Teaching and research are the core purpose of higher education. The current environmental, economic and equity concerns and needs of society are complex, interconnected and call for a global perspective on local solutions. We will ensure our students are prepared to think critically and creatively, lead and contribute in the 21st century.
Sustainability describes both the challenges facing society and the approach to transforming those challenges into opportunities — the core dimensions of higher education. The most enduring way for a university to engage in sustainability is through its students and faculty.
As a tier-one research university, our emphasis on research is unquestionable. Inviting and encouraging a wide range of scholars, whose research focuses on sustainability within their fields, will provide evidence for socially responsible decisions in the future, both nationally and globally. Changing the world must be about changing it responsibly. UT Austin is well situated to be part of the global conscience to investigate, record and publish on sustainable practices and encourage faculty across disciplines to work together in interdisciplinary research.
The university already has strong examples of this collaboration in the Environmental Science Institute, the Center for Sustainable Development, the TILTS program, and the emerging efforts of the Dell Medical School and the Center for Integrated Design in the College of Fine Arts, and the newly accredited bachelor of arts in sustainability studies.
Sustainability scholars act as role models for students who are interested in conducting their own research, using the campus as a living laboratory, on a city and regional scale, throughout Texas and with our border nations, and on a national scale. Giving students a chance to practice hands-on scientific and research methods where they can see the consequences of their studies encourages them to have more in-depth learning.
UT Austin already has a wealth of knowledge in scholars of sustainability, and their skills are being shared with students through courses emphasizing sustainability. Faculty have developed skills and outcomes for courses that are actively teaching students about sustainable futures. Students are participating in courses through experimental learning, while learning how to collaborate and think logically about the world around them.
Infusing aspects of sustainability into courses where students can think critically about sustainable issues will allow them to have reasoned, informed views. This will enhance and promote the vision of the university: "what starts here changes the world."