The Green Mountain College (GMC) student body is bonded together by a deep-seated desire to create positive change and to be contributing members of just and sustainable communities. That is not the only thing students share. Every GMC student takes courses in our award-winning Sustainable Liberal Arts for Transformative Education (SLATE) program.
The SLATE program comprises 7 thematic areas and 4 transdisciplinary core courses. The power of this approach is that it allows students to see how sustainability challenges are defined and addressed across a variety of fields while also giving students the space to tackle interdisciplinary problems in shared courses.
Sustainability challenges are not static, however, and our understanding of what it means to be resilient and sustainable is constantly evolving. “It is only natural that our core curriculum should adapt along with our understanding of these complex issues,” says Jennifer Guinn Sellers, Dean of the Faculty at GMC. “We are unveiling a host of changes to our SLATE program to better address the challenges of our times and the needs of our students.”
The change that is being unveiled this spring is a new sophomore core course called “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.
The problems that students will be investigating this inaugural semester are biodiversity collapse, political polarization and persistent inequality. The problems will change each year the course is taught.
The new Wicked Problems, Complex Solutions course is part of a suite of ongoing changes to our curriculum. Last fall, the SLATE program launched a Living and Learning component attached to the first year SLATE Seminar course. This component was created, in part, to allow students to experience first hand what it means to build a community and how we can work to support one another in achieving our goals.
The GMC faculty are currently engaged in yet another innovation to the SLATE Program. This cycle of reflection and evolution stems from our commitment to maintaining our rank as #1 in Sustainability and empowering our students to create their vision of a just and sustainable world.