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Education and Research

Sustainability, as a classroom and research topic, is naturally cross-disciplinary and provides an opportunity to connect students and faculty with varying academic interests to collaborate. Students can enroll in courses that include sustainability in every school at American University and many faculty members are engaged in research that contributes to the breadth and depth of knowledge in sustainability. More than 500 faculty members have been certified through the Green Teaching Program which focuses on recognizing teachers who use green practices in the classroom.

American University is home to a number of programs focused on sustainability:

Sustainability in the Classroom

The Office of Sustainability asked faculty to use the below guidance to self-identify whether any of their classes were sustainability courses or courses that included sustainability. In the 2018/2019 academic year, nearly 300 courses were identified as such. 

American University also includes sustainability learning outcomes in the AU Learning Outcomes from the Provost. 

Sustainability-Focused Course
A sustainability-focused course is a course in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges.
Sustainability-Inclusive Course
A sustainability-inclusive is primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporates a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability issues throughout the course.
  • Incorporating Sustainability into the Classroom
    In collaboration with the Center for Teaching, Research & Learning, the Office of Sustainability created a campus sustainability lesson plan that instructors can use in the classroom. This lesson plan includes a narrated video, interactive map, multiple activities, discussion questions, and resources to help instructors incorporate aspects of campus sustainability into their courses. The activities in the lesson plan can be assigned to students during a class period when the instructor will or will not be present.
  • Accessing Curriculum Materials from the U.S. Green Building Council
    All instructors and students have access to American University’s institutional subscription to the U.S. Green Building Council. This subscription provides many resources, lesson plans, presentations, and case studies related to green buildings and sustainability. To access these resources, please follow these instructions:
    • Create an account through the USGBC website using your american.edu email address.

    • Within your account settings, you will see an option to connect your account with an institutional account.

    • Search for “American University,” select the DC campus, and request access to join.

    • The Office of Sustainability will receive and approve your request within 48 hours.

  • Accessing Curriculum and other Faculty Resources from AASHE
    All faculty, staff, and students have access to resources from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) through AU’s campus membership. Create an account using your American email address and you’ll have access to curriculum ideas, case studies, mentorship programs, and more.

In addition to offering many courses that teach sustainability, the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning offers a Green Teaching Certificate program to help faculty green their classrooms. 

The Green Teaching Certificate is based on a system of self-reporting. Faculty members at American University can qualify for a Green Teaching Certificate by answering a number of questions about their efforts to make their courses more sustainable. Upon evaluation, qualified courses will be rewarded with a seal representing one of five different levels of the Green Teaching Certificate, which can be put on syllabi and Blackboard pages to market courses as green.

American University's Sustainability Fund advances the university's active pursuit of sustainability by providing financial and administrative support for campus sustainability projects developed and proposed by members of the university community.