SF State News {University Communications}

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General education requirements go green

Dec. 6, 2010 -- Future SF State graduates will leave the University better prepared to face issues related to the environment and sustainability now that an environmental sustainability requirement has been added to undergraduate general education requirements.

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Passed by the Academic Senate last spring and approved by President Robert Corrigan earlier this fall, the measure requires students to take three units of classes that examine an aspect of environmental sustainability. Committees will begin looking at classes that qualify for the requirement, with the requirement likely in place for students entering SF State in fall 2012 or 2013, according to Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen.

Classes from across campus will qualify for the requirement, offering students different approaches to issues of sustainability. Carlos Davidson, chair of environmental studies, said a petition on the sustainability general education requirement showed wide support across campus. Ninety four faculty representing 40 departments and every college gave their approval to the change. SF State is among the first in the country to include a sustainability requirement in its general education requirements.

Davidson said it is critical for students to wrestle with issues of sustainability in their coursework. "Sustainability is one of the key issues facing humanity in the 21st century and citizens of the world need to understand these issues because we are going to be making very important decisions that will affect ourselves and our future," he said. "It's hard to overstate how important these issues are."
The requirement states that after taking a class, students should be able to do at least two of the following:

  • Demonstrate how their personal activities impact the environment, and as a resut, affect the health and well-being of themselves and society
  • Analyze how the well-being of human society is dependent on ecosystems and the materials and services they provide to humanity
  • Explain the interconnectivity of economic prosperity, social equity and environmental quality
  • Identify the most serious environmental problems globally and locally and explain their underlying causes and possible consequences
  • Be able to create models, products, designs or creative representations that highlight an understanding of the connections among people, processes and the environment.

The new requirement mirrors the University's commitment to social justice -- an important aspect of sustainability according to Davidson. "Every student graduating from SF State will have some education about sustainability, and that's a huge achievement," he said. "It means we'll be graduating students who will be so much more literate on one of the most important issues facing us. And because they come from this campus, they will be able to understand those issues with connections to social justice."

-- Michael Bruntz


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