Sustainability Action Plan: Academics & Research
Sustainability is a value that Northern Arizona University has long endorsed in its mission and strategic planning. The university has a rich legacy of curriculum, faculty scholarship, sponsored projects, community outreach, and programmatic activity related to sustainability. Our efforts focus on enhancing the sustainability of cultural, built, and environmental systems, examining the interfaces between each of these areas, and developing and implementing interdisciplinary solutions to environmental and sustainability challenges. Our goal is to develop and embed effective sustainability education, research and practice across the curriculum and involve staff and faculty experts in sustainability across campus to provide useful research, co-curricular and service learning experiences for our students, our campus and our community.
A major driver for our commitment to sustainability education is the need to enhance climate literacy. Strategies specified in Goal 6 of the Northern Arizona strategic plan, exemplify a sustainable, innovative, and effective university community by modeling environmentally responsible and sustainable operations and education include:
- use the “campus as ecosystem” concept across the curriculum to educate faculty and students about the scientific, cultural, socioeconomic, and ethical dimensions of sustainability; and
- implement issue-oriented education focusing on topics such as global climate change, resource depletion, water and food issues, and species loss;
- enhance course and degree offerings in sustainability;
- promote student involvement in co-curricular activities;
- improve climate and environmental literacy; and
- develop students’ knowledge and skills needed for lifelong engagement in civic decisions related to sustainability.
The research enterprise enriches student learning and is a valuable mechanism for improving environmental and sustainability outreach and management activities.
Sustainability Action Plan objectives are:
Objective 1: Embed environmental sustainability issues across the curriculum.
Objective 2: Prepare students to compete in and be agents of change for a more sustainability society and economy. Maintain and develop disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs in sustainability.
Objective 3: Partner with the community to provide opportunities for students in the green economy.
Objective 1: Enhance and maintain the university’s emphasis on environmental and sustainability research and graduate education.
Objective 2: Increase the university’s impact on environmental and sustainability research through increased publication and outreach activity.
Objective 6: Promote the university as a responsible sustainable organization with experience in and commitment to sustainable practices.
Objective 7: Improve fundraising and sponsored projects activities related to sustainability.
Objective 8: Maintain and expand the opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research and for student engagement in off-campus environmental and sustainability activities.
Objective 9: provide opportunities for improving green laboratory practices.
Objective 10: Create a voluntary carbon offset tracking and payment system for faculty and student research travel.
- Over two-thirds of undergraduate degree programs have participated in the Global Learning Initiative, instituting degree-wide learning objectives in sustainability, global engagement and diversity.
- Green NAU provides access to the NAU Sustainable Course Directory featuring a database that catalogs all sustainability-focused courses available for students.
- The Green Fund actively promotes student scholarship and involvement in the projects that it funds.
- There are over a dozen campus and community-based action research teams (ARTS) focused on sustainability communities and tied to first-year seminars.
- We developed an integrated plan for faculty planning, hiring, and development in sustainability to encourage cooperative hiring across academic units and minimize course and research duplication, resulting in the hiring of three new sustainability faculty in the past two years.
- The university’s 30 laboratories and research centers promote student research and engagement in key areas including Environment and Sustainable Systems, and Regional Social and Economic Challenges.
- The single largest percentage of externally sponsored research at Northern Arizona University, over $20M per year, continues to be in environmental and sustainability research including efforts to work with communities, state, tribal and federal agencies in improving resource management.