In Fall of 2017, I took the course SUST 750: Sustainability Perspectives and Methods. This course took an in depth look at what sustainability science by examining transdisciplinary research. To learn, the course was organized to mirror the process of transdisciplinary research starting with the creation of teams to the knowledge coproduction and bringing knowledge to action. Field trips in the course complimented the lessons learned in class, from learning about maintaining a stable drinking water supply to costal storm adaptation. A semester long project was created throughout the course as well: in teams, my classmates and I created a reader describing sustainable methods via transdisciplinary research.
One of the lessons that really stood out to me in this class was to illustrate the value of having diverse teams when working on sustainable solutions. My classmates and I were prompted to write about how someone in our field of study would respond to coastal flooding in a municipality. As someone studying community and environmental planning, I thought about changes to zoning, adding a section about resilience to the community’s master plan, and limiting building permits in high risk areas. When it came time to share what we wrote, I was surprised by the amount of diversity in everyone’s responses. From social workers to engineers to economists, each person had a unique perspective on what they would focus on for that problem. This simple, yet highly effective, activity taught me the importance of having teams with a variety of backgrounds working on developing a sustainable solution. Afterall, no problem is one dimensional.
Completing the sustainability reader over the course of the semester was quite the challenge. My group was composed of two other students, and together we were responsible for creating for completing two chapters. My two group members worked on one chapter, I worked on the other. This system of doing the chapters was not ideal for the completion of this project. Looking back, it would have been better to divide the work for each chapter between all of us in the group. This would have been more in the spirit of transdisciplinary research in the coproduction of knowledge. Although the project could have been improved from a teamwork perspective, I can truly say I learned a lot about working collaboratively and work styles that I do best in. I know now that I do best when working independently and when I have deadlines throughout the work process. I continue to work on improving my communication skills with group projects and self advocacy for sharing and express my thoughts and concerns.
This course added significant value to my dual major experience. Even though some of the work, especially the sustainability reader, was daunting and overwhelming from time to time, completing each assignment gave me the confidence to continue moving forward. I can say that I succeeded in the tasks given to me and that I have grown as a student. The challenges from this course have prepared me for the elective in the dual major and have made me ready to take on the sustainability capstone.