2014-2015 Course Awards

2014-2015 Sustainability Course Development and PLUS Award Winners

The Center for the Skills & Experience Flags, the Sanger Learning Center, and the Office of Sustainability are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 – 2015 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 four recipients of the $2500 PLUS conversion awards. 

Check out last year's winners here:
2013-2014 Course Awards

New Course Development Award Winners


Dr. Craig Campbell

Dr. Craig Campbell
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology

Cultures and Ecologies: The Anthropology of Nature and Natural Resources

This seminar examines the anthropology of “nature” and “natural resources,” with particular attention to the communities in the arctic and subarctic regions. We will use ethnographies to learn about the cultures of peoples who inhabit northern latitudes (e.g. Russia, Alaska, Canada), especially their cosmological modes of belief and their ecological ways of life. We will try to understand the complexities of culture change through the lens of colonialism and question the conventional analysis that these cultures are out-of-time with the ‘modern’ world. Climate change is disproportionately affecting northern peoples, and the imperiled arctic has been caught in the global politics of energy. We will engage in a nuanced exploration of human experience framed against industrialism and extractive economies in the North, along the way considering controversial topics such as energy futures and the ends of history.

Flags: Global Cultures, Independent Inquiry, Writing


Dr. Martin Poenie

Dr. Martin Poenie
Associate Professor
Department of Molecular Biosciences

Renewable Resources, the Environment, and the Future

What are the true costs of our energy sources? And how do we price the benefits and hazards of each to the environment? Solar panels, biofuels, and wind turbines are sources of renewable energy that are thought to be friendly to the environment. The production of such technologies, however, is riddled with inefficiencies and waste. The plastics that house renewables are still made from oil and gas, the electricity needed to develop them is still generated by fossil fuels, and the minerals used to run them are still mined destructively from the earth. In this class we will learn how to meet the world’s needs through truly renewable sources of energy using green chemistry. We will discuss how to manufacture the plastics that comprise our technologies using naturally occurring organisms and biodegradable materials. We will also explore topics such as harvesting energy from algae and plants and reusing chemical solvents to prevent toxic waste.

Flags: Independent Inquiry, Quantitative Reasoning, Writing

Scott Swearingen

Dr. William S. Swearingen
Department of Sociology

Creating the Sustainable Society

In a global economy, climate change affects every nation, whether directly or indirectly. But it also affects our societies unequally. What would it thus mean to live in a sustainable world? How could we achieve sustainability economically, environmentally, AND socially? In this course, students will learn about the social and environmental challenges that they will have to face in the near future. Our analysis of climate change will go beyond environmental and economic impact to include the central issue of equity. We will look at how societies have responded to drastic changes in the past, and how modern societies, especially those in Asia and Europe, are doing so now. By connecting local environments and human practices with global economic and equity issues, we will uncover what it would mean to create a more sustainable society—for everyone.

Flags: Ethics and Leadership, Global Cultures, Writing

Peer-Led Undergraduate Studying (PLUS) Conversion Award Winners


Dr. Erika Bsumek

Dr. Erika Bsumek
Associate Professor
Department of History

HIS 317: Building America: Engineering Society and Culture, 1868-Present

This course examines over 100 years of building in American society beginning with the late 1860s. It focuses on the ways in which politicians, architects, engineers, urban planners, construction workers, naturalists, environmentalists, and others approached the relationship between large-scale infrastructure projects, the environment, and social development. It places building projects in larger historical perspective by evaluating key locations and sets of social relationships (between local, regional and national groups) before and after such projects were built or expanded. By historicizing the concepts of land use and ecology, students learn how the concept of sustainability has evolved and changed over time. Building America draws students from a variety of Humanities and STEM fields, seeking to unite them in a more dynamic fashion. The PLUS model will provide additional opportunities for students to integrate cross-disciplinary perspectives as they grapple with the complex question of how to build for, and improve, the future.

Flag: Ethics and Leadership

Dr. Kelley Crews

Thoralf Meyer

Dr. Kelley Crews & Dr. Thoralf Meyer
Associate Professor/Lecturer
Department of Geography and the Environment

GRG 304E: Environmental Science: A Changing World

This course aims to assess competing frameworks of environmental science, promote best principles of environmental analysis, and illustrate how [mis]information affects one’s ability to grapple with and implement ethical decisions across scales and places. The basic framework used throughout the course combines standard policy evaluation components complemented by principles of multi-criteria analysis. Students learn ethical decision-making, writing, and quantitative skills through lectures and experiential labs that involve data collection and analysis related to sustainability issues such as those happening on our own campus. The PLUS model will support three flag areas by giving students opportunities outside of class to discuss ethical issues, work together on difficult quantitative assignments, and engage in peer-review sessions focused on improving writing skills.

Flags: Ethics and Leadership, Quantitative Reasoning, Writing


Professor Dennis Passovoy

Prof. Dennis Passovoy
Department of Management

MAN 366P: Management Practicum

Social entrepreneurship involves the creation of innovative organizations that address social problems using business methods. Social entrepreneurs tackle some of the world’s most challenging social, economic, and environmental issues, such as homelessness, illiteracy, and lack of access to food, clean water, or quality healthcare. They combine the knowledge and skills used in traditional business with a passionate commitment to making a societal impact. Such practical innovation has been hugely successful: social entrepreneurship now accounts for more than a third of all new U.S. entrepreneurial activity. This course aims to create the next generation of social entrepreneurs by challenging students to design and develop socially responsible business models from the ground up. The PLUS conversion will give students opportunities outside of class to share project ideas in groups, practice pitches for funding, and debate aspects of sustainable business design.

Flag: Ethics and Leadership

Dr. Audrey Sorrells

Dr. Audrey Sorrells
Associate Dean of Students for Research
Office of the Dean of Students

UGS 312: Research Methods – OUR UT

This course provides an overview of qualitative and quantitative research methods used in higher education research. It is intended to inform the research being performed by undergraduate students and Dean of Students scholars in the OUR UT (Opportunities for Undergraduate Research at UT) program, exposing them to the variety of ways that research is produced within the field of higher education and specifically, in the area of student affairs. In addition to in-person class meetings, the course will consist of web-based lectures and interactive online components and the concept of sustainability will be emphasized as a central concept. Students will explore the meaning of sustainability in a variety of contexts related to higher education, including their impact on future generations, and learn how to preserve and share knowledge more broadly. The PLUS model will engage students outside of class time in writing workshops, peer editing sessions, and sustainability-themed activities.

Flag: Writing