Experience level: 
Intermediate
Intended Audience: 
All
Authors: 
Coral R. Snodgrass, Ronald M. Rivas

Developing the “Sustainable Development” Mindset

Developing the “Sustainable Development” Mindset Innovative Curriculum Design for Cura Personalis and Cura Naturalis Coral R. Snodgrass snodgras@canisius.edu and Ronald M. Rivas rivasr@canisius.edu Department of Management Canisius College Buffalo, NY 14208 Abstract This Agreement … aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, (The Paris Agreement, Article 2.1) In December, 2015 representatives of 196 countries got together in Paris and agreed that climate change is a bad thing and eradicating poverty is a good thing. This seems like a fairly straight forward statement of what might seem to be obvious facts. So, one might ask why anyone would walk away from endorsing such an agreement. The answer is easy. If “sustainable development” and the “eradication of poverty” are not seen as valuable outcomes or not valuable enough given the costs of achieving such outcomes, you walk away. Fair enough. So, the next question becomes: what type of decision model would lead a policy maker to come to the conclusion that walking away is the appropriate move? Well, one might conclude that certainly not any decision modelling techniques taught at a school whose mission it is to develop “women and men with and for others.” One might further conclude that those of us teaching at Jesuit institutions have a responsibility to develop a mindset in our students that values sustainable development. The object of this project is to test whether or not we can do that. The issue then becomes one of trying to design a curriculum that would engender the value system supportive of sustainable development. To do this, we borrow from the literature on developing a “global” mindset. That literature stresses the need to immerse global leaders in activities that open their eyes to the various elements of the global workplace – e.g. cultural differences or language differences. So, we designed a project to immerse our students in the various pieces of “sustainable development.” We worked with a project in Brazil where we were able to have our students experience aspects of all 17 of the goals of the UN’s Agenda on Sustainable Development. For purposes of the research, we collapsed them into 5 constructs: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. We asked students to complete questionnaires on the importance of each of these outcomes. Then we visited a number of sites that address various aspects of sustainable development; e.g., schools, community projects, government offices, businesses, and environmental remediation programs. Then we tested them with the same questionnaire. We did this two years in a row, taking students to some of the same sites but not exactly the same both years. The results: 1. On the pre-test, students in both years valued people and prosperity as important. Good news for our Jesuit values. 2. On the post-test, the students from both years increased their value for the importance of planet, peace and partnership. So, the immersion experiences did lead to change in their mindsets. 3. The actual set of activities was different from one year to the next but the results were the same. So, it is not necessary to have exactly the same experiences in order to effect this change in our students.