Clemson professor John Morse and his graduate students working in the field.

Clemson professor and co-author John Morse and his graduate students working in the field.

CLEMSON — A Clemson University course on sustainability and interdisciplinary communication has enhanced environmental knowledge, providing faculty and students the opportunity to critically examine environmental issues and determine how the environment should be protected.

Clemson faculty members published their experiences moderating the graduate-level Biocomplexity Seminar in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.

“Our pedagogical approach invites students and faculty to venture out of their disciplinary silos to explore, together, the complex and continually evolving causes and consequences of environmental challenges,” said Catherine Mobley, lead author on the paper and professor in Clemson’s sociology and anthropology department.

As environmental challenges become increasingly more difficult and seemingly intractable, universities have assumed a central role in sustainability education and research. More than 400 university presidents worldwide have signed the Talloires Declaration affirming their commitment to sustainable development and environmental management.

The seminar was introduced in fall 2002 and serves as a model for how faculty and graduate students from across the disciplines can engage in interdisciplinary learning, teaching and research.

“This model of sustainability education can advance the understanding of environmental issues at a time when both interdisciplinarity and sustainability are becoming more common in higher education,” said Mobley.

Students and faculty reported an increase in self-confidence in defending alternative viewpoints on sustainability and environmental issues.

Mobley said the participants have built a strong foundation for future interdisciplinary collaborations both on and off campus by acquiring a communication skill set and becoming familiar with the language of other disciplines.

“These skills are invaluable to students entering research and teaching positions in applied and academic workplaces,” she said.


Clemson University
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.