masthead alt text
Home / 2013 Fall / Features / Roving Professors: Sustainability Across the Curriculum
Lorenzo Gonzalez's acting classPhoto: Matthew Lester

Roving Professors: Sustainability Across the Curriculum

by Lindsay Michko


View of Arapahoe Green
Photo: Matthew Lester
Naropa University's Academic Plan outlines six key curricular commitments which, when taken together, paint a picture of the educational journey that every Naropa undergraduate student experiences, regardless of area of study. Of these six components—competency in contemplative theory and practice; skillfulness in addressing diversity and ecological sustainability; ability to employ multiple modes of inquiry, knowing, and expression; embodiment of intra- and inter-personal capacities; knowledge and skill in a discipline or area of study; and application of learning in real world settings—some are already more fully incorporated across curricula than others. In an effort to more deeply integrate these across all programs, Naropa is introducing a collaborative, cross-curricular faculty development initiative for the 2013–14 academic year—the Roving Professors Project.


Spearheaded by Susan Burggraf, associate professor and former dean of undergraduate education, and Dean of Graduate Education Christine Caldwell, the Roving Professors Project draws its inspiration from the way in which the educational experience is strengthened as a result of faculty learning from each other. Centering on ecological sustainability in this inaugural year, the project offers ten Naropa faculty members ("hosts") the opportunity to collaborate with and receive mentorship from another faculty member well-versed in sustainable practices (a "roving professor" or "rover"), to design and implement an ecological sustainability unit for one of their courses. Each roving professor partners with two host professors—one per semester. The 2013–14 academic year features five roving professors: Jeanine Canty, associate professor of environmental studies and director of the School of Natural and Social Sciences; Tina Fields, core faculty and director of Ecopsychology; Anne Parker, professor of environmental studies and program lead for MA Environmental Leadership; Deb Piranian, director of Transpersonal Counseling Psychology: Wilderness Therapy and faculty trustee; and Deborah Young, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education.


orientation exercise in engaging with nature
Photo: Marc Piscotty
Preceding the start of each semester, the roving professors meet with their host course instructor to design a sustainability unit that reflects issues and skills relevant to ecological sustainability within the academic discipline of the course. The two instructors will co-teach the course's new sustainability unit, and subsequently collaborate to assess the experience. "As I prepare with [my host professors], I am already expanding my understanding of sustainability," observes roving professor Deb Piranian. "I expect that to continue as we move into the classroom with students. I'm passionate about the topic, so am grateful for the project—it provides an avenue and support for helping others also think about and act on sustainability more deeply."


While initially the new course units may seem divergent from the rest of the course content, the hope is that the new material will become more fully infused into the course over future semesters. Candace Walworth, associate professor of peace studies, explains, "I applied as a 'host' for the Roving Professors initiative for COR220 [Community-Based Learning and Action] because this course is a required core seminar; thus, it touches the lives of all undergraduates. What better place than a core seminar to integrate contemplative approaches to learning, diversity/inclusion, and environmental sustainability?" By the culmination of this academic year, ten Naropa courses across the five schools will have incorporated issues of sustainability with existing course material, resulting in even more effective educational experiences that speak to the complexity and richness that accompanies our commitment to the environment.

Funding for the Roving Professors Project comes from the Naropa Sustainability Council and the Title III grant. While this funding only covers the 2013–14 academic year, efforts are being made to make this a continuing opportunity for faculty development and curricular enrichment, moving in future years to other components of Naropa's curriculum.