Scientists from U.S. and Mexico advance international sustainability science curriculum at second workshop

Dr. Dominguez Perez Tejada, Dr. Cavazos, and Dr. Escalante

Ben Warner, Chrissie Bausch, and Mark Wood discuss experiences

Dr. Redman describes the challenges and opportunities in interdisciplinary research

How can Mexico take care of its world-class biodiversity in the face of climate change and other threats? On April 13-15, a multidisciplinary group of researchers from Mexico met for the second time with ASU sustainability scientists and specialists in a workshop on the Tempe campus to advance the development of an international sustainability science curriculum for Mexico’s universities.

The goal is to collaboratively design a new international master’s degree in sustainability that will train the next generation of Mexican ecological practitioners and policymakers to protect Mexico’s rich ecological resources.

At the workshop, 14 members of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability worked with 10 researchers from two prominent Mexican institutions — the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Center for Scientific Research and Graduate Education (CICESE). UNAM researchers represented fields including ecology, biology, climatology, engineering, and ecosystem research.

During three days of meetings, the attendees from Mexico studied pedagogical approaches in sustainability science education, derived lessons from ASU’s experience developing the School of Sustainability’s curriculum, and learned formal approaches to curriculum development and implementation.

The group also reached agreement on three key issues: a broad vision for the new curriculum at UNAM, eight program level learning objectives, and five general content areas (modules) that will form the core of the program.

As part of the visit, the Mexican delegation toured ASU’s Decision Theater. UNAM may develop its own form of Decision Theater and expressed interest in ASU’s projects and the technology used to support it.

Progress at the April workshop built on a previous meeting in November 2010, in which participants reached consensus on key sustainability concerns that the curriculum should address and five general sustainability competencies that should be the focus of the curriculum and associated sustainability research.

The curriculum design project will continue with two more workshops set for June and September in Mexico City, followed by additional workshops focused on faculty capacity-building and research development. A summer institute is planned for June-July 2012 in Mexico to continue the collaboration.

ASU’s Hallie Eakin coordinated the workshop with support from Charles Redman and Arnim Wiek. School of Sustainability curriculum specialist Susan Ledlow facilitated a significant portion of the workshop.

This international collaboration has been funded by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development—Training, Internships, Exchanges, and Scholarships through the program, Higher Education for Development.