Foundational Courses

Limited-Residency Ph.D. Program

PhD Opening Circle on Cafe Patio,

Doctoral students complete three Foundation Courses in the first phase (year) of the program. This experience will provide students with a shared, broad platform of knowledge upon which to build their future studies in sustainability education. Students develop a background to prepare them to understand and analyze controversial issues, research topics, information sources, modes of scholarly inquiry, and potential individual focus areas.

Course Descriptions

Sustainability Theory and Practice I and II

The first part of this year-long foundational course focuses primarily on the axis between ecology and economy. At the end of the course, participants are expected to be ecologically and economically literate. We cover the historical evolutionary trajectory of the disciplines of economics and ecological sciences. In the second semester, we will revisit these themes and dive deeper into the axis of social equity, ecological justice, and biological and cultural diversities in the partnership model. We will examine these in the global North as well as the global South. We will also focus on the appropriate scale and scope of ecology and economy as they intersect with the class, ethnic, gender, and racial formations at the global, local, as well as “global” situations.

As one of the core foundational doctoral seminars, the course will involve readings and discussion revealing how the various themes in economy and ecology have evolved and how, in most cases, the relation between them has been uneasy and even conflicting. Despite the fact that both economy and ecology originate from the same root, oikos (Greek, “household”), the two disciplines developed without the necessary recognition of or integration with each other. In order to bring the earth household (ecology) and the human household (economy) into harmony, we will examine several ways to go about achieving such integration. Authors and texts examine various options to create such beneficial partnerships: the concept of natural capitalism, valuing biomass and ecosystem services, calculating ecological footprint, investing in eco-economy, developing cradle-to-cradle ecological design, transitioning to post-carbon economy, using appropriate technologies, pursuing sustainable harvest regimes, and respecting Indigenous ecological knowledge.

Transformational Learning and Sustainability Education I and II

Education as Sustainability explores the theories, processes, and conditions through which individuals, groups, and organizations learn and transform in ways that support a sustainable future. This entails an examination of current educational approaches and strategies as well as innovations that challenge traditional assumptions and practices. This investigation may take place in such arenas as public and private education, community development endeavors, business and economic ventures, government training programs, and through all the social and ecological networks critical for human survival.

Sustainable Education is the process by which individuals and organizations engage in new learning that challenges existing norms and draws upon the resources and initiative of those involved in this learning. This approach to education aims to contrast the predominant managerial and mechanistic paradigm of learning, such as exists in most public education settings and in much of higher education, with a more holistic and ecological model that emphasizes the realization of human potential and the interdependence of social, economic, and ecological wellbeing. This mode of learning is more engaged and experiential, and it addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of our roles in the world and in human society. Such learning has its base in the core values of lifelong learning, the recognition of diversity, cooperation and collaboration, personal reflection and values, integrative understanding, responsibility and faith in others, and developing learning communities with a commitment to the good of the whole.

Modes of Inquiry: Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Design I and II

This course takes an overview of scholarly thinking, research, and writing. In the realm of scholarship, the course addresses such issues as: how to select a research problem or question; how to conduct a literature review; how to formulate an appropriate research design; how to incorporate theory and epistemology; how to limit research parameters, and how to decide on the appropriate research methodology(y)(ies) and method(s). Since systems analysis and thinking are critical to effectively applying scholarship to problem solving and social action, these will also be included as subjects of this course. Finally, the course examines: the role of inquiry or research in the context of focused efforts to promote social learning and change; how to identify important and doable action or project-based research how to collect and analyze data to improve the work of scholar/practitioners; and how to include and foster participation by other educators and/or community members in a team approach to collaborative inquiry and participatory research.

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