‘Climate Change Curriculum’ tackles global issue

A. Sue Weisler

Climate scientist and activist James Hansen visited RIT campus last spring as part of a special topics class on Climate Change. He talked about ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms, and the urgency of reversing the energy imbalance.

A new curriculum on climate change and global resilience will give RIT students an understanding of the issues world leaders are wrestling with at the United Nations climate summit in Paris.

The Climate Change Curriculum at RIT, or 3C@RIT, recently won an $18,500 grant from the RIT Innovation in Interdisciplinary Teaching fund to establish a set of immersion courses and a minor available to students in all majors, and create modules to enhance current courses. This faculty development fund was created to promote interdisciplinary activity on campus, a key objective in the RIT strategic plan.

The 3C@RIT initiative grew from the special topics class, Climate Change: Science, Technology and Policy, developed and co-taught last spring by Nathan Eddingsaas, assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Materials Science, Eric Hittinger, assistant professor in public policy, Matthew Hoffman, assistant professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences, and Christy Tyler, associate professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences.

The co-teachers and guest speakers gave context to the impact of a changing climate from different disciplines in the College of Science and College of Liberal Arts, and related challenges facing the university. The positive student response to the course and the significance of the topic led to the proposal for wider course offerings in this area.

“Climate change is a complex issue involving science, policy, technology, ethics and many other factors,” Hittinger said. “We want to ensure that students get a well-rounded climate education and are able to make meaningful contributions to society’s response.”

The far reaching causes and consequences of climate change will likely impact students’ lives and careers, Hoffman said. “The interconnectedness of the climate system makes an interdisciplinary teaching approach ideal.”

The team of professors will offer an updated climate change class in the spring semester. A working group of like-minded faculty will also create multidisciplinary modules to integrate into existing course across the university. These courses will form an interdisciplinary immersion and minor on global climate change to be offered in the fall semester.

In addition to the Climate Change Curriculum, other proposals that received Interdisciplinary Teaching grant awards include Capstones across Colleges, the Meaning of Things—in Three Objects, narRITives Project, World Making and the Creation of Responsible Knowledge: An Integrated Salon and Labinar Approach to Innovation in Graduation Education.

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