Curriculum Development

The WWU Sustainability Academy is an informal group of faculty interested in developing sustainability as a signature theme of education at Western Washington Universiy. In December 2008 the group identified sustainablility content in current courses, and proposed curricular models for development of a General Education course sequence in sustainability literacy, an overlay sustainability minor for students in all disciplines, and an eventual major program in sustainability. In winter 2009 the Academy began the work of identifying the distribution of sustainablility content throughout the Western curriculum. and has continued that work continues to explore curricular structures for academic programs. These curricular explorations ere summarized in February, 2009, in a Goals and Purpose presentation (pdf), and further elaborated in a subsequent Concept paper (pdf) which defined two preliiminary goals and a number of concepts and action activities for the development of such a curriculum.


  1. Evaluate, assess, and develop recommendations regarding general university requirements to strengthen student literacy in the areas of environmental science, policy, planning, and design.
  2. Investigate the desirability and feasibility of developing a university-wide Interdisciplinary Major in 'Sustainability'" that brings together studies in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Preliminary Concepts and Action Activities

  • Inventory existing WWU classes that contribute towards environmental/sustainability literacy;
  • Solicit student, faculty and staff interest and input on ways to improve WWU sustainability education.
  • Evaluate the range of skills and competencies that all WWU students should acquire in their undergraduate education as well as for students majoring in a new "sustainability" degree program;
  • Develop an inventory of WWU faculty dedicated to sustainability principles through teaching, research, service, and other creative endeavors;
  • Evaluate curricula changes to strengthen sustainability literacy among all Western students;
  • Evaluate the desirability, feasibility and design for a new degree major in "sustainability", including structures for administering the program and ways to incorporate "areas of emphasis" (such as a Major in Sustainability with emphasis in business and finance, planning and public policy, environmental science, environmental design, etc.);
  • Evaluate alternatives for incorporating into the curriculum a diversity of perspectives on sustainability.

Preliminary Concepts and Action Activities

  • classes in sustainability literacy,
  • classes in sustainability research skills,
  • an organizational framework to support independent student research and seminars in sustainability,
  • the creation of a university "overlay minor" in sustainability, and
  • the formation of a faculty oversight working group ("Sustainability Studies Academy") to participate in teaching, mentoring, and guiding the development of a sustainability curriculum at WWU.

These discussions culminated in a curriculum design charrette (pdf) in February 2009, at which generalized curricular outlines for sustainability studies were explored for General Education, Minors, Majors, Graduate Studies, and Continuing Eduation.