Student led course teaches about innovations in sustainability

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

Innovations in Sustainability, a new course in the Honors Program proposed by a student, teaches other students about sustainability in their chosen field of study.

Students will hand in a proposal about four different sustainability issues during the eighth week of class and will then present their solutions during week 15 of classes. 

Carly Kasicki, a senior studying biomedical science, came up with the idea when she and her co-teacher, Jacob Coddington, a graduate student in business administration, were both accepted into the Stanford Innovation University Fellows.

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Kasicki took her idea to Elizabeth Donoghue, the assistant director of the University Honors Program, where the two began to talk about gaps that they’ve seen at SIU.

“Through that program you go through six weeks of design thinking training where you figure out the landscape of your campus and figure out what gaps exist within your campus [and] then come up with solutions of how to then fill those gaps,” Kasicki said.

Kasicki said she realized there was a lack of classes at SIU that allowed students of different majors to work together which is why the class was created.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never really had students propose a course before, and so I think this is a really valuable thing,” Donoghue said. “It speaks right to what students want.”

Donoghue said Kasicki’s goal was to find ways to serve the student population and make SIU better.

Donoghue said there has been some conversation about offering this course again, but there will definitely be more student generated courses in the future since Innovations in Sustainability was the first course of its kind in the honors program.

Kasicki said the class was created under the theme of sustainability and it is split up into two main parts.

For the first half of the semester, students learn all about sustainability by listening to guest speakers who take over and teach the class for that week or by attending field trips such as one to an organic farm where students learned why it’s important to support local farmers.

For the second half of the semester, students hand their proposals about the sustainability issues they see around SIU or the community and come up with applicable solutions to help combat the issues.

“Something we thought that was pretty cool about this opposed to your traditional classes is that it’s application,” Coddington said. “You’re taking the material and actually implementing it into a project that will be implemented onto campus or in the community.”

Donoghue said the students who take this class are interested in sustainability in some way but may be more focused on their discipline rather than the overall landscape. Through this class students get the opportunity to expand on their interest.

Even if this course does not continue to be offered in the future, Donoghue said the commitment to the core of the course from student generated work to sustainability will carry on.

Kasicki said this is important because sustainability affects everyone no matter where you go in the world, so she wanted to educate students on how they can live sustainably, and how they can make a larger impact for the campus and community.

“There’s also a lot of misinformation out there about it,” Coddington said. “So, it’s nice to be able to have a climate scientist come in and actually teach you about it as opposed to you hearing all sorts of different things that might or might not be true.”

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_619.

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