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12th Annual Valley & Ridge Workshop Unites Faculty to Discuss Sustainability

Faculty from Dickinson and other peer institutions gather annually to learn new ways to address sustainability in the curriculum through the Valley & Ridge Faculty Development Workshop.

As part of the Valley & Ridge Faculty Development Workshop, participants get to learn from one another about how their home institutions address sustainability.

Interdisciplinary workshop brings together faculty from peer institutions

by Kandace Kohr

Nearly 20 faculty members from six different institutions, including Dickinson, recently participated in the Valley & Ridge Faculty Development Workshop, a faculty workshop centered on sustainability in the curriculum. In collaboration with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Dickinson hosted the annual workshop and welcomed faculty from Penn State University, Rippon College, Villanova University and more. One of the Dickinson participants even teaches in the college's global program in Toulouse, France. 

This is the third year that Valley & Ridge has welcomed participants from other institutions, making it a truly collaborative and interdisciplinary workshop. "Including participants from other institutions has benefited all participants by enabling richer conversations and learning from what is being done at other schools," says Neil Leary, director of Dickinson's Center for Sustainability Education (CSE). 

Now in its 12th year, the workshop gets its name from the physiographic region Dickinson calls home, which is marked by the Allegheny Plateau to the north and west, South Mountain to the south and east, and Cumberland Valley in between. Participants who complete the program are then classified as Valley & Ridge Fellows and can contribute to and benefit from a resource network with other fellows, participate in continuing education and experiential programs offered by Dickinson's CSE, and continue to advance sustainability within their disciplines and across the curriculum. Participants also get a glimpse at Dickinson's sustainability efforts from which they can glean insights into how to effect similar change on their campuses. 

"We share what has worked for us and what has not. We explore different perspectives and goals for sustainable development and how they are or could be connected with the disciplines and subject areas that we teach. Nearly all fields can be connected to sustainability," says Leary, adding, "Making these connections can help students gain a new perspective on how a field of study is relevant to important contemporary challenges."

Throughout the workshop, participants are encouraged to think about the geography, climate and ecosystems within the Cumberland Valley. The first day of the 2019 workshop began at the Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary in Perry County, so participants could learn about place-based education in an area where human management and presence is relatively light but still has significant impacts. The participants and workshop facilitators then traveled from Perry County over Blue Mountain to Cumberland County, stopping at Waggoner's Gap to view and discuss the landscape of the Valley & Ridge region. The group then headed out to Dickinson's College Farm, where they discussed food systems, experiential education and student learning outcomes. 

The next day was spent on Dickinson's campus, where the discussion focused on community and social sustainability. During this session, panels of community members and Dickinson faculty discussed examples of civic learning and action with applications to sustainability challenges. The participants were then asked to use what they learned to develop a plan for one of their courses with the following points in mind: What are the learning goals? What pedagogies will be used? What experiential and other learning activities will be employed? What campus or community places or resources will be used as "living laboratories" for student learning?

Participants agreed unanimously that the workshop was helpful in forming new strategies for them to consider moving forward. As one participant put it, "I learned a lot about pedagogies and strategies for teaching and demonstrating sustainability to students. I also learned a lot about the region of Dickinson and Carlisle. I was really impressed and touched by the organizers', speakers' and other participants' dedication to and knowledge about the region where they live and work.”

Learn more about sustainability at Dickinson.

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Published June 12, 2019