Educating the community on sustainability

Danielle Zukowski

As sustainability develops a growing focus at Grand Valley University, student inclusion through mindful education becomes important to perpetuate the Laker Effect during our academic careers and beyond. Increasing awareness, whether informally or formally, will create conscious citizens. The student body would become more knowledgeable in regards “being green” therefore more apt to initiate sustainability in their own lives and contribute further to GVSU’s mission. As the seventh value of the university, representation in general education requirements would illustrate true dedication to environmentalism.

With the scrolling list of general education requirements on top of our major requirements, students are not thrilled to hear of further expansion. Currently, the list entails 15 mandatory courses including two natural sciences (one linked lab), a philosophy and literature, a mathematical science, WRT 150, two SWS, an arts, two social and behavioral sciences, a historical perspectives, a world perspectives, a U.S. diversity and two issues courses. Granted that some of these courses will overlap with one another or be included within one’s major already, it’s still a pretty long list.

Due to the extensiveness of the requirements, general education typically isn’t well received by our population. When I overhear conversations about general education, phrases like ‘waste of time,’ ‘waste of money,’ and ‘useless’ are often associated. College is expensive; students want to spend that mass of student loans on the subjects they are actually interested in. Economic concerns are reasonably expected in the stressful process that is education. The high expectations of the job market in combination with our fast-paced society, sometimes we just want to finish. With this determination, it can feel that additional mandatory courses are holding us back.

However, despite mutual feelings of financial and academic stress, I still value the well-rounded education provided through these required courses. Diverse courses provide the opportunity to discover hidden interests. We also gain versatility of knowledge that can be related back to our area of focus. Being well rounded is always beneficial when preparing for increasingly competitive employment. Attending a public liberal arts university entails learning about what is going on in our world.

Following education on current issues, we can become more actively involved. When entering the “real world,” we will be encountering the problems we learn about in school. By preparing ourselves through education in a variety of fields, we have a more realistic perception of the spectrum of issues facing our world. To learn only about issues directly contained within our field is limiting. There are many related fields such as sustainability that can be implemented into ours.

Environmental issues affect all fields therefore sustainability should be effected into all fields. Not only could experience regarding this issue be important for student’s later employment, but this choice would also be reflective of what GVSU values. The university already offers a variety of courses related to environmentalism, which could be included as options for a sustainability requirement. With courses in a variety of fields, it is likely students would find a subject overlapping with other general education requirements or their major. As something that GVSU desires to contribute into student’s life, implementation of sustainability in general education could be the venue to fulfill this goal.