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Earn Units for Participating in Sustainability Projects at Cabrillo

Help the planet.
Help Cabrillo.
Help yourself to some units.

As a member of the Cabrillo Climate Commitment Task Force, you can use your skills and learn new skills working on an issue that interests you. You can set your own schedule, and choose a sustainability project or research question that interests you.

You will work on an individualized or team project that could involve:

• Designing research protocols
• Collecting and analyzing data
• Reporting findings and drawing conclusions
• Proposing and/or implementing alternatives and solutions
• Organizing and/or participating in outreach and events

You may receive 1, 2 or 3 units for CWEE 99G.

Students will be able to earn transferable Cabrillo units for work on campus sustainability by enrolling in CWEE 99G. Contact Michelle Merrill or Karen Groppi for more information. 

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Student Participation in Sustainability Assessment

2007 Funding Proposal

Proposal Summary

We requested and received partial funding for work to establish and enhance student participation in ongoing sustainability assessments at Cabrillo College.  Cabrillo College President Brian King has signed a commitment that obligates us to undertake an inventory and ongoing assessment of our climate change impact.  Other colleges have used such assessments as learning opportunities for students.  We envision students being awarded course credit for participation in data collection and analysis, web publication, strategic planning, and public relations campaigns to educate their fellow Cabrillo students about the sustainability assessment results and plans based on assessment outcomes.  Practical experience of this kind will open career pathways for students in the emerging fields of sustainability assessment and planning being developed at institutions, businesses and municipal governments.

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Background

As shown by this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award to Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the success of recent films like An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour, and CNN’s recent broadcast Planet in Peril, mainstream culture is at last beginning to embrace the need for action to thwart climate change and improve sustainability. [1] 

This summer, Cabrillo College President Brian King signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment[2].  This Climate Commitment includes the following language:

…[W]e commit our institutions to taking the following steps in pursuit of climate neutrality:

  1. Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.

    a) Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.
    b) Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.
    c) Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:

    i. A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.
    ii. Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.
    iii. Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.
    iv. Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.
    v. Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.

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Proposed Project

We now have less than one year to complete our initial greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and two years to develop an institutional action plan.  Carrying out all these steps will require participation of Cabrillo administrators, staff, faculty and students. As at other institutions which have completed inventories and sustainability plans[3], we propose that this work be accomplished as curricular activity.  With the guidance of faculty and input from the entire Cabrillo community, students will research and compile the data, analyze and formulate recommendations and write the report.  Engagement in this important work will reveal the need for integration of various skills and interdisciplinary knowledge.  Students will be encouraged to draw on resources across campus and in the community when necessary.  

A faculty-driven initiative to complete the required inventory and ongoing assessment (step 1.b.) by developing a curriculum and supervising students in the assessment project will  allow us to meet our obligation to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum (step 1.c). We can make the best of this opportunity to use the need for the preliminary and ongoing assessment as a valuable teaching tool for Cabrillo’s students.

We have contact lists of students interested in sustainability-related coursework to begin recruiting in Spring, Summer and Fall 2008, so we can ensure that students participate in the initial phases of this project.  With funding, we can research the best approach for integrating this work into the curriculum at Cabrillo, so that students receive credit for participation (as opposed to hiring outside consultants or other top-down approaches). One idea we might pursue would be preparing and developing curricula for this work as Special Studies projects, and then going through the Curriculum Committee process to establish a regular Cabrillo course. The course would include work on ongoing assessments and inventories, setting interim goals and targets, expanding research and actions toward climate neutrality and sustainability. 

An assessment project of this nature requires both technical and social science research approaches, providing an extraordinarily rich set of hands-on, interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students.  This project-based or problem-based collaborative learning method is modeled on strategies for service learning.  Students will develop technical skills as they gather and analyze data on current resource use and waste at Cabrillo.  They will also need to assess behaviors and attitudes of members of the Cabrillo College community to help in planning for interim goals and actions to move the college toward sustainability.  As faculty, we will support students as they work in teams to develop skills while producing tangible, measurable benefits for their college, their community and their planet.  We envision offering the top students in each cohort opportunities to continue to work on the project as supervisors or teaching assistants.  These kinds of learning experiences for students promote self-efficacy, a key factor in academic and career choice and performance, as shown in Noreena Norton Badway’s evaluation of the Watsonville Digital Bridge Academy in 2005.[4]  Studies of engineering students have shown improved retention and graduation rates for those who complete project-based learning and service-learning courses.[5]

We suspect that student learning and appreciation of the sustainability assessment process will be enhanced if it includes opportunities to participate in planning and implementing actions to improve sustainability at Cabrillo College.  The actions that are the least costly, and often most effective, involve promoting behavior changes to conserve resources and reduce waste (e.g. turning off lights or improving recycling habits).  We may need some initial funding to make such public-awareness campaigns feasible for our first group of student participants, to help with printing costs for relevant signage or other strategies the students may propose.  As faculty, we will provide guidance directing these strategies toward those based on evidence gathered during the students’ research, with clear and measurable targets for success.  Some of the next cohort of students can then assess progress toward these targets as a component of their research.

To further engage and motivate the participating students and the broader Cabrillo College community, we propose that the students involved in the sustainability assessment help to develop a website where they can publish their findings.  We envision a Cabrillo Sustainability Website to engage all Cabrillo students, faculty and staff in democratic decision-making processes with new Web-based tools (using “Web 2.0” participatory models with user-generated content).  Both of us are experienced with using course management software and class websites as part of our instruction, and we plan to seek further support, guidance and participation from web-design faculty here at Cabrillo. 

We believe that use of interactive Web-based tools for circulating information will enhance community empowerment and participation in shared governance here at Cabrillo, and that enhanced student empowerment will lead to improved student retention and word-of-mouth recruitment.

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Instructional Benefits

Students participating in the initial round of assessment (our “baseline” assessment) would gain units for participation and hands-on experience in development of assessment metrics, initial data gathering, plus some preliminary data analysis, presenting results through a website, and developing strategic goals and a student education campaign for the campus.

After course development work, 20 to 48 students per semester would receive course credit to participate in ongoing assessment and monitoring, plus data analysis, presenting results through a website, and developing and revising strategic goals and student education campaigns for the campus.

Participation in practical work of this nature improves career prospects in this developing field.  At recent campus sustainability conferences[6], we met some individuals who had followed this career pathway: people who worked on sustainability assessments as students, who went on to get jobs in this field.

Students Involved

Up to 48 students per semester would gain from direct participation in sustainability assessment and educational campaign work.  More significantly, potentially all students at all Cabrillo College campuses (Aptos, Watsonville and Scotts Valley) would benefit from the information provided by the online reports and education campaign.

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Other (Future) Sources of Funding:

  • Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Campus Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund
  • National Science Foundation STEM/STEEP Grant (Cabrillo College applied last month.  This application included a component for student participation in sustainability assessment. Approval announcements expected in January 2008.)
  • PG&E Community College Partnership
  • Possible funding through the Higher Education Sustainability Act of 2007 (http://www.fundee.org/campaigns/hesa/)

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[1] One common definition of sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

[3] See the following websites for examples: UC Berkeley Sustainability Assessment    http://sustainability.berkeley.edu/assessment.html
Cal State Chico Sustainability Assessment  http://www.csuchico.edu/sustainablefuture/practices/index.shtml
University of Oregon   http://www.uoregon.edu/~eic/
Santa Monica College  http://www.smc.edu/ceus/greencampus.htm
Center for Sustainability Santa Barbara City College  http://sustainability.sbcc.edu/

[4] program evaluation by the Higher Education Evaluation and Research Group

[5] Piket-May, M. and J. Avery, 2001.  “Service Learning First Year Design Retention Results.” Session F3C-19, 31st ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference.

[6] Karen Groppi and Michelle Merrill both attended the UC/CSU/CCC Sustainability Conference at UC Santa Barbara in June (http://sustainability.ucsb.edu/conference2007/) and the “This Way to Sustainability III” conference at CSU Chico in November of this year (http://www.csuchico.edu/sustainablefuture/events/2007conference/index.shtml).

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"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
--John Muir

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Cabrillo Sustainability Calendar

Cabrillo GreenSteps

Cabrillo College Sustainability Alliance

Cabrillo Student Clubs
* Cabrillo Sustainability Council
* Cabrillo Permaculture Club
* Cabrillo Bike CoOp
* Cabrillo CalPIRG

EcoCruz is a portal for Santa Cruz County organizations and events

My Top 7 Outside Sustainability Links:

  1. WorldChanging
  2. Grist
  3. WiserEarth
  4. Apollo Alliance
  5. Biomimicry
  6. Bioneers
  7. FOUR YEARS. GO.

See what I've found lately at:
Dr. Pongo's Sustainability bookmarks on del.icio.us

ANTHR 19G Surviving the Future: The (Re)emergence of Sustainable Cultures

Sustainable Cultures Class Blog

 

Last modified 25-Jan-2011