Educational sustainability doctorate offered at UW-Stevens Point
3/22/2017

​Student Kaitlynn Lehman learns from Assistant
 Professor Joy O'Neil in a class that combines
 cooking and education lessons in diversity
 for the classroom.

UW-Stevens Point has a long history as a leader in sustainability practices. With a widely respected School of Education and a nationally known College of Natural Resources, it is an ideal home for a doctoral program in educational sustainability.

The program – the first Ed.D. in Educational Sustainability in the country and the first standalone doctorate offered at UW-Stevens Point – takes sustainability to a deeper level.   

"When you hear 'sustainability,' you think of recycle, reuse and resource conservation. That's just one aspect," said Joy Kcenia O'Neil, assistant professor and director of Educational Sustainability at UW-Stevens Point. This program defines sustainability as an interconnected process that cultivates integrity and well-being for human and natural systems. 

"This means educating about sustainability is not enough; our program will challenge students to educate for sustainability and as sustainability in their studies and professional practice," O'Neil said.  Participants will practice understanding and responding to problems in economic, ecological and social justice contexts, in ways that promote sustainability.

Graduates will be leaders in sustainable change in education, the environment, business and communities. "Educational sustainability students will learn how to be agents of change in the world," O'Neil said.

"The program is designed to turn your passion for education and sustainability into a career that will improve our world," said Marty Loy, dean of the College of Professional Studies. "This is the most significant milestone since the School of Education was formed." 

Social and economic systems are inextricably linked to life support systems on the planet, O'Neil explained.  "These systems are in flux and we can no longer think about them in isolation. For example, what may be an environmental problem upstream of a watershed quickly becomes a social justice concern downstream. And let's not forget the economics of the situation."

A more holistic approach is needed for today's more complex problems, O'Neil said. She completed her Ph.D in sustainability education and master's and bachelor's in water resource management and environmental science.   

The educational sustainability curriculum has three areas of focus:

  • Sustaining learning environments
  • Sustaining civic and business communities
  • Sustaining educational systems 

Course work takes sustainability learning and leadership theories and puts them into practice that will encourage students to innovate, engage and take action. Graduates will be able to transform educational systems, design ways to consider sustainable use of natural resources, foster citizen engagement and build or repurpose businesses and economies.

"This doctoral degree is applicable to many working professionals and equips people with knowledge and skills to tackle some of society's most challenging circumstances," said Pam Bork, director of graduate studies and professional development in UW-Stevens Point's School of Education.

"Now more than ever, we need to restore our human and natural systems," O'Neil said. Leaders completing this doctoral degree will be prepared for such roles as helping an educational nonprofit build sustainable learning environments, develop sustainability curriculum for an elementary school or university, guide a corporation to operationalize sustainability practices; or lead a business toward organizational change.

The program is almost completely online. One of the program highlights is to connect with local, national and global community projects through the applied residency course. It also fits well with UW-Stevens Point's Partnership for Thriving Communities initiative, O'Neil said.

More than 60 people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and careers across the country have already inquired about it, she said. "We will come together to build systems of teaching and learning as one way to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time."

For more information, visit www.uwsp.edu/eddsustainability.

 

Article Tags

Admissions; CPS; Vibrant; Healthy; Prosperous; Sustainable