Earlier this year, Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) was announced as a winner of the 2020 Campus Sustainability Achievement Award by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The award, which honors higher education institutions for successful implementation of projects that advance sustainability, recognized SLS’s Affiliated Courses Program.
The Affiliated Courses Program, launched in 2016, helps faculty integrate sustainable communities education into their courses, with an emphasis on experiential learning through community partnerships. "The Affiliated Courses Program offers faculty a first step in working with SLS and is an ideal gateway," said Ruth Yow, Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist for SLS. "It meets faculty where they are and does not require a baseline level of partner engagement or adherence to a particular pedagogy of sustainability." The courses frequently have a great impact on not only the students enrolled, but the communities that they support as well. As one engineering student wrote of his SLS-affiliated course: “This SLS course has given me a new perspective on engineering and the overarching goals on which I should focus. Rather than being separate from the social, political, and economic issues of modern society, engineering coexists with these paradigms and can deeply impact all of them in unexpected ways.”
The program has also impacted other sustainability education efforts on campus. It served as a launching pad for working with the School of City and Regional Planning to redesign their Sustainable Cities Minor to be the most diverse degree program on campus, including courses from all six colleges.
One affiliated course, “Semester in the City” (HTS 2086), has been offered by the School of History and Sociology for more than 10 years. The course became affiliated with SLS in 2016 by Assistant Professor of History Todd Michney. "The class aims to help students understand the experiences of residents in the Westside Atlanta communities that border campus," said Professor Michney. "It also teaches students how to prioritize the needs, interests, and most of all, the input of Westside residents first when considering technology or policy solutions intended to improve their lives." The class, impacted by Covid-19 like so many others, shifted to include virtual fieldwork, numerous guest speakers, readings, and lectures on how significant issues such as Olympic redevelopment, the demolition of the Techwood Homes public housing project, and other policy initiatives affect life in Westside communities.
“This class is definitely unique,” said Annie Tran, a fourth-year business student from Kennesaw. “The format is really enriching, and even though we weren’t able to physically go there, I still found it was more enriching than the stereotypical class where you do readings, listen to lectures and take a test.”
Charles Howard, a fourth-year industrial engineering student from Villa Rica, said the class helped him, “look outside the Tech bubble.” “I can see how when I’m working, it would make me take a step back and say, ‘How will this be good, not just for the company, but also the people around us?’” Howard said.
The Affiliated Courses Program lays important groundwork for delivering on the Amplify Impact goal in the Strategic Plan to provide all students with transformative learning experiences to grow as creative, ethical, globally aware, technologically sophisticated leaders who can define and solve problems to improve the human condition, by making experiential, problem-based service learning a signature of all academic and research programs.
Over the past several months, AASHE has hosted a webinar series led by 2020 Award Winners. SLS’s session on March 31, co-hosted by Ruthie Yow and Rebecca Watts Hull, will explore the successes of SLS's affiliated programs in hopes that other Colleges and Institutions can benefit as well. The webinar will focus on cultivating relationships with faculty, supporting course development, equipping community partners, and more.
Serve-Learn-Sustain is a unit within the Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE). To learn more about OUE, follow us @GTOUE on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook or visit our web page at oue.gatech.edu.