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To Implement Laudato Sí, We Need Everyone

Learn about new resources and communities of practice that can help incorporate integral ecology throughout Catholic higher education campuses

By Chad Raphael

The first cohort of 130 Catholic colleges and universities have committed to follow the Laudato Si’ University Pathways, answering Pope Francis’ call to practice integral ecology in teaching, research, operations, and community engagement. To design and implement their plans to advance the Pathways’ seven goals, Catholic higher educational institutions will need to involve all campus constituencies in the years to come. As climate activists like to say, “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.” 

Faculty, staff, and administrators will have much to learn from one another in their own institutions and in others. Fortunately, new resources and communities of practice are emerging to help campus leaders reform curricula and drive change across their institutions, so Catholic educators can take advantage of this generational opportunity to address the intertwined crises of environment and poverty.

 

Foundational Resources

Developed by an International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) task force at the behest of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the University Pathways website provides valuable guidance for campus leaders who are creating their schools’ seven-year plans to enact Laudato Si’, including a broad framework for planning and example actions to advance each of the Pathway goals. 

The Pathways site also provides helpful diagrams aligning its goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which are widely used in higher education, as well as the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus. A resources page offers links to foundational documents about integral ecology, comprehensive sustainability guides, and inspirations for practicing environmental spirituality. The site also invites schools to upload short videos showcasing their progress.

ACCU’s Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education offers additional tools for integrating practices of sustainability with Catholic mission across campuses and with communities. So does the online publication Ecojesuit, which provides commentaries, reflections, and exchange of ideas and practices from around the globe.

Faculty members can make use of many curricular resources, including repositories filled with syllabi, lesson plans, and teaching materials about sustainability and justice, such as the AASHE Curriculum Hub and Teaching and Learning Environmental JusticeInTeGrate and its Environmental Justice Activity Collection are particularly strong in the natural sciences and STEM fields. Business educators can visit Ignited, created by Jesuit business school faculty members. Co-curricular organizations and staff can engage in informal education and action by taking the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s 21 Day Catholic Environmental Justice Challenge

 

Coordinating curricular and institutional change depends on building strong communities on and across campuses that cooperate to imagine, plan, act, and learn together.

 

Building Communities of Practice

Coordinating deep curricular and institutional change depends on building strong communities on and across campuses that cooperate to imagine, plan, act, and learn together. 

Some universities have organized innovative planning retreats, such as University of Notre Dame’s 2021 Zahm Retreat, which gathered an interdisciplinary group of faculty from all seven colleges and schools at Notre Dame to engage in three days of dialogue about how to implement integral ecology in research, teaching, and community service. 

Other institutions are using online tools to strengthen collaboration across campus. The University of Dayton’s Sustainability Scholars program links 100 researchers across 30 departments, who regularly share their research in five-minute “flash lectures” to build a community of practice.

As Catholic institutions develop their own Laudato Si’ road maps, they can learn from each other’s planning efforts through networks and working groups. For example, the IAJU’s Task Force on Environmental and Economic Justice recently shared guidance on a variety of approaches, including how to form broadly representative planning groups with support from administrative leadership, design a reflective planning process, set goals for reforming core curricula and operations, and measure progress.

Conferences increasingly showcase progress toward integral ecology and include working sessions to plan new programs. The annual Climate Change Conference organized by Loyola University Chicago’s (LUC) pioneering School of Sustainability has been an important learning hub. LUC has invited other universities to host the conference in rotation in coming years, starting with Santa Clara University in 2023, which will focus on community-engaged research and learning about environmental justice.

 

Professional Development

The growing number of faculty, staff, and administrators involved in implementing the Pathways can benefit from opportunities to learn from each other and from experienced peers in years to come. 

Instructors interested in developing their curricula and teaching methods can attend workshops offered by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Ecology Educators, which has developed an Ignatian Pedagogy for Sustainability paradigm. Gonzaga University’Cataldo Project draws on its expertise in developing a regional community-based curriculum to train faculty members in Eastern Washington who want to integrate multidisciplinary pedagogies and place-based experiential learning into sustainability courses. The project offers a model for other institutions that want to engage students deeply in their bioregions.

 

Laudato Sí University Pathway Goals

Laudato Sí University Pathways

7 Laudato Si' Goals, Outcomes, and Actions

 

1. Respond to the Cry of the Earth: Educate for and adopt practices that heal the earth. Address root causes of environmental and social problems in economic, political, and social structures. Link public, social change to personal, spiritual transformation.

 

2. Respond to the Cry of the Poor: Recognize and respond to the impoverishment of society and nature by strengthening university programs that address the links between social injustices and environmental degradation.

 

3. Foster Ecological Economics: Make economic decisions about university operations, investments, purchasing, hiring, curricula, research, and community relations that are informed by both the circular design of nature’s economy and the moral imperatives of environmental and social justice.

 

4. Adopt Sustainable Lifestyles: Foster personal transformations needed to live sustainably by reducing personal greenhouse gas emissions, consumption, and waste, changing how individuals bank and trade, and developing closer bonds with nature and community.

 

5. Strengthen Ecological Education: Reform universities’ pedagogical structures and processes to strengthen ecological awareness, ethics, and spirituality, stimulate stronger commitment to care for creation, and prepare students for global environmental citizenship.

 

6. Live an Ecological Spirituality: Deepen an ecological spirituality that awakens us to the sacredness of the natural world, rooted in God’s love for creation. Draw on the spiritual riches of the Catholic tradition and build bridges of reconciliation to other religions, including Indigenous religions, that contribute to the healing of the Earth and of human society.

 

7. Build Community Engagement and Participatory Action: Strengthen solidarity within and between universities and community-based partners, welcoming local community members into the university space, building trust, and finding solutions to local problems of environmental and social justice.

 

Learn more...

Santa Clara University Mission ChurchSanta Clara University (SCU) will address the need for additional professional development options by offering a suite of workshops in summer of 2023. As a national training center affiliated with the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), SCU is experienced at leading online workshops that support faculty and staff across the U.S. to incorporate sustainability across the curriculum. Drawing on a pilot course for its own faculty taught in 2022, SCU will offer a new Laudato Si’ across the Curriculum online workshop to participants in U.S. Catholic higher education. 

The program will offer three courses on an a la carte basis to meet the diverse needs of faculty and other campus leaders, such as staff affiliated with offices of sustainability, diversity, community-based learning, campus ministry, and more. Employing a train-the-trainer model, the program will prepare participants to lead curricular and co-curricular transformation on their home campuses.

A grounding course will address how to teach integral ecology and environmental justice concepts in any discipline, and relate them to students’ professional, civic, spiritual and personal development.

A second course on pedagogy will introduce methods of teaching integral ecology, including experiential and reflective learning, project-based learning using the campus as a living lab, community-based learning and research, and co-curricular learning opportunities. 

A third course will address how to make institutional change to spread environmental justice across the curriculum and co-curriculum, through faculty and staff professional development, redrafting schools’ and departments’ learning goals, revising core curricula, and building support among administrators, donors, and other key constituencies. 

SCU plans to partner with experts at peer institutions to develop additional courses to offer in 2024 onward in areas of undergraduate education that can especially influence professional practice, including Business, Engineering, and Health Sciences.

 


Chad Raphael, Ph.D., a professor of communication at Santa Clara University, leads the Laudato Si’ across the curriculum program (more information about the program can be found here).

Photo courtesy of Santa Clara University