Systems Thinking

Big Idea Writeup

Systems Thinking

Many scientists and engineers are trained to take a reductionist view of the world, breaking it down and analyzing it in discrete well characterized chunks on which experiments can be done and hypotheses tested. Unfortunately the synthesis required to take the reductionist knowledge and place it back into broader contexts is often missing from their training and subsequently their mental models of how to approach topics such as sustainable communities.

Course

The Rhetorics and Poetics of Dirt

This course asks students to examine what we talk about when we talk about “dirt,” and how do the things we communicate about dirt change its presence in our lives. The major assignments facilitate learning goals through four units: dirt vs. soil, earthworks, dirt stories, and trendy dirt. The primary texts in this course will largely deal with a North American perspective on dirt. We will engage with American film (ex: Grapes of Wrath, Waterworld, Noma, Interstellar, The Martian, the Mad Max megaverse), and contemporary American literature.

Sustainability, Technology, and Policy

This course - taught on the Pacific Program - will develop a theoretical understanding of sustainability, from a bottom-up perspective that considers ecological outcomes as a function of human institutions. It begins with defining and understanding the tragedy of the commons, and develops an understanding of why we might not be doomed to this tragedy. While exploring broad themes in environmental ethics, philosophy, and management, it will explore cases in the Pacific context, and will include a service-learning project in Fiji.

Technology and Society

Technology and Society examines connections between the history of technology and other aspects of human history. The course uses historical episodes to challenge widely held misperceptions about technology and how it operates in the modern world. I argue that technology is a human product, not an autonomous force. Technology makes nothing happen by itself, but only as the result of human action. People can choose to design and use technology in different ways to better serve human needs.

Environmental Ethics

This is a practical course in environmental decision making in response to complex, open-ended problem situations.  Students work together in groups to acquire and practice basic tools of systems thinking and ethical inquiry, then bring those tools to bear on problem situations of their own choosing.

Ecology

Ecology (2335) is a traditional course where students work on applied problems, including those associated with climate change, invasive species, overexploitation etc. The focus is on the ecological concepts, looking at either sustainability or community, with reference to the other, through units, labs, assignments, and activities. 

Ecology Lab

Ecology Lab covers basic ecological phenomenon using urban ecological settings as the backdrop. As a class, we visit areas in the metro-Atlanta community to understand human-environment interactions within our ecosystem. We immerse ourselves in these communities to understand the short- and long-term consequences of environmental change and what ecologically can be done to keep ecosystems-- and related neighborhoods-- thriving.

Fundamentals and Challenges for a Sustainable Chemical Enterprise

In the chemical enterprise (industry, government and academia), chemists and engineers are involved in and are responsible for the development of new products, materials and manufacturing processes. These activities include developing manufacturing processes that are environmentally friendlier, safer for workers and society, and economically more sustainable. They participate in and contribute to all segments of the supply chain, from cradle to grave (nature back to nature).

Sustainable Transportation Abroad

In this course, we will focus on the planning, design, and operations of transportation systems in countries abroad that are known for a sustainable multimodal approach to transportation. This course is a study abroad course tied to the Global Engineering Leadership Minor administered in Civil and Environmental Engineering. The leadership competencies this course will focus on include cultural awareness/global competency, informal mentoring, and feedback.

Environmental Engineering Senior Design

Capstone Design-Environmental Section is an interdisciplinary environmental design experience. The course is offered in parallel with the civil engineering section of the course; CEE students may form teams with mixed CE and EnvE composition; and teams from each program may perform projects in either section. Students form teams of 3 – 5 people, and these teams function as “companies” that provide engineering services under guidance of a sponsor on design project that the team selects.

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