These leaders in sustainability education are focusing on case studies and collaborating to describe what they see as the challenges faced in designing cases, building a collection of cases, and engaging faculty and others in the creation and use of these cases. Their discussions and written commentary about case study teaching are a proxy for broader discussions about the challenges of teaching about complex environmental challenges.
The case study method has long been used as a pedagogical method in fields such as medicine, law, and business, but its use in the fields of sustainability and environmental education is far less established. However, recent efforts by multiple organizations to advance case study teaching and to develop case study teaching resources for sustainability and environmental education suggest a growing recognition of the utility and promise of this approach for these fields. In this webinar, they will discuss efforts by four organizations to develop sustainability and environmental case study resources including: the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)’s Teaching about Socio-Environmental Synthesis with Case Studies short course, the University of Michigan’s Michigan Sustainability Cases initiative, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Case Study Integration Initiative, and the University of California Press’s new online journal, Case Studies in the Environment. They will discuss challenges and approaches in designing and implementing case studies for teaching, insights gained through each of our efforts, and resources for case study teaching.
Cynthia Wei is the Associate Director of Education at SESYNC. In this role, she works to advance the teaching and learning of socio-environmental synthesis by developing, running, and supporting several SESYNC programs and initiatives. Prior to coming to SESYNC, she worked on several national STEM education programs and initiatives related to biology education, climate change education, evolution education, and the role of community colleges in STEM education, work which built on her experiences as a K-12 science teacher and college-level biology instructor. This work was completed during her time as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Undergraduate Education and a Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). At Michigan State University, she earned a dual-degree Ph.D. in zoology and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. She holds a B.A. in biology (neurobiology and behavior) from Cornell University. She is also a section co-editor for the new journal Case Studies in the Environment.
Minna Brown directs the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Case Study Integration Initiative. In this role, she identifies, develops, and assists with the incorporation of applied case studies into the F&ES curriculum. Working collaboratively with faculty, students, and alumni, Minna builds comprehensive, academically sound, interdisciplinary online case studies covering subjects such as the impacts of palm oil in Indonesia, approaches to urban climate change adaptation, and compromises over water rights in the Klamath River basin. She also provides resources for student case study development and curates a collection of external case studies for FES use. Minna holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from F&ES, where her studies focused on environmental communication and climate change. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Middlebury College.
Meghan Wagner is the Project Coordinator for Michigan Sustainability Cases (MSC) at the University of Michigan. In her work with MSC, she facilitates case study production through collaborative partnerships with teams of students, faculty, and practitioners. Her transition into the field of sustainability was catalyzed by her experience teaching environmental science at the community college level, and longstanding interests in climate change and science communication. Meghan holds a Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Michigan, where her research focused on trace metal accumulation in marine sediments. She also holds an M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Chemistry from Indiana University. Prior to graduate school, she served as a Science Resource Volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa.
Video recording available at https://youtu.be/0tu4wthorlw