Villanova University: A Curricular Commitment to Sustainability
By Bethanie Anderson, Senior Communications Associate and Member, President’s Climate Commitment Core Team, Villanova University
Villanova launched an innovative Year of Sustainability in 2008–09 that involved the entire campus community—students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike. Through curricular development, along with research and service initiatives, the year highlighted our crucial and shared responsibility to care for the environment. The year was led by an interdisciplinary executive committee of faculty members in collaboration with the Presidents' Climate Commitment Core Team, and culminated in the International SustainAbility Conference featuring Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “Our intention was that the year would help to bring a new era of environmental responsibility to our campus,” said Dr. Francis Galgano of the Year of Sustainability Executive Committee. “Our hope was to strengthen the foundation of the Villanova Commitment to Sustainability for generations to come.”
The goals that Dr. Galgano describes are already being realized, and not only by the “usual suspects” in the university’s science departments. From business and nursing to engineering and the arts, the whole Villanova community embraces a commitment to sustainability at both the curricular and extracurricular levels. At Villanova, the Catholic Augustinian tradition—which emphasizes service to, and care for, one’s community—serves as the cornerstone of a campus-wide environmental commitment.
Villanova’s interdisciplinary Environmental Leadership Learning Community exemplifies this commitment. It enables freshmen to live in a residential community and share their experience in the first-year Augustine & Culture Seminar. Through specially-designed sections of the seminar, students focus on texts from the Ancient to the Modern period that examine critical perspectives on the environment. Students are encouraged to make connections between their academic pursuits and their day-to-day lives. They are also expected to participate actively in the life of the community, which includes programs offered by faculty and residence life staff. One such program is the Student Energy Conservation Competition, whereby four dorms compete to consume the least amount of energy.
Villanova-founded Water for Waslala serves as another example of Villanova’s interdisciplinary commitment to sustainability. Led by student and alumni volunteers from a wide variety of majors—and supported by the larger Villanova community, including faculty and administrators—Water for Waslala is an organization dedicated to providing potable water systems to the poor and fostering a greater awareness of the global clean-water crisis. It provides a hands-on international service opportunity to all students, as well as the chance for nursing students to study the relationship between improved water quality and health, for business students to study microfinancing and nonprofit management, for communication students to study fundraising outreach, and for engineers to study gravity-flow water distribution systems.
Founded in 1842, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in Pennsylvania. The Augustinian values of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas (Truth, Unity, Love) guide Villanova’s scholarship and community to this day. About the environment, inEnarratio in Psalmum, 144.13, Villanova’s patron St. Augustine wrote:
You discover the earth’s springing energy, its amazing beauty, its most excellent potency. But because it could not have such virtue in itself, or of itself, swiftly there flashes into your mind the conviction that not by any possibility of its own can the earth have come to be, but only from the hands of its Creator.This very truth that you have discovered is the earth’s cry of confession, and to praise your Creator you make the earth’s cry your own.
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