Just Receives Grant to Create Living-Learning Communities

Friday, October 15, 2010

University of Iowa News Release

A University of Iowa engineer is teaming up with Columbia University and the National Geographic Society to educate thousands of students in sustainability concepts by establishing living-learning communities at large, public universities across the country.

Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor in the UI College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering, received an $873,318 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education program.

The project will design, implement, evaluate and disseminate a blueprint for dozens of campus living-learning communities that would be residential experiences for first-year students. The goal of the project -- which aspires to include some 500 students on the UI campus in its third year -- is to educate students in concepts of sustainability that can be implemented through the democratic process.

In its first year, the UI already has about 40 students participating in a sustainability living-learning community at the Mayflower Residence Hall in Iowa City. During the project's second year, a dissemination workshop is planned for the University of Northern Iowa, followed by up to five more workshops in the third year. Ultimately, between 2,500 and 5,000 students may be reached by the off-campus workshops, with the potential for reaching an even larger number of students at the end of the formal project period.

”Of over 600 U.S. academic institutions that have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment since 2006, only 17 reported having sustainability living-learning communities," Just said. "And, of those 17 institutions, possibly none of them have integrated sustainability teachings with training in the fundamental skills to evoke change in a democratic society. This represents a massive, national opportunity to shape sustainability living-learning communities on hundreds of campuses for the public good.

”My call to behave more sustainably came in my 30s and was inspired by students that demanded to be taught new things, in new ways. The students gave me a starting point toward sustainability. Now I need to step up and facilitate student learning and community engagement to help shape the sustainable citizens of the future. My fate and the fate of my children and grandchildren rests in the hands of these sustainable citizens, so I want them to be well equipped,” he said.

Just's UI colleagues on the interdisciplinary project include: Carolyn Colvin of the College of Education, Jean Florman of the Center for Teaching, Don Yarbrough of the Center for Evaluation and Assessment, and Mayflower Residence Hall staff from University Housing and Dining.

Project team members from Teachers College at Columbia University, New York, will create a portable, "Sustainability Dilemmas" curriculum in partnership with the Education Division of the National Geographic Society. National Geographic is a strategic partner for national dissemination of sustainability curricula. Additionally, the UI will partner with the nonpartisan National Issues Forums Institute to create sustainability issues books that will promote democratic dialogue-based, community forums to be organized by students in sustainability living-learning communities across the United States.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu