Culture, Food and Agriculture and Experiencing Sustainability – or enroll in both.

Sustainability is about relationships – with those here in the present, with those to come after us, and with the environment,” says Troy Goodnough, sustainability coordinator and an instructor of Experiencing Sustainability. “These courses will get students to consider relationships.”

In Culture, Food and Agriculture, taught by associate professor of anthropology Donna Chollett, students will explore community-supported agriculture, revitalization of Native American sustainable gardening techniques, and organic production as solutions to society’s food system challenges. According to Chollett, a food systems expert, this class “challenges the forces that created our broken industrialized food system.” She says the course, combined with Experiencing Sustainability, will enable students to “revitalize the knowledge and practices that maintained nutritional health, environmental sustainability, and social equity for so many years.”

Experiencing Sustainability, a hybrid experiential course taught cooperatively by nine Morris staff and faculty members, offers students the chance to select from modules on topics such as solar power, biomass power, wind energy and policy. Students will learn about efforts to build a sustainable community on the northern plains by visiting farms, American Indian communities, renewable energy installations, and more.

Goodnough says that by offering Sustainability Semester, Morris is demonstrating its role in defining sustainability for west-central Minnesota. Believing there is no universal model for “a sustainable community,” he espouses the importance of place when discussing this topic, “because a sustainable community looks different in different areas.”

“Morris is at the intersection of past, present, and future,” says Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson. “This place is innovative, distinctive, and forward-looking. This course highlights these qualities. It reflects the experimental nature of our campus. We really are a living and learning community.”

Jenna Ray is an editor/writer with the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota, Morris’s Office of University Relations.