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Pathways to Sustainability Careers: Building Capacity To Solve Complex Problems

14 Feb 2014-Sustainability: The Journal of Record (Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.140 Huguenot Street, 3rd FloorNew Rochelle, NY 10801-5215USA)-Vol. 7, Iss: 1, pp 47-53
TL;DR: The Pathways to Sustainability Careers (PSU) initiative at Portland State University as mentioned in this paper aims to better integrate programs that provide students with the knowledge and experience they need to engage with complex problems and be competitive and effective in sustainability-related careers.
Abstract: Many of the central sustainability challenges facing society today—climate change, social inequality, and resource degradation, to name a few—are socially complex, politically fraught, and imperfectly understood. To be able to effectively engage in addressing such “wicked problems,” individuals need a mixture of content knowledge and soft skills that enable them to critically analyze these challenges from a systems perspective, develop creative solutions, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others who may not share common views. Such skill sets and abilities are also more generally valuable in navigating personal, organizational, and societal complexities. Portland State University’s (PSU) Pathways to Sustainability Careers initiative seeks to better integrate programs that provide students with the knowledge and experience they need to engage with complex problems and be competitive and effective in sustainability-related careers. While PSU already offers a number of programs relevant to this effort, these opportunities are scattered across the university; finding these opportunities and organizing them into a coherent and complementary set of experiences can be challenging. The Pathways effort is focused on more effectively knitting together existing programs and emergent initiatives from across the university in order to engage faculty and staff through a collective action approach. By doing so, this initiative endeavors to provide a more intentional, cohesive, and easily navigable set of pathways for students, which will provide them with the academic knowledge, leadership skills, and real-world experiences needed to engage with “wicked” problems, and prepare them to successfully navigate an increasingly complex world.

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • Many of the central challenges facing society today are socially complex, politically fraught, and imperfectly understood; such challenges are often referred to as “wicked problems.
  • Even when such jobs are broadly defined,6–10 Many of the central sustainability challenges facing society today—climate change, social inequality, and resource degradation, to name a few—are socially complex, politically fraught, and imperfectly understood.

Background

  • The efficacy and value of a college education in preparing graduates to be successful in their careers has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as the cost of education and the cost burden on students have soared and eco- nomic challenges have made the job market increasingly competitive.
  • Among the soft skills examined, those considered most critical were communication with internal and external stakeholders, problem solving, and inspiring and motivating others.
  • Humphreys identifies the importance of active, project-based learning activities that provide students with opportunities to “apply their learning in hands-on settings, on or off campus” in preparing students for careers.
  • First, these experiences need to be integrated into a coherent whole for each and every student.

Building Social Capital through Collective Action

  • Simply having programs that provide students with opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge relevant to solving complex problems is not sufficient to ensure that they garner the full benefits of these offerings.
  • As Humphreys noted, these programs need to be integrated into a coherent whole and there needs to be increasing collaboration between all of the actors that are involved in the programs.
  • 11 Fostering connections between the curricular programs where students develop disciplinary and interdisciplinary content knowledge and the curricular programs/ cocurricular activities where they apply this knowledge and hone their interpersonal skills is another important element of this program.
  • This approach focuses on creating a network of actors who are aligned and coordinated around the pursuit of shared goals, but who also remain focused on achieving their respective programmatic and educational goals.

Coordinating the Effort

  • In its role as the hub for sustainability at PSU, ISS serves as the backbone organization for this collective action effort and is tasked with providing ongoing support for coordination and information exchange among the program partners.
  • ISS’s approach to creating these more cohesive programs reflects the recognition that personal relationships and clear and ongoing communication among key players are as central to successful collaboration as is organizational structure.
  • Opportunities to better connect programs and more clearly communicate these connections begin to emerge as the alignment of goals across programs and the ways different programs provide complementary educational experiences become more evident.
  • 11 Through PSU President Wim Wiewel’s larger ReTHINK PSU initiative, the university is rapidly expanding the use of e-portfolios across campus, and the Pathways initiative will be exploring how best to integrate with this effort as well as with the development of degree maps that enhance students’ ability to meet degree requirements.

Summary and Concluding Remarks

  • Effectively addressing the urgent and socially complex challenges facing society today, from climate change to social inequities to environmental degradation, requires strong content knowledge in relevant fields as well as skills in systems thinking, active and creative problem solving, collaboration, and communication.
  • The higher education community has an important role to play in offering their students the preparation needed to engage in these issues and to be successful in an increasingly complex world.
  • Given the distributed nature of these programs and the challenges of making an institution-wide initiative work in a coordinated manner, PSU is taking a “collective impact” approach to this effort, with ISS serving as the backbone organization to convene and catalyze discussions and help identify and support action toward shared goals over time.
  • Ultimately, the Pathways effort is about helping those whose work contributes to student learning and career preparation in the sustainability field become aware of the shared goals and parallel work of others, and thereby recognize that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”.
  • Building social capital, i.e., personal relationships that bridge what are often disconnected efforts, can help people intentionally work together more, see their success in the success of others, and be more successful in collaborative work over the longer term.

Competency Survey Report: A Research Study Conducted by the International

  • Kuh GD, and O’Donnell K. Ensuring Quality and Taking High Impact Practices to Scale.
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC, 2013.
  • Ashoka U. Learning Outcomes for Social Entrepreneurs and Changemakers.

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Pathways to Sustainability Careers: Building Pathways to Sustainability Careers: Building
Capacity To Solve Complex Problems Capacity To Solve Complex Problems
Jennifer H. Allen
Portland State University
, jhallen@pdx.edu
Fletcher Beaudoin
Portland State University
Elizabeth Lloyd-Pool
Portland State University
Jacob Sherman
Portland State University
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Citation Details Citation Details
Allen, Jennifer H., Fletcher Beaudoin, Elizabeth Lloyd-Pool, and Jacob Sherman. "Pathways to
Sustainability Careers: Building Capacity To Solve Complex Problems." Sustainability: The Journal of
Record 7, no. 1 (2014): 47-53.
This Article is brought to you for free and open access. It has been accepted for inclusion in Institute for
Sustainable Solutions Publications and Presentations by an authorized administrator of PDXScholar. Please
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MARY ANN LIEBERT, INC. • Vol. 7 No. 1 • February 2014 • DOI: 10.1089/sus.2014.9817
Sustainability 47
Original Articles
Jennifer H. Allen, PhD, Fletcher Beaudoin, MPA, Elizabeth Lloyd-Pool, and Jacob Sherman, MS Ed
Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University, Portland, OR.
Introduction
Many of the central challenges facing
society today are socially complex, po-
litically fraught, and imperfectly under-
stood; such challenges are oen referred
to as “wicked problems.
1,2
As Rich-
ard Beinecke notes in “Leadership for
Wicked Problems”:
What are the characteristics of a com-
petent leader, one who is prepared to
engage in addressing these and other
complex issues? Relevant literature
related to leadership development,
social entrepreneurship, and sustain-
ability professions suggests that such
leadership requires a mixture of content
knowledge—which may dier depend-
ing on the particular area of focus—and
a core set of so skills, including the
ability to critically analyze issues from
a systems perspective, solve problems
creatively, communicate eectively, and
work collaboratively with others who
may not share common views.
3-5
While
essential for leadership roles, these
kinds of so skills and abilities are also
valuable for navigating personal, or-
ganizational, and societal complexities
more generally.
Complex issues such as poverty, environ-
mental degradation, climate change, and
many other social challenges are funda-
mentally sustainability challenges, char-
acterized by their social, environmental,
and economic complexity and multi-
generational scale. Opportunities to
work on these issues may not always fall
under the category of a green job. Even
when such jobs are broadly dened,
6–10
Pathways to Sustainability Careers:
Building Capacity To Solve Complex Problems
Abstract
Many of the central sustainability challenges facing society today—climate change, social inequality, and resource
degradation, to name a few—are socially complex, politically fraught, and imperfectly understood. To be able to
eectively engage in addressing such “wicked problems,” individuals need a mixture of content knowledge and so
skills that enable them to critically analyze these challenges from a systems perspective, develop creative solutions,
communicate eectively, and work collaboratively with others who may not share common views. Such skill sets and
abilities are also more generally valuable in navigating personal, organizational, and societal complexities. Portland
State University’s (PSU) Pathways to Sustainability Careers initiative seeks to better integrate programs that provide
students with the knowledge and experience they need to engage with complex problems and be competitive and
eective in sustainability-related careers. While PSU already oers a number of programs relevant to this eort, these
opportunities are scattered across the university; nding these opportunities and organizing them into a coherent
and complementary set of experiences can be challenging. e Pathways eort is focused on more eectively knitting
together existing programs and emergent initiatives from across the university in order to engage faculty and sta
through a collective action approach. By doing so, this initiative endeavors to provide a more intentional, cohesive,
and easily navigable set of pathways for students, which will provide them with the academic knowledge, leadership
skills, and real-world experiences needed to engage with “wicked” problems, and prepare them to successfully navi-
gate an increasingly complex world.
We are in the early years of a millen-
nium that promises many challenges
and many opportunities. Globally,
issues of mental health and health,
poverty, population, war and for-
eign policy, global warming and the
environment, among many others,
will force us to work together for cre-
ative innovation and change…. Public
leadership and competent leaders will
be keys to success. (p.10)
1

such opportunities may encompass a
variety of positions in the elds of pub-
lic health, engineering, anthropology,
environmental science, nance, plan-
ning, and many other career options.
Having a foundation in a content area
relevant to a particular eld of study
constitutes a critical aspect of prepara-
tion to engage in these issues; however,
the need and opportunity is to ensure
that students develop both disciplin-
ary depth and other key competen-
cies—systems thinking, collaboration,
communication, and creative problem
solving—by providing them in an inte-
grated manner.
Recognizing the value of creating a more
transparent and accessible mechanism
for students to gain the skills required to
address such challenges, Portland State
University’s Institute for Sustainable
Solutions (ISS) launched a Pathways to
Sustainability Careers initiative in 2013
to better integrate programs that pro-
vide students with the knowledge and
experience they need to be competitive
and eective in sustainability-related
careers. While Portland State (PSU) al-
ready oers a number of programs rel-
evant to this eort, these opportunities
are scattered across the university, mak-
ing it a challenge for students to nd
these opportunities and for faculty, sta,
and administrators to organize them
into a coherent and complementary set
of experiences. e lack of a coordinat-
ing framework also makes it dicult
to identify and address the barriers
that prevent students from taking full
advantage of what is available at the uni-
versity, whether it be through courses,
student activities, or internships, among
other opportunities.
e need for such an integrated
approach to developing competen-
cies has been recognized by Wiek et al.
(2011), who have proposed a research
and problem-solving framework to bet-
ter integrate key sustainability compe-
tencies and to provide for greater cu-
mulative impact and coherence among
them.
4
e Pathways to Sustainability Careers
(Pathways) eort seeks to more eec-
tively knit together existing programs
and emergent initiatives from across the
university in order to engage all fac-
ulty and sta in related eorts through
a collective action approach.
9
e goal
of this initiative is to oer a more in-
tentional, cohesive, and easily navigable
set of pathways that will better provide
students with the academic knowledge,
leadership skills, and real-world expe-
riences needed to solve complex prob-
lems. In addition to making existing ef-
forts more coherent, this initiative seeks
to identify gaps that need to be lled
in order to ensure that PSU provides
a comprehensive set of experiences
and opportunities that will prepare its
students to engage in solving complex
problems. Ongoing assessments of the
eectiveness of individual programs
within the larger Pathways initiative
provide opportunities for adaptation,
increased coordination, continuous im-
provement, and the gleaning of lessons
learned to inform eorts at other insti-
tutions.
is article discusses the need for edu-
cation that can prepare graduates to
engage in complex social problems,
describes the evolution of the Path-
ways initiative, and oers observations
on the emergent strategies and lessons
learned regarding how to eectively
engage faculty, sta, students, and com-
munity partners in such a coordinated,
campus-wide eort. e article does not
examine in detail the current job mar-
ket for green jobs; the premise of PSUs
approach is that solving complex social
issues extends beyond specic jobs and
career opportunities that may have an
explicitly green label. Furthermore,
while the Pathways initiative focuses
on knowledge and skill sets that have
been identied as important for sus-
tainability-related careers, the types of
experiences and competencies that are
core elements of the program—collab-
orative problem solving, project-based
learning, systems thinking, and eective
communication across diverse perspec-
tives—are applicable to other elds and
career trajectories.
10
Background
e ecacy and value of a college edu-
cation in preparing graduates to be suc-
cessful in their careers has come under
increasing scrutiny in recent years, as
the cost of education and the cost bur-
den on students have soared and eco-
nomic challenges have made the job
market increasingly competitive. e
urgency and scale of the environmental,
social, and economic challenges facing
society today and the importance of
providing students with the knowledge
and skills to come up with sustain-
able solutions provides an additional
imperative to develop educational pro-
grams that eectively prepare graduates
to be competent agents of change in an
increasingly complex world.
In a report for the International Soci-
ety of Sustainability Professionals, Wil-
lard et al. (2010), describe sustainability
practice as
Willard et al. go on to describe some of
the core competencies needed in this
eld, stating that
In assessing the most important compe-
tencies for sustainability professionals,
the report found that
Not only are these competencies criti-
cal skills for those engaged in address-
ing complex sustainability challenges,
Original Articles
a collaborative activity that assess-
es, plans, implements, coordinates,
monitors, and evaluates the options
and services required to collectively
meet an individual’s, groups, or com-
munity’s socioeconomic and envi-
ronmental well-being needs, using
communication and available res-
ources to promote quality, cost-
eective, limited resource sensitive
outcomes.
5
work in the realm of sustainable
development requires complex expe-
rience and understanding of multiple
concepts and theories as well as an
ability to improvise, adapt, innovate,
and dream up still more visionary-
yet-feasible ideas about how to trans-
form a global civilization or rescue
ecosystems in trouble. (p. 2)
5
more “so” skills were deemed of ex-
tremely high importance than “hard”
skills. Among the so skills exam-
ined, those considered most critical
were communication with internal
and external stakeholders, problem
solving, and inspiring and motivating
others. … “so” skills will continue
to be needed in the future because
they are necessary for bringing about
transformational change. (p. 2)
5
48 Sustainability
MARY ANN LIEBERT, INC. • Vol. 7 No. 1 • February 2014 • DOI: 10.1089/sus.2014.9817

MARY ANN LIEBERT, INC. • Vol. 7 No. 1 • February 2014 • DOI: 10.1089/sus.2014.9817
Sustainability 49
these skill sets are broadly applicable to
other areas.
10
In a recent article entitled
Success aer College: What Students,
Parents and Educators Need to Know
and Do,” Debra Humphreys explores
what employers seek from graduates
and what higher education can pro-
vide to prepare students for success.
Humphreys found that most employers
agreed that “a job candidates demon-
strated capacity to think critically, com-
municate clearly, and solve complex
problems is more important than their
undergraduate major.
11
Active Learning Is Essential
What kinds of learning experiences
are most eective in helping students
translate content knowledge to success
in their jobs and careers? Humphreys
identies the importance of active, proj-
ect-based learning activities that pro-
vide students with opportunities to “ap-
ply their learning in hands-on settings,
on or o campus” in preparing students
for careers.
11
She also notes that “em-
ployers have for years urged students to
complete internships while they are in
college,” and many business and non-
prot leaders continue to endorse that
practice.
11
Importantly, Humphreys notes that
Kuh et al. (2013) echo this message,
stating that educators increasingly
understand the need to move toward
new “curricular pathways that provide
multiple, scaolded encounters with
high impact practices for all students.
12
ese quotes speak to the central value
proposition of PSU’s eorts to create a
more cohesive and navigable set of pro-
grams to prepare students for sustain-
ability careers, and more generally for
success in life. While PSU has a long-
standing commitment to community-
based learning and already has a num-
ber of programs that provide students
with learning and experiences that pro-
vide some of the skills and competen-
cies already noted,
13,14
simply oering
curricular and cocurricular options will
not ensure that students experience the
full richness that a well-coordinated,
multifaceted program can oer. Insti-
tutions of higher education need to
rethink how to help students navigate
their educational experience to ensure
they can take full advantage of relevant
learning experiences. ey also may
need to redene and broaden which
faculty positions have a role in career
counseling.
Context for PSU’s
Pathways Program
PSU has endorsed sustainability as an
institutional priority and has embraced
the role of the university in helping bet-
ter understand and address complex
social, environmental, and economic
challenges through its educational pro-
grams, research eorts, and community
partnerships. PSU has been investing
actively in academic and operational
sustainability programs since the early
2000s when the rst coordinators for
facilities and for academic sustainabil-
ity programs were appointed. In 2006,
PSU established the Center for Sus-
tainable Processes and Practices (since
renamed the Institute for Sustainable
Solutions–ISS) to serve as a coordinat-
ing and catalytic hub to support inter-
disciplinary teaching and research and
to foster community engagement. In
2008, the James F. and Marion L. Miller
Foundation awarded a ten-year, $25
million challenge gi to PSU’s sustain-
ability programs to grow the capacity of
the university to serve the community.
ese resources, which are adminis-
tered through ISS, have enabled PSU to
develop a range of programs to enhance
opportunities for students to learn
about sustainability, build capacity to
do interdisciplinary research in targeted
areas, and collaborate with community
partners.
ISS supports a number of curricular,
cocurricular, and post-graduate pro-
grams that provide students with
opportunities to engage in active learn-
ing focused on sustainability-related
issues. ese include the Sustainabil-
ity Leadership Center, which sup-
ports student volunteers programs and
development leadership activities, a
Solutions Generator program that
funds projects identied by students,
funded internships, a Post-Graduate
Fellows program, and a graduate cer-
ticate in sustainability. e structure
of the graduate certicate, which is
designed to be easily combined with
graduate-level degree programs, reects
PSUs approach to combining disciplin-
ary depth and content knowledge with
an understanding of systems thinking,
the social, environmental, and eco-
nomic dynamics of sustainability, and
community-based projects.
Other programs across campus also
provide students with experience rel-
evant to sustainability careers, includ-
ing the student-staed Community
Environmental Services program that
provides contracted services to local
governments and businesses on recy-
cling and waste minimization. In addi-
tion, many of PSU’s general education
programs, including the freshman and
sophomore inquiry courses, upper divi-
sion clusters, and senior capstones, oer
project- and community-based learn-
ing opportunities with a sustainability
focus. Emergent eorts relevant to prep-
aration for sustainability careers include
development of an undergraduate sus-
tainability certicate designed to deliver
specic sustainability competencies and
learning outcomes and oer credit for
(i)t wont be enough…to revisit cur-
ricular maps or to continue to expand
faculty development eorts in order
to incorporate more active learning
experiences. Educators have to take
two additional steps. First, these ex-
periences need to be integrated into
a coherent whole for each and every
student. And this integration needs to
occur as a result of enhanced collabo-
ration among faculty across depart-
ments as well as closer collaboration
between faculty and student aairs
professionals—including academic
advisors, career counselors, and other
campus educators who work every
day to help students make sense of
their educational experiences. Sec-
ond, opportunities for students to
demonstrate what they are learning
must be embedded within the edu-
cational program, along with oppor-
tunities for students to present them-
selves as well-educated people with a
wide array of skills and with practice
in putting those skills to practical use.
is cannot be the sole responsibility
of career counselors, and it cannot be
le until the student’s last semester.
11

50 Sustainability
MARY ANN LIEBERT, INC. • Vol. 7 No. 1 • February 2014 • DOI: 10.1089/sus.2014.9817
Original Articles
prior learning, the recent establishment
of a social entrepreneurship certicate,
and development of an interdisciplinary
energy certicate.
PSU was also selected as a Changemaker
Campus by Ashoka U in 2012, a desig-
nation that recognizes colleges and uni-
versities that have embedded social in-
novation as a core value and have built
supportive environments for change-
making across the entire institution.
15
Going through the Changemaker Cam-
pus application process helped raise
awareness across the PSU campus of the
many activities that provide problem-
solving experiences for students while
highlighting the need and opportunity
to make these experiences more visible
and accessible for students.
Building Social Capital
through Collective Action
Simply having programs that provide
students with opportunities to develop
the skills and knowledge relevant to
solving complex problems is not suf-
cient to ensure that they garner the
full benets of these oerings. As Hum-
phreys noted, these programs need to
be integrated into a coherent whole and
there needs to be increasing collabora-
tion between all of the actors that are
involved in the programs.
11
Fostering
connections between the curricular
programs where students develop dis-
ciplinary and interdisciplinary content
knowledge and the curricular programs/
cocurricular activities where they apply
this knowledge and hone their interper-
sonal skills is another important ele-
ment of this program. In the case of the
Pathways program, the specic kinds
of skill sets, learning outcomes, and
competencies relevant to preparing stu-
dents for sustainability-related careers
or for other life experiences need to be
dened and mapped against the various
programs and activities being oered
in order to better understand what is
already in place as well as where gaps in
delivering sustainability-related experi-
ences may exist.
Given the distributed and decentral-
ized nature of universities and the fact
that the programs that need to be in-
cluded in the Pathways eort are based
in multiple departments, ISS is taking a
collective action approach to building
this program. is approach focuses
on creating a network of actors who
are aligned and coordinated around the
pursuit of shared goals, but who also
remain focused on achieving their re-
spective programmatic and educational
goals. Successful collective action eorts
incorporate a number of key strategies:
developing a common agenda, having a
shared measurement system, participat-
ing in mutually reinforcing activities,
committing to continuous communi-
cation, and including the presence of
a backbone supporting organization.
9
is approach is based on the premise
that having those who are working on
specic programs develop a shared un-
derstanding about how these programs
align toward shared goals can result in
higher impact outcomes overall.
Coordinating the Effort
In its role as the hub for sustainability at
PSU, ISS serves as the backbone orga-
nization for this collective action eort
and is tasked with providing ongoing
support for coordination and infor-
mation exchange among the program
partners. Because collective action
initiatives such as the Pathways eort
are attempting to advance innovative
and integrative approaches in complex
institutional environments, they de-
pend on long-term engagement from
a multitude of actors who may need
to adapt their mind-sets and organiza-
tional norms to help advance a larger
shared goal. In this context, a backbone
organization such as ISS can help build
the social capital and trust that allows
for collaborative dialogue and that can
foster institutional change over time.
ISS’s approach to creating these more
cohesive programs reects the recog-
nition that personal relationships and
clear and ongoing communication
among key players are as central to
successful collaboration as is organiza-
tional structure. One of the rst steps
ISS is taking in implementing this col-
lective action eort is to work with mul-
tiple units in Enrollment Management
and Student Aairs, Oce of Academic
Aairs, and specic schools and depart-
ments, such as the Impact Entrepre-
neurs program in the School of Business
Administration, both to clarify the
competencies and experiences that PSU
wants to provide and to identify and map
out the initiatives and programs that
provide students with dierent elements
of skill development and career prepara-
tion related to sustainability competen-
cies. Bringing together the players that
provide students with relevant experi-
ences and support helps build an aware-
ness among the dierent programs of
how they relate to each other and how
the programs could collectively provide
a richer experience for students. Oppor-
tunities to better connect programs and
more clearly communicate these con-
nections begin to emerge as the align-
ment of goals across programs and the
ways dierent programs provide com-
plementary educational experiences
become more evident. In addition,
building social capital among the in-
dividuals involved can provide the
mutual reinforcement needed for col-
lective action eorts to succeed, laying
a foundation for ongoing innovation,
adaptation, and improvement of the
collective eort.
Because some of the programs related to
the Pathways eort were not originally
developed with an explicit alignment
toward sustainability-related competen-
cies and learning outcomes, identifying
and agreeing upon these competencies
and outcomes is an important part of
the process of identifying shared goals.
While the exploration of what compe-
tencies should constitute the core of the
Pathways program is still underway,
Table 1 provides an example of the
kinds of skills or competencies each
program might be evaluated against,
drawing from Ashoka U,
16
the Interna-
tional Society of Sustainability Profes-
sionals (2010),
5
Wiek et al. (2011),
4
and
Kuh and ODonnell (2013).
12
Once the
specic competencies and attributes
that PSU wants to focus on are identi-
ed and agreed upon, ISS’s expanding
assessment initiative can provide a
framework to track the delivery of
learning outcomes and competencies,
serving as the basis for the shared mea-
surement system needed to support suc-
cessful collective action eorts. Infor-
mation gleaned from assessment eorts

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TL;DR: In this article, the authors present a summary of professional skills, synthesized from the literature, and why they are relevant for sustainability professionals, and how these skills have been taught in an undergraduate course in sustainability at Arizona State University.
Abstract: Successful careers in sustainability are determined by positive real-world change towards sustainability. This success depends heavily on professional skills in effective and compassionate communication, collaborative teamwork, or impactful stakeholder engagement, among others. These professional skills extend beyond content knowledge and methodical expertise. Current sustainability programs do not sufficiently facilitate students’ acquisition of such skills. This article presents a brief summary of professional skills, synthesized from the literature, and why they are relevant for sustainability professionals. Second, it presents how these skills have been taught in an undergraduate course in sustainability at Arizona State University, USA. Third, it critically discusses the effectiveness and challenges of that exemplary course. Finally, the article concludes with outlining the lessons learned that should be incorporated into future course offerings.

72 citations


Cites background from "Pathways to Sustainability Careers:..."

  • ...Studies show the mismatch between the need for sustainability graduates to master these professional skills and sustainability programs that do not sufficiently teach them [1,3,9]....

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors synthesize the refereed literature relevant to climate adaptation for natural world heritage (WH) sites and argue that adaptation should be ecosystem based, and that adaptation at natural WH sites should be Adaptive, Participatory and Transformative.

58 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, an experience-based learning framework for the development of systems thinking, normative and collaborative competencies in sustainability is presented. But the framework is not suitable for all students.
Abstract: Purpose This paper aims to present an experience-based learning framework that provides a bottom-up, student-centered entrance point for the development of systems thinking, normative and collaborative competencies in sustainability. Design/methodology/approach The framework combines mental mapping with exploratory walking. It interweaves mapping and walking activities with methodological and theoretical inputs as well as with reflections and discussions. The framework aligns experiential activities, i.e. mental mapping and walking, with learning objectives, i.e. novice-level sustainability competencies. The authors applied the framework for student activities in Phoenix/Tempe and Hamburg/Luneburg as part of The Global Classroom, a project between Arizona State University in the USA and Leuphana University of Luneburg in Germany. Findings The application of the experience-based learning framework demonstrates how students started developing systems thinking (e.g. understanding urban systems as functional entities and across different domains), normative (e.g. using different sustainability principles) and collaborative (e.g. learning across disciplinary, social and cultural differences) competencies in sustainability. Originality/value The experience-based learning framework contributes to the development of curricular activities for the initial development of sustainability competencies in introductory-level courses. It enables students from different disciplinary, social and cultural backgrounds, e.g. in international education, to collaboratively start developing such competencies. The framework can be adapted to different educational contexts.

49 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, a multi-stakeholder collaboration at the University of Tokyo demonstrated a pathway towards a low-carbon and elderly citizen friendly reform of the neighbouring City of Kashiwa.

38 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, a questionnaire was developed and conducted in seven universities within the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, targeting a sample of 500 students from different study programs, and the results showed that high percentages of participants have heard the term sustainability from educational sources, but they lack the knowledge of sustainability, especially when it comes to recognizing recycling materials or renewable materials and energy consumptions measures.
Abstract: In recent years, there has been a tremendous interest and increased awareness about sustainability and its related issues globally. The literature reviewed presented the positive role of sustainability education and how it affects students’ levels of sustainability awareness and influences behaviors. Therefore, to measure that level of current students’ awareness and knowledge of sustainability, a questionnaire was developed and conducted in seven universities within the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, targeting a sample of 500 students from different study programs. The results show that high percentages of participants have heard the term “sustainability” from educational sources, but they lack the knowledge of sustainability, especially when it comes to recognizing recycling materials or renewable materials and energy consumptions measures. It is also noticed that the majority of students are not involved in any type of recycling anywhere. Other results reflecting students’ behaviors and lifestyles pertaining to sustainability showed high percentages of involvement in sustainability and conservation actions. The study concludes that in order to promote sustainability awareness among students, other stakeholders such as universities, schools, governments and local municipalities need to take part in the process. Recommendations introduced include actions to be implemented by educational institutes in sustainability literacy and behaviors such as offering mandatory sustainability courses, demonstrating and supporting students’ activities in-campus and off-campus to promote sustainable behavior, and to take some measures toward resources conservation and the necessary educational methods to influence students’ behaviors. Recommendations are also broadened to include other stakeholders that hold great influence on individuals’ sustainable knowledge and behaviors.

36 citations

References
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors present a broad literature review of key competencies in sustainability research and problem-solving competence and address critical gaps in the conceptualization of sustainability in higher education.
Abstract: The emerging academic field focused on sustainability has been engaged in a rich and converging debate to define what key competencies are considered critical for graduating students to possess. For more than a decade, sustainability courses have been developed and taught in higher education, yet comprehensive academic programs in sustainability, on the undergraduate and graduate level, have emerged only over the last few years. Considering this recent institutional momentum, the time is seemingly right to synthesize the discussion about key competencies in sustainability in order to support these relatively young academic programs in shaping their profiles and achieving their ambitious missions. This article presents the results of a broad literature review. The review identifies the relevant literature on key competencies in sustainability; synthesizes the substantive contributions in a coherent framework of sustainability research and problem-solving competence; and addresses critical gaps in the conceptualization of key competencies in sustainability. Insights from this study lay the groundwork for institutional advancements in designing and revising academic programs; teaching and learning evaluations; as well as hiring and training faculty and staff.

1,611 citations


"Pathways to Sustainability Careers:..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The need for such an integrated approach to developing competencies has been recognized by Wiek et al. (2011), who have proposed a research and problem-solving framework to better integrate key sustainability competencies and to provide for greater cumulative impact and coherence among them.4 The…...

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors explore the characteristics of postnormal science to inform alternative policies designed to address wicked problems as well as their implications for policy contributions from ap plied economics.
Abstract: The term "wicked problems" is found in many disciplines, including public administra tion, policy science, health education, ecology, forestry, and business administration, but the term is relatively unknown in applied eco nomics. Applied economics needs to become better acquainted with wicked problems; they are pervasive, and they present challenges if applied economics is to retain its relevance in today's world. This paper explores these challenges but is necessarily exploratory, as widespread recognition of the complexity of wicked problems is leading to new kinds of research, but these research approaches are still evolving. My basic thesis is that normal science assumptions and approaches are in adequate for addressing the complexities of wicked problems in a policy context, but that science, including social science, remains cru cial for the development of alternative poli cies. This exploration, therefore, is about both the characteristics of postnormal science nec essary to inform alternative policies designed to address wicked problems as well as their implications for policy contributions from ap plied economics. Because many wicked prob lems involve sustainability issues, I will focus mainly on sustainability problems.

389 citations

01 Sep 2008
TL;DR: Green Jobs: UNEP promotes the use of environmentally sound practices globally and follows such practices in its own activities as discussed by the authors, and this brochure is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper, using vegetable-based inks and other eco-friendly practices.
Abstract: Green Jobs: UNEP promotes the use of environmentally sound practices globally and follows such practices in its own activities. This brochure is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper, using vegetable-based inks and other eco-friendly practices. Our distribution policy aims to reduce UNEP' s carbon footprint. Solar panels being installed at a former mining site in Germany. © Wolfgang Maria Weber / argus / Still Pictures E-recycling of old mobile phones: employee is repairing mobile phone for re-usage. Policy messages and main findings for decision makers ii Green Jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable, low-carbon world Note by the editors: The present overview draws on evidence and findings presented in the report " Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World ". While the overview is consistent with the report, it also includes reflections emerging from the exchanges among the partners of the Green Jobs Initiative not contained in the original report.

385 citations

MonographDOI
01 Jan 2009
TL;DR: In this article, Dillard, Vergnaud, Dujon, King, and King present an overview of the field of social sustainability and its application in the real world.
Abstract: 1. Introduction Jesse Dillard, Veronica Dujon and Mary King Part 1: Overviews of the Field 2. Emergent Principles of Social Sustainability Kristen Magis and Craig Shinn 3. An Inquiry into the Theoretical Basis of Sustainability: Ten Propositions Gary L. Larsen 4. An Antidote to a Partial Economics of Sustainability Mary C. King Part 2: International Perspectives 5. Global Civil Society: Architect and Agent of International Democracy and Sustainability Kristen Magis 6. In the Absence of Affluence: The Struggle for Social Sustainability in the Third World Veronica Dujon 7. Child Labor and Improved Common Forest Management in Bolivia Randall Bluffstone Part 3: The Role of Business 8. Social Sustainability: An Organizational Level Analysis Jan Bebbington and Jesse Dillard 9. Social Sustainability: One Company's Story Jesse Dillard and David Layzell 10. Working out Social Sustainability on the Ground Kathryn Thomsen and Mary C. King 11. Triple Bottom Line: A Business Metaphor for a Social Construct Jesse Dillard, Darrell Brown and Scott Marshall Part 4: Local Applications 12. Exploring Common Ground: Community Food Systems and Social Sustainability Leslie McBride 13. Social Capital and Community-University Partnerships W. Barry Messer and Kevin Kecskes 14. Advancing Social Sustainability: An Intervention Approach Jan C. Semenza Part 5: Integration and Conclusion 15. Reflection and Directions for the Future Jesse Dillard, Veronica Dujon and Mary King

273 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors present a Table of Table 1.2 Table 2.1 and Table 3.2 table 1.3.1.1 Table 4.2.
Abstract: 2 Table of

75 citations

Frequently Asked Questions (1)
Q1. What contributions have the authors mentioned in the paper "Pathways to sustainability careers: building capacity to solve complex problems" ?

By doing so, this initiative endeavors to provide a more intentional, cohesive, and easily navigable set of pathways for students, which will provide them with the academic knowledge, leadership skills, and real-world experiences needed to engage with “ wicked ” problems, and prepare them to successfully navigate an increasingly complex world. Having a foundation in a content area relevant to a particular field of study constitutes a critical aspect of preparation to engage in these issues ; however, the need and opportunity is to ensure that students develop both disciplinary depth and other key competencies—systems thinking, collaboration, communication, and creative problem solving—by providing them in an integrated manner. Recognizing the value of creating a more transparent and accessible mechanism for students to gain the skills required to address such challenges, Portland State University ’ s Institute for Sustainable Solutions ( ISS ) launched a Pathways to Sustainability Careers initiative in 2013 to better integrate programs that provide students with the knowledge and experience they need to be competitive and effective in sustainability-related careers. The need for such an integrated approach to developing competencies has been recognized by Wiek et al. ( 2011 ), who have proposed a research and problem-solving framework to better integrate key sustainability competencies and to provide for greater cumulative impact and coherence among them. The goal of this initiative is to offer a more intentional, cohesive, and easily navigable set of pathways that will better provide students with the academic knowledge, leadership skills, and real-world experiences needed to solve complex problems. In addition to making existing efforts more coherent, this initiative seeks to identify gaps that need to be filled in order to ensure that PSU provides a comprehensive set of experiences and opportunities that will prepare its students to engage in solving complex problems. Ongoing assessments of the effectiveness of individual programs within the larger Pathways initiative provide opportunities for adaptation, increased coordination, continuous improvement, and the gleaning of lessons learned to inform efforts at other institutions. This article discusses the need for education that can prepare graduates to engage in complex social problems, describes the evolution of the Pathways initiative, and offers observations on the emergent strategies and lessons learned regarding how to effectively engage faculty, staff, students, and community partners in such a coordinated, campus-wide effort. The article does not examine in detail the current job market for green jobs ; the premise of PSU ’ s approach is that solving complex social issues extends beyond specific jobs and career opportunities that may have an explicitly green label. Furthermore, while the Pathways initiative focuses on knowledge and skill sets that have been identified as important for sustainability-related careers, the types of experiences and competencies that are core elements of the program—collaborative problem solving, project-based learning, systems thinking, and effective communication across diverse perspectives—are applicable to other fields and career trajectories.