Global Programs in Sustainability
2012 Heiskell Award Honorable Mention: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: Kavita Pandit, Associate Provost, International Education
Since 2005/06, the University of Georgia's Global Programs in Sustainability (GPS) has reached more than 250 students a year. Focusing on broad questions of human-environment sustainability, GPS uses a module template to deliver interdisciplinary, faculty-led, study abroad programs for students from virtually every major on campus. Recently, this approach has been adapted by of over 20 U.S. colleges and universities, attracting more than 500 students annually. Since 2008, an ongoing large-scale empirical research effort has addressed student learning outcomes, resulting in several publications with leading education journals.
The strength of GPS has been in improving student access to programs by bridging diverse academic units to (a) consider their disciplinary perspectives and relations to sustainability, and (b) explore how their disciplines could work with other subjects to form an interdisciplinary study abroad program in sustainable development. Dr. Alexandra Brewis-Slade, Executive Director, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University (and former co-director of GPS), notes: "It is very challenging to develop programs that engage students of all backgrounds and inclinations, but this has been one of the reasons the programs have been so successful...[The programs] are driven educationally by a vision of promoting lifelong environmental stewardship in UGA students."
For many students and faculty, the impact of their engagement with GPS has been transformational, facilitating personal and professional growth. According to Dr. Bruce Bongarten, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (and former GPS faculty member): "My personal perception of what study abroad courses can be was completely altered. I saw students' eyes and minds opened. I saw curiosity and excitement for learning renewed. I saw students grow intellectually and personally."