Professors awarded grant to teach about food sustainability, environmental issues

Assistant professor of political science and international relations Karleen West and assistant professor of biology Suann Yang (pictured above) received grant money from the Finger Lakes Project. West and Yang have used the funds to form curriculum focusing on the sustainability of food.  (Theo Liu/Assoc. Photo Editor)

The Finger Lakes Project awarded $750 mini-grants to two Geneseo faculty members who specialize in environmental issues. The professors will use these grants to support curriculum that studies sustainability. 

 Assistant professor of political science and international relations Karleen West and assistant professor of biology Suann Yang each received grants to create a curriculum project entitled “Food Sustainability Across Disciplines.” The work students produce in these more environmentally-focused classes will be shared with students taking similarly-focused courses within other majors. 

“We’re having the students produce some kind of paper or outcome and then share it across classes,” West said. “The thing with sustainability education is that it is, by its very nature, multidisciplinary. We can’t just talk about the politics of it without knowing what the ecological repercussions of these policies are. It’s inherently multidisciplinary.” 

West and Yang are currently working on ways to implement sustainability through other disciplines. 

“We’re working to develop this so that it can be a project that is shared, not just with Geneseo, but with all of SUNY,” West said.

In addition to finding other faculty members who share their passion in preserving the environment, the “Food Sustainability Across Disciplines” program has the potential to expand across all majors, allowing students to interact with others in different majors, sharing their findings and learning from one another. 

“Food is something that we, as humans, interact with multiple times a day—we thought that would be a good place to get started,” Yang said. “No matter what class you can think of, you can probably apply any concept in that class to food and the way it is produced.”

Encouraged by the college to attend a workshop held by the FLP in May 2017, Yang and West learned how to create curriculum about sustainable education. Both cite student interest in sustainability as a driving factor and something they are able to use to push the program forward.

Accounting major junior Cara O’Shea, who is an intern for the Office of Sustainability, noted the significance of creating a curriculum program like this. 

“It’s good to know where your food comes from, or how to consume food sustainably,” O’Shea said. “We all have a duty to our future generations to make sure that we’re consuming responsibly. We grow kale, garlic, things like that [in the eGarden] and we harvest it and CAS uses that food. It’s really cool to watch it and see that we’re sustainably growing our own food.” 

Yang emphasizes that sustainability is ultimately a communal concern, and should be treated as such. 

“We as a community—the students, the faculty, the staff—should maybe think about ways that we can make these issues more visible, if that is something we think is important,” Yang said