A College of Charleston course on sustainability has become so popular that for the first time, interested students had to be put on a waitlist. Director of Sustainability Brian Fisher attributes that to the fact that students want to solve problems they see emerging around them.

“This course is really about problem solving,” Fisher says. “It is a dramatic realization for students as they grasp both the magnitude of unsustainability and the fact that even the world’s most brilliant thinkers don’t have answers. These problems are so complex and dynamic that they are literally intergenerational problems. So, it’s critical that students today see themselves as part of the solution. Through this class, I want the students to feel empowered so they can find their creativity, begin to think in critical, divergent ways and step up to take ownership of these problems.”

Sustainability, a political science course, has students enrolled from 14 different majors and almost equally divided between sophomores, juniors and seniors. The course is an introduction to the foundations of sustainability through systems theory, which brings a skills-based focus to problem solving both in a student’s daily life and decisions, and how they impact the world around them. Ultimately, the goal of the course is to understand the different concepts of sustainability and for students to understand “they are sustainability.”

“Sustainability is not driven by political ideology, but rather by examining systems and the tradeoffs and priorities embedded in decision-making at multiple scales. The course uses this framework to develop critical skills for both professional and personal growth,” Fisher explains. “Therefore, this course can benefit anyone, regardless of career path, because an employee who can think critically and creatively, one who is self-disciplined and motivated by clear life goals, is a powerful adaptive employee. That is the person who will be a great public leader, CEO, or an informed, engaged homemaker.”

This course could be called unconventional. Fisher gives students the final exam question on the first day of class. “What is sustainability?” From that point forward, everything in the class is focused on that question and students are challenged to define sustainability, give it meaning, take control of it and invest in it. They figure out how to demonstrate what sustainability looks like in an unsustainable world.

For more information, contact Brian Fisher at fisherb@cofc.edu.