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This page is a resource hub for faculty interested in learning more about sustainability curriculum at COCC. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Sustainability Committee members Owen Murphy ( or Hal Wershow (


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the definition of sustainability? Based on the 1987 United Nations’ Brundtland Report, sustainable development is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It is widely recognized that sustainability is comprised of three interconnected dimensions:
    • Environmental sustainability refers to the conservation and preservation of Earth’s ecosphere (e.g., clean air and water; diversity of plants, animals, insects, etc.).
    • Social sustainability refers to the health and wellbeing of people (e.g., social equity and access to housing, healthcare, education, nutrition, etc.).
    • Economic sustainability refers to practices that support long-term economic growth and stability without compromising environmental or social wellbeing.

  2. What does sustainability curriculum look like at COCC? Sustainability education at COCC is designed to increase awareness about how human behaviors affect the interconnected nature of environmental, social, and economic systems. Instructors may freely discuss sustainability concepts in any course, but to make life easier for students searching for sustainability-specific content, COCC has established two new curriculum designations.
    • The first curriculum designation is the Sustainability Designated (SD) course list. The SD list is used to highlight courses with a moderate-to-strong emphasis on sustainability content. SD courses may originate from any department and utilize any prefix. Once approved, SD courses will be added to a searchable page/database maintained on the COCC website.
    • The second curriculum designation is the SUS prefix. This prefix is used to identify courses with a specific and central focus on sustainability topics. The SUS prefix is administratively mapped to Public Health, but SUS courses may be created and taught by faculty from any department. The SUS prefix is standalone, meaning that it is not possible to cross-list with another prefix at this time. In order to utilize the SUS prefix, faculty must submit a new course proposal via the Courseleaf CIM platform and Curriculum Committee workflow.

  3. Why should I add my course to the Sustainability Designated list? The first reason is to help increase the profile of sustainability education at COCC; we need it now more than ever. The second reason is to meet the increased demand for sustainability curriculum and help students find the content they are searching for. The third reason is that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them” (Albert Einstein); students today face a host of environmental, social, and economic problems that will require novel thinking to overcome. Lastly, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for the workforce; sustainability-specific skills and mindsets are fast becoming desirable traits for employers

  4. How can I add my course to Sustainability Designated list? In order to qualify for the SD designation, courses must incorporate at least one of the following sustainability learning outcomes.
    • Explain the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic systems in the context of _________________ (insert particular discipline).
    • Analyze the major environmental, social, and economic challenges and potential solutions of our time using a systems thinking approach.
    • Apply principles of sustainability to the development of personal values and professional goals.

Adopting one or more of the above learning outcomes will require modifications to the course syllabus, learning activities/assessments, and Courseleaf content outline. Members of the Sustainability Committee are happy to help with this process if desired.

  1. What types of courses are eligible for the SD designation? The most important thing is a moderate-to-strong focus on sustainability content. This is operationalized by adopting at least one of the above sustainability learning outcomes. The type of course (lecture or lab) and number of credits (1 credit or 4 credits) does not matter.

  1. What does the Sustainability Designated application process look like? Initial vetting of SD courses will be performed by a subgroup of faculty members on the COCC Sustainability Committee. Final approval will then be granted by the Curriculum Committee as part of the annual review process. Here are the individual steps to take:
    • Download the Sustainability Designated Course List Application via the COCC Sustainability Committee website. Save the application to your computer, complete the required fields, and email it to the Sustainability Committee. Applications are due to the Sustainability Committee by November 15, 2020.
    • Once approved by the Sustainability Committee, you will then need to make the necessary changes to your course via the Courseleaf CIM platform and submit it to the Curriculum Committee workflow. Course updates are due to the Curriculum Committee by December 16, 2020.
    • In order to ensure long-term adherence to the sustainability learning outcomes and assessment activities associated with SD courses, the Sustainability Committee will require faculty to re-submit a current syllabus or Courseleaf summary every five years or after significant curriculum changes are made (whichever comes first). If no curriculum changes are made, these periodic reviews will not require Curriculum Committee approval.

  1. Where can I go to learn more about sustainability curriculum? For faculty interested in incorporating sustainability concepts into your coursework, the Sustainability Committee will be organizing a variety of learning opportunities throughout the academic year, including sustainability themed Teaching Academy workshops, brown bag sessions, and/or visiting scholar presentations. Please stay tuned for more details or contact the Sustainability Committee directly. In the meantime, here is a short list of helpful online resources:

 Please don't hesitate to contact Sustainability Committee members Owen Murphy ( or Hal Wershow (