Ray C. Anderson Foundation $41,600 Grant Supports Development of Sustainability Leadership at Georgia State

A $41,600 grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation will support workshop training at Georgia State University for 40 faculty members across a wide variety of disciplines to find ways they can work sustainability issues into their classrooms.

Last month the foundation, named for Interface Inc. founder and environmental leader Ray Anderson, announced grants totaling more than $600,000 to seven universities around the Southeast funding environmental initiatives and sustainability research.

Sustainability — the ability to meet economic, social and environmental demands simultaneously — is no longer just a buzzword for economic planners. Increasingly, people from many different fields and industries are trying to find more efficient, forward-thinking ways to maintain economic prosperity and quality of life.

With the help of the Anderson Foundation grant, says Chemistry Professor Dabney Dixon, Georgia State will use a version of Emory University’s successful “Piedmont Project” to get faculty members in a wide variety of disciplines thinking about how they can address sustainability issues with their students.

“It’s a two-day workshop where faculty get together and talk about how to go about putting a greater focus on sustainability into their classes,” Dixon says. “It could include discussing aspects of the natural environment and how it’s affected history. In the science field, it could mean talking more practically about experiments having to do with the natural world and sustainability issues, rather than more abstract concepts. It could mean considering the economics of sustainability. There are even ways to talk about it in art classes, by doing found-object art projects. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. We just want to start weaving sustainability into the curriculum in general.”

Dixon and Michael Black, a lecturer at Georgia State’s Neuroscience Institute and faculty associate for sustainability, will serve as project co-facilitators under Peggy Barlett, the Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology at Emory, who’s run Piedmont Project workshops for several years.

“We are very pleased that she will lead the workshop,” Dixon says. “We’ll co-facilitate this one time, and after that, Georgia State faculty will lead the workshop in future years.”

Many Georgia State faculty are already making sustainability issues a priority, including Steven Olson, director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, and Hudgens Prize-winning Art Professor Pam Longobardi, who creates exhibits out of trash culled from the world’s oceans. The workshops resulting from the Anderson grant, Dixon says, will help the university take the next step in producing sustainability leadership among faculty members and their students.

“I’m really excited that Georgia State has this opportunity,” she says. “We have so many students. We can have such an amazing impact. We have some very talented people here who are very interested in this, so we need to take the next step in solidifying our approach and thinking carefully about having sustainability in more of our courses. I think this is really going to make a difference.”