HomeIonE EducatorBringing global sustainability close to home: Katy Chapman, IonE Educator

Bringing global sustainability close to home: Katy Chapman, IonE Educator

Meet Katy Chapman, a member of the 2018 cohort of IonE Educators. An associate professor in the Math, Science, and Technology Department at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, Chapman was the primary author of the Environmental Sciences major and minor at UMC, and was recently named the Campus Sustainability Coordinator.


Katy Chapman, IonE Educator

Chapman’s sustainability work is far reaching. In 2012, she participated in the Internationalizing Teaching and Learning Cohort and internationalized one of her courses, Environmental Science and Remediation Techniques. In her new role as UMC Sustainability Coordinator, she plans to implement a Sustainability minor, which she hopes will be international as well as interdepartmental. 

During her term as an IonE Educator, Chapman is working to launch a series of seminars that she’s calling the Sustainable Life Series. The events, which Chapman hopes will become an annual series, will each highlight an aspect of sustainable living – from personal finance, home design and building, gardening and food preservation, composting, natural play spaces, and sustainability through art, among others. To welcome participants of all ages, Chapman plans to scale the one-hour seminars to levels appropriate for all age groups, and welcomes the participation of the general public along with UMC students and faculty. Chapman took the time to tell us more about her goals as an IonE Educator.

Tell us more about the seminar series; what’s the overall goal of this project, and why is it important?

The goal of my fellowship project is to get more campus participation in sustainability. This is important because everyone, regardless of discipline, has a role to play if we are to move towards a sustainable society.

What drives you to integrate sustainability into your work?  

Looking into the eyes of my children, I see that their future livelihood depends on the choices we make today.

Related to your sustainability work, we want to also hear about the work you’ve done to internationalize the courses you teach, such as your remediation techniques course. For people unfamiliar with the idea of internationalization, can you say more about what this entails? What does internationalization look like in the context of a classroom?

One exercise that we do in that class is the students develop a remediation plan for a site where I give them all of the site data.  The students then choose a country outside of their country of origin and have to research the laws, regulations, and cultural factors that would influence risk and accepted practices for remediation on that site and develop a plan to clean it up, imagining that they are working in both that country and the United States collaboratively. This teaches students that culture can influence risk (depending on how you use the land) and influences regulations and best practices.

They actually have to get someone from that country to give them feedback on their plans.  As an example, I had a group who chose Australia, and their remediation plan involved utilizing a lot of water. The Australian told the students this plan wouldn’t be accepted due to the high water usage, and the students had to change their plan so that it would be accepted in Australia.

That’s really interesting! You’ve internationalized other courses as well; are there other exercises you use?

Another exercise I use quite often is called the Global Village, in which I assign students a global villager to “be” for the semester. They then answer questions related to an assigned topic from the perspective of their global villager. For example, one exercise I do is the global footprint exercise. Students figure out how many Earths would be required if everyone lived the way they do, and then how many Earths would be required if everyone lived like their global villager. I ask students to reflect on the difference and identify at least one way to reduce their footprint. There are many examples of similarly international projects across lots of classes.  

What do you hope will come of your efforts to internationalize sustainability education?

My goal with all of this is threefold. I want students – number one – to look beyond and within our borders for the best information to solve problems. Two, to understand that different cultures will have different risks and ways of approaching problems, and that no one way is better. And three, to work with people different than them to bring richer information and a better solution to the world’s problems.

What do you wish more people understood about sustainability education?  

That regardless of discipline, you can incorporate sustainability into your teaching and your life.

Grace Becker is the Communications Assistant at the Institute on the Environment and an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, where she studies strategic communication, sustainability studies, and Spanish. 

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