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Sustainability at SLU is Back!

The Sustainability Semester farmlands during winter 2015
Written by Anna Hughes

Just four miles from campus is an old farmhouse with a small vegetable farm, chickens, rolling meadows, sugar maples, an adorable dog named Phoenix, and soon, pigs.  This wildly underused, hidden gem has essentially been turned into an extension of the St. Lawrence Campus where students can apply to live for the year or take a variety of classes starting Fall 2017.  Inspired by the ‘Sustainability Semester,’ the new ‘Sustainability Program’ will incorporate the semester’s emphasis on environmental activism, leadership, hands-on skills, and the benefits of a living-learning community.

Despite being at the same location as the old Sustainability Semester, Jess Prody, the faculty coordinator for the Sustainability Program, hopes that people don’t think of the program as simply a “replacement of the Sustainability Semester.  I think it is an adaptation or an evolution.” Unlike the semester, the new program’s academics will be far more interdisciplinary and as a whole will have significant interaction and integration with the rest of campus and the student body.

Similar to other living-learning SLU programs, like the Commons Theme House, the Sustainability Program will house about ten students who will live on the farm and take a core class together.  The core class in the fall will be taught by Jess Prody and Erika Barthelmess and will focus on sustainable communication. The spring core class, taught by Sara Asphole, Daniel McLane, and David Murphy, will focus on sustainable leadership and possible solutions. There will also be two elective courses on the farm that will be available to anyone, although program participants will get priority registration.  This fall, Sara Ashpole will be teaching an ESP on Transboundary Wildlife Conservation Policy, and Natalia Singer will be teaching a creative writing class called Literary Harvest.  Program participants will also take a half-credit course on organic farming and other applications of sustainability, giving them more hands-on experience.  Next spring, there will be a history and a theater class offered.

This program hopes to offer a wide variety of students an accessible, yet unique way to learn about sustainability without having to commit to the full immersion and isolation from campus that characterized the Sustainability Semester.  Sustainability Program Director and Homesteader-in-Residence, Sam Joseph, emphasizes the integration and interaction students will still have with rest of campus.  He wants students to know that “they are still very encouraged to continue to participate in their campus activities! They’re not exclusive to this.”  Similarly, the faculty coordinator of the program, Jess Prody, emphasized that “the reality is, we want students from all majors, all disciplines, all different places in their journey thinking about sustainability. It’s not a program that’s for just a set type of student. We want a lot of diversity of thought, experience, and approaches out there.”

The Sustainability Semester was a full immersion study abroad program in the spring, but it did not run in the spring of 2016 due to little interest.  This past academic year has been focused on creating a new program better suited for students’ wants and needs that is flexible but still retains some of the most enjoyable aspects of the semester.  Sustainability Semester alum Jamie Oriol ‘17 likes the new program and is most excited by “the fact that it’s also in the fall! Students will get a chance to see the full cycle of the farm and work more hands-on in the garden.”  The application deadline for the program is Monday, March 6th.

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Anna Hughes