University approves new sustainability course

This 100-level interdisciplinary class will be open to all students

Next year, Wilfrid Laurier University students will be able to take a newly created, interdisciplinary course focusing on sustainability. The course, which has been in the making for roughly one year, will be offered at the first-year level and will be taught by multiple professors in order to offer diverse perspectives regarding the importance of sustainability across all disciplines.

Manuel Riemer, a psychology professor at WLU, contacted Claire Bennett, the sustainability coordinator at WLU, one year ago with his idea for the course.

After contacting faculty members they thought would be interested, a working-group was created, and at a WLU Senate meeting last week the course syllabus was proposed and passed.

“What was important with this course was that we wanted to have a course that is truly interdisciplinary [and] really communicated that sustainability is an issue that cuts across all kinds of areas, and that all students should concern themselves with sustainability,” explained Riemer.

“The course really teaches you how you can think about sustainability in whatever field you’re in, whether you’re a business student, a geography student or a psychology student, it doesn’t matter; everybody can take the course.”

In order to meet these goals, the course, while being offered as a 100-level class, will be offered to all WLU students despite their year of study or major.

“Our way of thinking in why we wanted it to be interdisciplinary [is] we’re not just going to target one audience, so say geography or environmental studies, because the purpose of it is to have everyone involved in sustainability,” said Bennett.

While there are many courses offered at WLU that deal with sustainability, this is the only interdisciplinary course, so the hope is that it will attract new students from various faculties.

The idea for this type of course, as Bennett explained, is also very unique in that it will be unlike most sustainability courses in Canada.

“It’s quite new, which is nice because we wanted to see at least one or two examples done so we know that it makes sense, but we still want to be sort of paving the way and being progressive as a university,” she continued.

“We only saw not even a handful of examples in North America, so we’re pretty excited. Interdisciplinary studies is one thing, and that is happening, but an interdisciplinary course in sustainability specifically is what I’m referring to.”

Riemer also explained that the way in which the course is counted towards a student’s degree will be dependant on their major.

While the majority of departments will simply count it as an elective, he said that the geography and environmental studies departments might count it differently for their students.

This is, however, still being determined.

But the overall goal will be to educate students on what sustainability actually means, and how they can incorporate it in their everyday lives.

“Most people don’t know what sustainability actually means, and it’s much more than just the environmental side … this course shows us that it’s every part of our studies and our life, in our history and theology,” said Bennett.

“If we’re not preparing students to work in a world where these issues are [present], then we’re not preparing because I don’t think it really matters what your job is if you can’t respond to the market challenges in sustainability.”

While both Riemer and Bennett said that they have received positive feedback from students, the course will most likely be offered during the winter 2014 semester so it can be advertised in the fall to both new and existing students.

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