Infusing Sustainability into the Curriculum

Many of the country’s future leaders – politicians, educators, chief executive officers, small business owners and homeowners – are educated and engaged by institutions like the University of Rhode Island.  As educators, we have the opportunity to offer a systems thinking approach to learning that will cultivate engaged citizens and leaders who are capable of analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information from multiple sources in order to render reasoned decisions.

The  Infusing Sustainability into the Curriculum leadership workshop for faculty strives to enhance teaching and engagement with issues of global importance. This workshop is modeled after Emory University’s very successful, and nationally renowned, Piedmont Project. This innovative approach to curricular change has been an intellectually stimulating and collegial experience for faculty. Skeptics, environmentalists, and those in between have found their various perspectives welcomed and enriched by the collaborative format of this leadership workshop. It is our goal at URI to make the workshops at URI the platform from which we create an ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue on curriculum development on our campus.

The Agenda
The agenda of the faculty leadership training will involve a rather intensive two days of  brief presentations and a structured mix of interdisciplinary small group discussions and interactive plenaries to foster engagement and creativity. Faculty participants will focus on the variety of ways sustainability is relevant to a wide range of disciplines, and how to incorporate sustainability into existing or envisioned course syllabi.

Faculty Reading List
Below is a list of articles that have been chosen for participants of the Infusing Sustainability into the Curriculum: Leadership Workshop program.  These materials are intended to help faculty prepare for the workshop by providing a base level of knowledge of sustainability and curriculum change, and workshop discussions will be shaped around the core tenets of the readings.

Additional Resources
Prior to the workshop, please familiarize yourself with these available resources as they will be referenced often throughout the day. In particular, the website for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) includes invaluable information that you can only access via a member login. URI is a member institution and as faculty, you may use your URI email address to create a user ID to access resources exclusive to AASHE members. Please create a member login prior to the workshop.

URI Sustainability Documents

  • The URI Climate Action Plan was developed after a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory was performed for all four of URI’s campuses. The URI President’s Council on Sustainability enlisted the URI Energy Fellows to compile the University’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP would provide an evolving framework, guiding the process of reducing URI’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • The URI Strategic Plan for Campus Sustainability is currently in draft form. This plan will guide the integration of sustainability into the culture of the University and allow our campuses to serve as models of sustainable practices and principles for URI students, faculty, staff, and the local community. Five areas of focus have been identified as priority sustainability issues: Facility Operations, Transportation, Curriculum/Research, Community Culture, and Communication.

Teaching Aids

  • Northwest Earth Institute Discussion Courses have been used by over 150 colleges and universities around North America.  Download the Introductory Packet for Higher Education and learn more about ways NWEI’s sustainability education resources have been used on other campuses.
  • AASHE,  the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)  is helping to create a brighter future of opportunity for all by advancing sustainability in higher education. As faculty of The University of Rhode Island, you may use your URI email address to create a user ID to access resources exclusive to AASHE members, including resources specific to curriculum and research


  • ACUPCC     In 2007, President Robert Carothers signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), demonstrating the University’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality (no net greenhouse gas emissions) as soon as possible. On their website, you can view the climate action plans of the over 675 university/college signatories
  • Second Nature     Second Nature’s mission is to accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education.
  • AASHE   The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has several resources available to members of the URI community. Read on for a list of all of the different resources we have access to.
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