Global Sustainability Education Overview:

 Global sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainability has three interconnected dimensions: environmental, economic, and social, because people all over the planet, rich and poor, urban and rural, children and adults, have a wide variety of basic human needs. As common inhabitants of Planet Earth, along with millions of species of animals, insects, plants, and other living organisms, our present and future ability to thrive, or even just survive, is connected.

 Sustainability education is interdisciplinary and uses a variety of pedagogical techniques that promote active, participatory learning, trans-disciplinary integration and synthesis of concepts, theories, and methods of inquiry, along with development of practical problem-solving skills. Sustainability education helps students acquire and apply heightened knowledge and awareness of significant intergenerational issues and problems and solutions by raising awareness and understanding of “how their personal and collective actions affect the sustainability of local and global systems” (National Sustainability Education Standards, 2005).

Our Shared Vision:

A more resilient College with a campus as a living learning laboratory where engaged students,faculty, staff, alums and the people of central Iowa learn from each other and work together to forge new paths to global citizenship and sustainability across our academic programs, facilities and operations, community-based learning and service, and co-curricular life in local, national, and international communities.

Our Shared Mission:

The mission of the Office of Global Sustainability Education (GSE) is to help establish Central College as a recognized Midwest leader and innovator in sustainability-centered, liberal arts education that prepares students to live and serve communities in ways that are ecologically sustainable, economically fair and socially just, by affirming the Mission and Goals of Central College. The Office works to promote community-building and foster civic engagement and environmental stewardship by building, extending, and supporting connections across the Central College community and beyond that are aimed at integrating community-based sustainability service and education across the curriculum, and that connect formal academic programs with campus sustainability initiatives, co-curricular programs, study abroad, and service-based community-based learning.

Global Sustainability Education Values:

  • Intergenerational Equity: “Seventh-Generation Thinking”
  • Community-Based Learning and Service
  • Building and Nurturing Resilient Communities
  • Integrated Life-long learning
  • Bioregionalism: “Place-Based Sustainability Education”
  • Civic Engagement and Leadership Development
  • Integrity and Responsibility (individual, group, society, global)
  • Social Justice and Human Rights for All
  • Global Citizenship


The Office of Global Sustainability Education (GSE) was established in 2009 to support a new curricular initiative to make study of sustainability a defining characteristic of a Central education. By placing global sustainability in our liberal studies core as a common required element, while simultaneously working to infuse it across the curriculum, all (rather than a small, self-selected few) of our students will meaningfully encounter sustainability in their courses and other “for-credit” academic experiences “in [relevant] ways that relate to how and where they live, work, and play,” connecting students with the local environment (Curriculum for the Bioregion Initiative, 2006) while raising awareness and understanding of key global dimensions of sustainability.

GSE works with all members of the Central College community to facilitate community-based learning and other action-based pedagogies in order to integrate study of sustainability across the curriculum by linking classroom learning with the greening of campus operations, study abroad, career preparation, co-curricular programs, student life and civic engagement, locally and globally. The office will emphasize integrative, transdisciplinary, experiential learning, active pedagogies, and community responsibility.

We Serve and Connect:

  • Central College students (support, leadership development, and resource center for SCATE, Tri-Beta, and Student Senate initiatives)
  • Central College faculty members (support, training, and resource center for global sustainability across the curriculum)
  • Central College support staff (Student Life, Residence Life, Facilities, Campus Ministries, Food Service, Athletic Program)
  • Community partners (via Office of Community-Based Learning, Pella, Marion Co., Central Iowa)
  • Area educators (K-12: Pella Community Schools, state-wide environmental education teachers and programs)
  • Partner Educational institutions and Professional Sustainability Organizations (Pella Schools “Green Team”, DMACC, Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies, Maharishi University, UMACS, AASHE, Heartland Global Health Consortium)

Articulation with Office of Community-Based Service Learning:

Cheri Doane, Director of Community-Based Learning and Jim Zaffiro, Coordinator of Sustainability Education, have been working closely to articulate what we both see as a natural, synergistic partnership between GSE and CCBL. These two programs are not only physically housed together but also share many significant common, complementary, and overlapping elements in our core missions, values, and goals.

A. Fostering and Sustaining Local, Bioregional and Global Connections

Modeled on the “Wisconsin Idea” — that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state– GSE serves as a physical home (our website shall be a virtual home) for regional, national, and global communication, support, development, enrichment, and collaboration among students, faculty, support staff and administration.

Successful global sustainability education requires investing in, developing, and connecting educational resources, especially human ones. GSE will foster and support innovative educational collaborations and community-building initiatives across academic disciplines and programs in and out of the classroom across the Central College community. Located in the LEED Platinum Roe Building, GSE serves as a sustainable home for campus-wide communication, support, development, enrichment, and collaboration on innovative global sustainability education programs among students, faculty, support staff, community partners, Central Abroad, administration and alumni.

B. Support for Professional Training and Development Opportunities in Place-Based, Global Sustainability Education:

In order to assist faculty members and support staff in the creation, infusion, or enhancement of sustainability related content, pedagogy, and assignments in courses and other educational programming, the Office of Global Sustainability Education will administer a new internal professional development grant program which will award funding for participation in The Prairie Project, a multi-year, workshop-based, curriculum and professional development initiative. Our first priority is to offer these opportunities to Central College members. The long-term goal is to offer this training model to teachers and administrators across the North American Tall Grass Prairie bioregion. GSE coordinated the planning, organizing and offering of the first intensive on-campus faculty sustainability education training and development workshop and extended learning community in 2010-11 to 21 colleagues across 11 different academic programs and departments committed to developing new global sustainability courses or to infusing sustainability into existing courses.

C. Coordinating and Linking Campus and Community Sustainability Commitments, Initiatives and Resources:

  • Talloires Declaration (2005)
  • The Presidents’ Climate Commitment (2007)
  • The Alliance for Resilient Campuses (2014)
  • Office of Community-Based Service Learning
  • The Prairie Project: Sustainability Across the Curriculum Faculty Development Initiatives
  • Facilities Planning and Management Projects and Practices
  • Residence Life Sustainability Initiatives
  • Food Service Sustainability Initiatives
  • Sustainability Education Course for Upward Bound Program Bridge Students (2013, 2014)
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About the Environment)
  • Pella Community Schools Collaborations and Projects
  • The Carlson-Kuyper Field Station
  • The Cordova Project
  • The College Organic Garden
  • Neil Smith National Tall Grass Prairie Learning Center
  • UMACS (Upper Midwest Association of Colleges for Sustainability)
  • AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education)

D. Support for and Articulation with Institutional Vision, Mission, and Goals:

Helping to Fulfill the Mission and Goals of the College

  • Vision: “Central College will be a sustainable bridge to the future”
  • Mission: “Central integrates career preparation with the development of values essential to responsible citizenship, empowering graduates for effective service in local, national, and international communities.
  • Welcome Statement: “As a college community, we commit to a process of actualizing our mission and goals, thereby striving to achieve congruence between our daily actions and the ideals expressed in our guiding principles. As one of our goals, we promote skills and values essential to becoming responsible citizens in local, national and international communities.

Goals for the Central College Community:

  1. To promote attitudes and values reflective of the Christian tradition: acceptance, mutual respect, justice, compassion, and service to others.
  2. To promote and model appreciation of our natural environment and stewardship of its limited resources.
  3. To provide leadership and support for reform through dialogue with broader communities of society, sustaining values while encouraging critical analysis of ideas and institutions.
  4. To experience and appreciate the diversity of cultures present in the United States and the world and to relate knowledgeably and sensitively to persons of diverse cultural perspectives.

Goals for Students:

  1. Acquire integrated knowledge from a variety of academic, philosophical, and cultural perspectives as well as the in-depth knowledge of a chosen major.
  2. Develop skills and habits of mind which lead to life-long learning: effective communication, open inquiry, critical reasoning, creativity, and the ability to solve problems.
  3. Develop moral character that is evident in ethical behavior, intercultural effectiveness, environmental stewardship, and service to humanity.
  4. Develop increasing maturity that is reflected in intellectual, spiritual, social and physical well-being.

Goals for Faculty:

  1. To develop a community of scholars in which teaching and learning are the activities with highest priority.
  2. To be models and mentors who support the development of students as independent learners, responsible citizens, and morally responsive persons.
  3. To grow professionally, spiritually, and personally while contributing to the college and the larger academic community through research, creative expression, innovative teaching, and interdisciplinary dialogue.