Sustainability – A way of thought


Last week I attended a sustainability workshop discussing the different sustainability courses both at Bucknell and that will be offered in the future at Bucknell. The professors were asked questions about the course ranging from their true functionality and what they aim to achieve by offering the courses to students. They were even able to justify many of the different offerings by showing the changes in corporate culture and the changes happening in the climate which we can see today.

What interested me the most was that it took this long for something of this nature to happen at Bucknell. Sustainability, while it may not always have been called that, has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now. It shows up in discussion where others wonder if an event or something we do can continue to go on. What needs to continue to change, though, is the way in which we think. We have applied sustainable thought to everyday things, such as relationships, jobs, etc, to see whether or not these types of things can be maintained and thrive on their own. That same thought needs to go further and people need to think whether a business process of a daily routine can continue to happen and what the side effects are. It is in the idea of changing thought that I believe a sustainability curriculum can have a positive effect on society. I am glad that Bucknell has taken this initiative.

Sustainability & Bucknell


This past week I attended the 10am symposium that spoke about sustainability and how it applies to Bucknell University. The session was moderated by Peter Wilshusen and included talks by Alf Siewers, David Kristjanson-Gural, and Jamie Hendy. Each professor spoke on varying areas of sustainability—including what they are most passionate about within the area, what sustainability means to them, and how it applies to our campus community. They provided varying definitions of sustainability, they spoke of the future, and of possible solutions to the environmental issues that plague us today.

Alf Siewers was the first faculty member to speak. The main idea of his talk was that we should not take our environment for granted, and emphasized that idea that we need to try to find meaning in our lives outside of technological communication. For instance, he gave the example of watching the sunset over the Bucknell academic quad. He stated, “When you watch the sunset on the academic quad over the Appalachian Mountains, do you stop and appreciate what you are seeing? Or do you find yourself looking down at your cell phone?”  He repeatedly referred to sustainability as “a story”.

 Professor Kristjanson-Gural spoke next. He spoke from two different perspectives—first social justice and then economic. He demonstrated how social justice and sustainability are interrelated, but separate as well. He noted that it is possible to have a just system that is unsustainable, and a sustainable system that is unjust. He also said a very controversial statement saying that capitalism is intrinsically unsustainable because it creates uneven distribution of wealth. I see his point, but I do not think that I can support ending capitalism.

Finally, Professor Hendy spoke from a management perspective. As she also teaches Business, Government and Society, it came as no surprise that most of her talk could directly tie back into our class discussions. Her message was clear—that it is entirely up to our generation to pave the way for change, to make the world a better place, and to try to save our environment. I absolutely loved when she brought up Patagonia as an example of a company that is truly doing things the right way from a sustainability standpoint. They exemplify social responsibility and are truly paving the way for the future of sustainable clothing.

I am very pleased that I attended this symposium. What I enjoyed the most was hearing each individual professor’s unique perspective on sustainability, and seeing how the issue of sustainability is important across all fields of study. I was disappointed that they did not talk more about what we as Bucknell students can do, and how the issue of sustainability is affecting our campus. I would have liked to hear more on that topic. Overall, I thought it was great. Definitely worth waking up early to go see it!!

Sustainability Curriculum – As Interesting As It Sounds.


I decided to attend the 1 PM sustainability talk about curriculum (because that was really the only one that fit my schedule) and I will admit I wasn’t really entertained or amused on the subject matter.  The talk basically lasted an hour and was about the new curriculum that Bucknell would put in place in order to get this idea of sustainability across to the students.  It started off with one professor talking about the new requirements for engineers, and how they would need a sustainability class in 3 different categories.  The students would also have 3 free electives to pursue other areas of interest, or to increase their course load on sustainability if they chose to do so.  The talk then transitioned into Professor Hiller talking about sustainability and the management program, and some of the courses to be offered to the students that has a focus on sustainability.  After that was a talk on Bucknell in Nicaragua, and then a sort of summation and wrap up.  At first I thought the talk could have been interesting as they talked about the importance of sustainability to Fortune 500 companies and how a heavy majority issue sustainability reports annually, but then it took a turn towards Bucknell curriculum and it became immediately uninteresting.  I feel as though the seminar was more for current professors than for students.

Our discussion in class afterwards was where my thoughts were when we said that people who are interested in sustainability will pursue these opportunities on their own, and they shouldn’t really have to be forced to take classes on it.  I know I took a class on sustainability and really didn’t find the material to be interesting, personally.  I was okay with taking one course on it, but would NOT want anything else in my curriculum on that material.  I feel like having 3 courses required for sustainability is overkill, and would not be enjoyable for those students who do not want to have a career associated with it.  People who are actually interested in the subject matter will be the ones who will sign up for these classes, and they shouldn’t really be mandatory.  I know I am a management major, but finance interests me so I used my available course space to take classes that I liked.   I think people who like the topic of sustainability would chose to form their curriculum around that interest as I have around finance.

Leaving the seminar I was glad I was a senior and wouldn’t have to take these courses as a requirement.  As a liberal arts school I have already had to take courses I had no interest in (like 2 lab sciences) and wouldn’t want to add more classes to that list.  I think there are other ways to get sustainability into the school.  They could offer more clubs, more classes (but electives, not mandatory), more seminars, or anything that is informative without changing the curriculum.  I understand the importance of the topic, but I don’t see its importance so much at a collegiate level.  A lot of the learning you experience for your career is done on that job, and I find that a lot of things learned in college are eventually lost on kids because it is more theoretical than practical.  Classes help prepare students for work load, time management, listening, oral presentation skills, and many other valuable areas of development, but specific knowledge that will be used on the job is more so learned ON the job.  It should be interesting to see how the new proposed curriculum pans out at Bucknell, and how the students respond.

Bucknell gets Sustainable……in the classroom


sustainability_diagram

Hey everyone, hope you had a Happy Easter. Since I was leaving after class to go home for the weekend and had work in the morning, I was only able to attend the 1 pm session of the Sustainability Seminar about the curriculum. I noticed that there was a significant amount of us that attended this one, so I’ll try not to be too long and do the best I can not to make this sound repetitive. So what is sustainability in the eyes of four Bucknell professors? According to dictionary.com, its defined as “the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.” I don’t think this really sums up what they were trying to say, but the website also gives an Environmental Science definition as well. It states, “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.” Now this is more likely, as the four professors discussed educating future students at Bucknell on how we should be more environmentally sustainable when making managerial decisions.

HillerCC

Professor Tammy Hiller spoke to me the most, considering I’m a management major and she was speaking for the management program. She discussed how the school of management was recently split up into four degrees and that sustainability was one of them. The courses in this division of management will focus on how to make the future of our world a more sustainable place. I find this interesting, but I have a feeling student will tend to turn away from this kind of major. That’s a personal opinion, but I feel kids will lean more towards finance and marketing. Anyway, this was only a small part of her discussion. She went into greater detail though about how sustainability has not been a major issue for most companies in the recent past. She said now though, that more companies are working towards becoming more sustainable, a lot of them because it is the ethical thing to do. But are all companies eventually going to be sustainable? I don’t think so. There are always people looking to cut corners and as long as they make profits, they won’t care about the state of the environment. Does that mean we need more government regulation or is this just the American way?

Is sustainability a major issue for corporations? Yes. Should we work towards becoming more sustainable for the health of our planet? Definitely. Do we need a whole section of the school of management focusing completely on it? Will wait and see, I guess. I don’t know. I always felt that sustainability courses were good, but not good enough for me to base my major on it. I always felt one class a semester, maybe even a year would be better. What’s your opinion?

Educate yourself


This week I attended the sustainability seminar that spoke about the new curriculum.  I think sustainability is actually a very interesting topic and wish I had attended a different seminar that spoke more about sustainability rather than the curriculum.  I mean yeah, I guess it was somewhat interesting to learn about the new curriculum but to be honest I don’t really care about a curriculum that wasn’t offered to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that sustainability is an extremely important topic but I’m not sure its something that can be taught in the classroom.  I really think it is something that you kind of have to go out and learn on your own.  Its similar to what we were talking about in class with taking an entrepreneurial class.  There is no reason to do this, it’s more of something you just have to go out and learn on your own.

I hate to be so distraught towards I school I love but to be honest I kind of feel like this whole sustainability notion is more of a facade than something that is actually real.  I feel like Bucknell is doing it in order to look better in the eyes of a number of different people and so that they can make the claim that Bucknell is a highly “sustainable” campus.  Like I saw in some other posts, it is important to highlight that sustainability doesn’t just mean saving the environment.  I do support the parts of engineering curriculum that are being changed but I am by no means a huge fan of what is going on in the management school.

Consequences


Would you have gone to one of these sustainability conferences if Professor Comas didn’t have a sign up sheet?  Probably not.

Would you have made a blog post about it if we weren’t asked to?  Probably not, either.

I was going to preface these two questions by saying, “I’m not trying to be cynical.”  BUT I AM.  Sorry, cynicism runs in my blood.  I hope that doesn’t make you think I’m an awful person.  Just hear me out for a bit.

Some people in this class probably would have gone to one of the sustainability conferences during the day even if it wasn’t asked of us by Professor Comas.  How many would that have been, though?  I’d guess 3.  Maybe 4.  I’m not trying to offend anyone, but let’s be honest here.  I know I wouldn’t have gone.

In regards to my second question, don’t kid yourself.  99% of our activity on The Bucknell Blog is because it’s part of our grade.  Remember when we ran out of time last class period, and Alex said to comment on his ‘Rehab’ Blog Council post any thoughts or questions we had?  Well, SHOCKER: there aren’t any comments on it.  Speaking of comments, how many of you have ever left more than 3 in a week?  Probably not many.

Now, if you’re still reading, I hope you’re laughing because that means I’m right on some of these things.  If you’re not laughing and anxiously waiting to leave one of your 3 comments (LOL) at the bottom saying how wrong I am, kudos to you: you’re awesome.  And I’m not being condescending; you really are.  You see, the point to my whole blog post here is people need consequences to get things done.  Sure, all of us have passions in which we are self-motivated: music, sports, reading, writing, HECK even blogging and doing homework for this class.  But for the other things in our life, we get motivation from the consequences of doing/not doing them.  For example: I am writing this blog post now because it will help me graduate, which will give me a degree from Bucknell, which will look good for me as I enter the professional world. 🙂

Our beautiful universidad.

Here’s the important part though: CONSEQUENCES AREN’T A BAD THING.  Not even close.  In fact, they’re a great thing.  They’ve forced me to write about the ethics pertaining to Enron and its collapse.  They’ve forced me to read what my classmates think about the climate of Bucknell.  They’ve opened my eyes to new and exciting material that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about.  I can say the same thing about several other classes here at Bucknell, too.  Think back in your life to the consequences, either good or bad, that have made you who you are today.  Not just in school, but in all facets of your life.  When my basketball team lost to Lehigh in the Patriot League Championship last year, I told myself I wouldn’t feel that same heartache again this year.  When we won it this year, the joy and satisfaction motivated me to work and focus even harder that week leading up to our NCAA Tournament game.  After losing that game to Butler, the disappointment has motivated to get ready for the NBA Draft.

So how does this relate to the sustainability session that I attended?  That is the topic of the post, after all. 🙂  Well, I attended the 1pm session, and as some of you have included in your own posts, an older gentleman asked a very interesting question at the very end of it all.  Basically, he asked how students would take this new ‘sustainability’ knowledge and apply it in ‘the real world’, since many important companies have a long established way of doing things in a very hierarchical manner.  The question made me think.  And I realized that the answer lies in his very question: hierarchy.  Sustainability doesn’t come from freshly graduated college students entering a job at a Fortune 500 company and suddenly changing its culture.  That’s simply not realistic.  Instead, sustainability comes from consequences that these companies will face if they don’t meet certain requirements by the government.

You can call me a socialist, but if you really want results, that’s the only way to do it in my opinion.  If I offended you with anything I said above, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.  I am also now realizing I may be in way over my head in terms of theoretical approaches to government involvement in the private sector and stuff like that, but hey, that’s a consequence I’m willing to take. 🙂 🙂 🙂

P.S. The Easter bunny doesn’t exist.  Enjoy your Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.