AY2017-18 was the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain’s third year in operation. During our first two years, we focused on engaging faculty and students across campus in SLS courses and activities; developing a clear and widely accepted framework for sustainable communities education; developing new partnerships with a diverse set of stakeholders both on campus and off; and establishing and strengthening our administrative, programmatic, and staffing infrastructure. In Year 3, we focused on streamlining and honing these initiatives – and our efforts continued to pay off, as we offered over 140 affiliated courses, including courses in every college, as well as summer courses, GT1000, capstone projects, and study abroad, with total enrollment exceeding 6,000 students.
With our primary program – Affiliated Courses – now well established and running smoothly (thanks in large part to the hiring of a Service Learning & Partnerships Specialist), we were also able to turn our attention from broad engagement to deep engagement. In this area, we focused on two initiatives: 1) Working closely with a subset of affiliated faculty to more closely align their courses with our SLS framework, and 2) Developing programs and pathways for students to have deep and sustained learning experiences with SLS over the course of their GT careers.
All of SLS’ work has been influenced by our distinct approach to sustainable communities, which includes: a) Approaching sustainability as an integrated system including Economy, Environment, and Society (sometimes called Equity), b) Focusing especially on society and equity as the least understood, and most often ignored, component, and c) Working with communities – and especially marginalized populations – as collaborators, giving them voice and leadership, and recognizing the expertise they bring to the table. (Read more about our approach in our new “Welcome to SLS” presentation on the SLS website.)
Even though we are still a new Center, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are having significant impact on campus and off. While it is too soon to report on the results of our classroom assessment efforts, students tell us regularly about these impacts: choosing to come to Tech because of SLS; switching majors and thinking in new ways about their career and life interests after taking SLS classes; presenting on SLS-related work at national conferences; receiving prestigious fellowships related to sustainability; and graduating and accepting jobs building on their SLS studies. Faculty similarly report that SLS is changing the way they teach (see Student and Faculty Quotes.) And, as we discuss at the end of this report, this past year was our most impactful year to date influencing the broader sustainability field through our leadership in Atlanta and nationally.