This summer, the College of Charleston launched the Sustainability Literacy Institute (SLI) as part of a campus-wide commitment to fostering and promoting sustainability literacy.
The institute, led by director Todd LeVasseur ’97, has already held a number of educational and outreach events, including discussions on managing coastal development in South Carolina and the role of environmental markets in the world’s economy. On Aug. 31, 2017, the SLI partnered with the College’s Office of Institutional Diversity and the Office of Student Life to stage SustainFest 2017, drawing nearly 200 students to Sottile Theatre.
“The SLI exists to support faculty, staff and especially students, so that they better understand, teach, and research sustainability literacy in both curricular and co-curricular settings,” says LeVasseur. “We want our students to perceive sustainability literacy as having the skills and knowledge to understand how all of our actions – as individuals, as communities and as nations – impact the environment, society and the economy.”
The institute’s future plans include workshops, faculty training sessions, roundtable discussions, films and art exhibits and other initiatives. LeVasseur will be assisted by a quartet of faculty who have been appointed to fellowships within SLI to further the institute’s agenda:
- Geology professor Steve Jaumé, an earthquake seismologist with a strong interest in how societies adapt to both chronic and extreme natural hazards, is the Faculty Development Fellow. He will facilitate the development of new sustainability-related and sustainability-focused courses and help to connect faculty across differing disciplines. He’ll also host an annual faculty retreat to further foster sustainability literacy at the College.
- Communications professor Caroline Foster, a specialist in mass communication and journalism, is SLI’s Outreach Fellow. In that capacity. she’ll work with students, faculty and staff to help promote SLI events and orchestrate a variety of opportunities that students can take advantage of such as the annual exhibit of student art based on the SLI theme that year. (For 2017-18, the theme is water, quality and access.)
- Barry Stiefel, who teaches in the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program, is SLI’s Student Engagement Fellow. Stiefel’s charge is to work in a variety of capacities to further engage students in sustainability literacy. Specifically, he’ll oversee, organize and implement the Sustainability Literacy Scholars Program (set to begin in 2018-2019) and coordinate with student clubs and organizations to foster greater involvement by students.
- And management professor David Hansen, who specializes in teaching entrepreneurship, is SLI’s Innovation Fellow. In that role, he sees his main task as facilitating the problem-solving aspect of SLI’s work. Starting next year, he will be organizing an annual solutions competition based around a chosen theme. He will also work with local companies and organizations to link them to the College.
“We’ve only just launched our efforts this fall,” LeVasseur says. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but I believe we’re off to a great start and we’ll build momentum quickly as student, faculty and staff buy-in increases. And that’s important because so many of these 21st-century problems we face, such as sea level rise, are only going to get more dire. Ultimately, we want College of Charleston alumni to be on the forefront of creating solutions to these interlinked social, economic and environmental issues that will define our shared future.”