Building a better world is not just talk here. It’s the thread that weaves through your whole academic experience, as you learn to apply sustainability principles to everything you study.
The key to this approach is our signature Sustainable Liberal Arts for Transformative Education (SLATE) general education curriculum, a rigorous 34- or 35-credit program every student completes. Regardless of major, you learn how social, economic, and ecological sustainability are relevant and meaningful through coursework that stresses critical thinking, writing, and analysis. Outside of class, you put theory to the test in outings and service learning projects. This integrated focus creates a shared sense of purpose — because here, sustainability is 100% relevant to every field.
SLATE CORE COURSES
This introductory course for all first year students explores some of the ways in which human societies make sense of the natural world. Students read literature that ranges from folklore and poetry to environmental philosophy and natural science, and develop a sense of how culture determines our understanding of our environment. The course begins to develop student writing through formal and informal essays and journaling. Frequent field trips and a Living Learning Community help root students in their new home while they test ideas from classroom readings. The SLATE portfolio is begun in this course and added to in each of the subsequent core courses.
First year students get to know their faculty advisor right away because they will be working together in this seminar. When first year students come for Orientation in August, they’ll meet their professor as well as a student mentor assigned to their seminar — a peer who will be an important part of their first year in modeling the traits and habits of a successful student. Students move seamlessly into our three-week “Immersive” term during which they’ll take just this first-year seminar as they settle into college life. Both their faculty advisor and undergraduate teaching assistant help every student make a meaningful transition to life at Green Mountain through experiences in the classroom, in the Living Learning Community, and in the field, aimed at helping them discover the resources and strategies needed to excel.
Voices of Community (first year writing seminar)
Building on the writing skills developed in the SLATE Seminar, Voices of Community provides students with more extensive practice in composition and revision. The course cultivates the conventions of Standard Written English through a series of assignments that explores how the environment encompasses human relationships and communities. The critical thinking and communication skills learned in this course enable informed participation in these communities.
Wicked Problems, Complex Solutions
Our world is full of complex social and ecological problems (such as climate change, gun violence, racial injustice, and income inequality). “Wicked” problems, embedded in complex and interrelated systems, require multifaceted and numerous solutions. With an interdisciplinary faculty team, students will apply the methods and knowledge used in different disciplines to make sense of the problems of our time and explore the potential for just and sustainable solutions. This course prepares students for their common capstone, “A Delicate Balance,” which affords them the chance to identify and solve problems in our community in a major sustainability project.
A Delicate Balance
What does it mean for me to be an engaged citizen? Students explore the question in this seminar-based capstone course. Different contemporary issues each semester provide background for reflection on individual duty and ethical, environmental, and social policy issues. The readings draw on the work of political philosophers and leaders, artists and scientists, and on contemporary analysis and stories of engagement. Students are asked to integrate, reflect upon, and apply these concepts to their personal goals. The course seeks to refine and enhance the student’s understanding of oneself as a citizen and the ability to research independently, critically assess disparate pieces of information, and communicate in both written and oral forms. Students explicitly make connections with prior courses in the SLATE program and major; each student completes a project that relates the focus of this class to his own career projections and the student’s best understanding of personal goals for civic engagement. This project is a culmination and expression of the student’s personal interest and involvement with the mission of Green Mountain College.