Teaching Sustainable Literacy

Sustainability themes have been incorporated into courses in almost every discipline, from the arts and humanities to the sciences. Willamette offered one of the West’s first environmental science programs (1973), and the College of Law offers an innovative Certificate Program in Sustainable Environmental, Energy and Resources Law.

In 2004 Willamette University established a Sustainability Council, offering students, faculty and staff an opportunity to get involved. Volunteers spearheaded lectures, conferences and workshops; annual Sustainability Retreats and Sustainability Days; and numerous campus and community projects. The council promoted research and cross-disciplinary collaborations, funded innovative student and staff initiatives with mini-grants, and nurtured community partnerships that focus on sustainability.

In 2006 Willamette University also established a Center for Sustainable Communities, which offered conferences and workshops, and promoted sustainability research and curriculum, as well as partnerships across the region. Workshops included sustainability orientations for Oregon legislators. "Knowledge is only as good as the purpose for which it’s used," says Joe Bowersox, founding director of the center.

More recently, Willamette University's Sustainable Enterprise Certificate program takes a unique approach to presenting the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental well-being. This is done in a way that will integrate all areas of sustainability by first focusing on the dynamics of complex systems, followed by a practical look at social systems and how the expansion of social well-being ties directly to economic and environmental well-being.

Looking forward, the new Sustainability Institute will build on and leverage the rich history of leadership and action at Willamette University, and continue to focus on curricular and co-curricular education and learning.