International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Embedding sustainability principles into engineering education Salvatore, Danielle; Ellis, Naoko; Nesbit, Susan; Ostafichuk, Peter


Because sustainability learning is necessarily situated in local culture and “place,” engaging key communities-of-interest in planning and deployment is foundational to sustainability effort. Recently, the University Sustainability Initiative (USI), at the University of British Columbia (UBC), employed engagement techniques that reached out across the university campus to develop generic descriptions of sustainability attributes of graduating students, which propose that UBC students within all disciplines strive to develop four attributes in preparation for facing today’s challenges (i.e., holism, sustainability knowledge, awareness & integration, and acting for positive change) (1). The USI recognizes, “that in order to find creative solutions to the ecological, economic and social challenges of our time, we must explore, advance and apply our understanding of sustainability” (2). This paper reports on a second set of engagement processes focused on developing the first stage of EESD degree-level learning outcomes that, in turn, aim to guide course redevelopment within the engineering programs. We start by presenting examples of sustainability learning opportunities offered in undergraduate programs elsewhere in North America. Most of these opportunities involve adding several courses to an already course-heavy degree. At several schools there is an option to complete a “certificate program” encompassing a few extra courses, but these certificate programs are not necessarily directed at engineering students. We then describe Applied Science Faculty engagement activities, aimed at measuring the interest of administrators, faculty members, staff, and students regarding incorporating sustainability learning opportunities within the common first year curriculum. We next relate informal first year student survey responses to the literature and we outline recommendations for advancing the development of sustainability learning within the first year curriculum.

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