2013-2014 Course Awards

The Center for the Core Curriculum, the Sanger Learning Center, and the Office of Sustainability are pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 – 2014 Sustainability Course Development and PLUS Awards!

The Sustainability Course Development and PLUS Awards competition is designed to incentivize the development of new sustainability courses or course conversions to a Peer-Led Undergraduate Studying (PLUS) model. To be eligible for either award, a course must address issues related to sustainability and fulfill the requirements for one or more flags. There were three award recipients for the $6000 new course development awards and two recipients of the $2500 PLUS conversion awards.

New Course Development Award Winners


Lucy Atkinson

Dr. Lucy Atkinson
Assistant Professor
Department of Advertising

New Course Title: Communicating Sustainability

Despite environmentally friendly attitudes, there remains a profound attitude-behavior gap, often called the green gap, between what Americans say they value and how they actually behave. Mass communication, both informative and persuasive, can play a vital role in closing this gap.This course will look closely at the ways mass media can foster, challenge and change attitudes and behaviors as they relate to sustainability. A central premise of the course is that without effective communication campaigns, even the most promising sustainable initiatives will not succeed. In the course of the semester, students will gain the theoretical and practical foundation necessary to understand, evaluate and craft successful media messages to communicate issues of sustainability.

Proposed Flags: Ethics and Leadership, Independent Inquiry


David Eaton

Dr. David Eaton
Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs

New Course Title: Sustainability: An Experiential Learning and Field Internship Course

This course will have a significant ‘hands-on’ element to allow students to learn practical skills through “real-world” work outside of the classroom. Course objectives include: partnering with external UT organizations working on sustainability-related projects; enhancing each student’s expertise through interactive work, field study and service-learning within an internship; teaching professional development and leadership skills; including reflection exercises designed to help students connect what they learn through experience with the sustainability-related theory; reinforcing students’ sense of civic responsibility and leadership; further developing students’ understanding of the complexity of real-world challenges; and enabling each student to obtain professional certification in evaluating the sustainability of infrastructure.

Proposed Flags: Ethics and Leadership, Writing


Allen MacDuffie

Dr. Allen MacDuffie
Assistant Professor
Department of English

New Course Title:  Sustainability and Representation

Environmental degradation, resource depletion, and climate change are the defining challenges of our time, and yet they often remain invisible. We cannot see the toxins accumulating in our drinking water, the damage over-fishing has done to ocean ecosystems, or the build-up of atmospheric CO2 that is altering the makeup of the entire biosphere. As a result, our ability, as a society, to respond effectively to environmental challenges partially depends on our ability to represent them, to make the crises we face comprehensible, urgent, and real. This course takes as its starting premise the notion that the arts and humanities have a crucial role to play in fostering environmental awareness, and in influencing the wider cultural discussion about the threatened habitats and resources of the natural world.

Proposed Flags: Global Cultures, Independent Inquiry, Writing


Peer-Led Undergraduate Studying (PLUS) Conversion Award Winners


Atila Novoselac

Dr. Atila Novoselac
Associate Professor
Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

PLUS Course Title: Energy Simulation in Building Design

Peer-Led Undergraduate Studying (PLUS) is ideal for a challenging and more technical course such as Energy Simulation in Building Design. Building energy simulation models are detailed and complex, and in order to master such theories and tools, students can highly benefit from group study sessions to reinforce what has been learned in class and refine their understanding.  In class instructional time mostly focuses on the theory behind energy modeling, ensuring that students understand the methods used in the software. To build simulation models and use simulation software, students often spend a significant amount of time outside of class learning the programming needed to solve theoretical problems, and the methods needed to use the energy modeling software for projects and assignments.  By holding weekly sessions outside of class, students can work on programming and modeling with a knowledgeable student preceptor available to help and provide guidance.

Proposed Flag: Quantitative Reasoning


Suzanne Pierce

Dr. Suzanne Pierce
Assistant Professor of Research
Environmental Science Institute

PLUS Course Title: Decision Pathways

In Decision Pathways, some of the deepest learning has come from dialogue sessions with students that don't shy away from the difficult and contentious issues our society faces as burgeoning populations and demands bring communities into conflict.  These problems are complex and difficult to understand because of the interdependencies within the systems and the ethical dilemmas that are rife across each case study.  Teaching students to 'map' and understand the components of these systems through models and analysis is useful, but teaching them to openly discuss the conundrum using their science-based information as it relates to the context of real stakeholders is the true value of this course.  The PLUS model is, in many ways, better equipped to help student groups understand these issues through the unique lens of their own generation; we give them skills, and they give each other a broader experience base from which they can inform their own perspectives.

Proposed Flags: Ethics and Leadership, Quantitative Reasoning, Global Cultures