Filling the Curricular Sustainability Gap: Reflections from the 2013 AASHE Conference & NWEI’s Work On College Campuses

NWEI staffers Lacy Cagle, Deb McNamara, Mike Mercer and Rob Nathan at last week's AASHE conference in Nashville, TN
NWEI staffers Lacy Cagle, Deb McNamara, Mike Mercer and Rob Nathan at last week’s AASHE conference in Nashville, TN

Last week several NWEI staffers, including Executive Director Mike Mercer, attended the 2013 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference on Resiliency and Adaptation in Nashville, TN. Curriculum Director Lacy Cagle and Director of Organizational Partnerships Deborah McNamara presented on NWEI’s unique discussion course methodology in a presentation on Shared Learning, Shared Story, Shared Action: Curricular and Co-curricular Tools for Engaging the Social Dimensions of Change.

Attending workshops focused on higher education and sustainability offered insights on applying psychological science to green behavior as well as catalyzing organizational change towards more effective sustainability education. A session on University of Minnesota’s research on behavior change supported the foundation of NWEI’s discussion course behavior change model. For example, UMN researchers found that lack of support is a barrier to changing behavior – and that what ultimately motivates people to make changes towards more sustainable action is both knowing how to make changes along with adequate social support.

Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College, offered a plenary session on Organizational Change for Sustainability Education, which highlighted the need for increased initiatives working to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. He pointed to a need for curricular resources which help to teach ethical dilemmas as well as reflective problem solving skills and systems thinking skills. Furthermore, he cited a need for more experiential education and solution focused curriculum.

Finally, here is a snapshot of our presentation, highlighting Northwest Earth Institute’s unique methodology as reflected in our discussion based course books. We’re delighted to continue our work providing effective sustainability education resources: resources which do more than educate but also engage, encourage reflection and small group supportive discussion, participatory learning, and ultimately, action. If you’d like a copy of the full presentation, please contact us at



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