Category Archives: teaching

Sustainability Studies at Pratt: Fall 2018 Course Availability

Pratt_Willoughby_Main_GateMonday begins the new academic year at Pratt Institute, and a new schedule of courses. The spring ended with an all-time-high of sixty students registered in the minor, and we have an array of exciting courses this fall. Most sections are full, but seats are still available in a few. The following is a list of sections with available seats as of Friday afternoon, August 24.

SS201T The Sustainable Core. Our introductory course, featuring a variety of speakers giving students insight into the ways different disciplines approach sustainability on campus. This course satisfies the General Education Menu T (Ways of Thinking, Knowing, Doing) requirement. As of August 24, the Thursday morning section has ten seats available.

SSWI222G Making/Faking Nature. This course explores a wide range of philosophical conceptions of nature and examines how these theories have influenced the way we treat our environment, animals, and each other. We will consider, among other things, whether nature is dead, if there was ever such a thing as wilderness, whether we can restore or improve nature, and if so, who should have the power and authority to do so. Readings are selected from a variety of fields in the social sciences and cultural studies. As of August 24, the Friday morning section has one seat available.

MSCI 270 Ecology. This course provides a background in the fundamental principles of ecological science, including concepts of natural selection, population and community ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability. Students will acquire an “ecological literacy” about how the natural world works, and develop an understanding of how scientific methods are used to construct ecological knowledge. This course is required of all Sustainability Studies minors. As of August 24, the Wednesday morning section has six seats available, and the Wednesday afternoon section has six seats available.

MSWI 270C Ecology, Environment, and Anthropocene. Like any other organism, humans rely on their environment-most prominently the living part of that environment-in order to survive. But unlike any other species, humans have the ability to re-shape the diverse environments they inhabit in profound, fundamental, and potentially destructive ways. This course explores how living ecosystems function and how that functioning provides the resources required by both individual humans and the societies we form. This course may be used to fulfill the MSCI 270  requirement for Sustainability Studies minors and also satisfies the General Education writing intensive requirement. As of August 24, the Monday morning section has two seats available, and the Monday early afternoon section has one seat available.

MSCI 381 Green Building Science. This course will equip students with the basic technical knowledge they will need to assess the true sustainability of design and construction options in building design. Drawing on physics, engineering, chemistry, and environmental studies, students will learn how to understand the performance of a building from the perspectives of water use and waste disposal, heat flow and energy consumption, air flow and the indoor environment, fenestration and lighting requirements. By the conclusion of the course, students will have a clear understanding of how to advance in the field of sustainable building, including familiarity with carbon footprints, the US Green Building Council’s LEED program, and the Passive House standard. As of August 24, the Wednesday evening section has eight seats available.

IND 487 Sustainability and Production. This course explores issues of sustainability and social responsibility in product design with an emphasis on materials and supply chain flows. The importance of the designer’s role in understanding the environmental and social consequences of creating and producing products will be emphasized. Intended for the advanced undergraduate, studies on the impacts of production and consumption will be covered through readings, class discussions, and lecture materials. Students will be introduced to tools to assess the environmental impacts of products and services to create baseline models; their findings will be used to develop alternative concepts that reduce environmental impacts of products. As of August 24, the Wednesday afternoon section has fourteen seats available.

INT 481 Interior Option Lab: Environmental Quality. The Interior Options Lab provides the opportunity for hands on exploration in selected areas of interest. Projects will explore detail areas of Interior Design rather that full interior Environments. As of August 24, the Monday afternoon section has ten seats available. 

SUST 430 Planet Ocean. Ocean acidification. Exterminated fish. Bleached corals. This course travels to the planet’s last frontier-the ocean-to understand the root causes of its deterioration and to connect to its force and splendor. Students explore islands and waves, empires and economies, nightmares and fantasies among sailors, surfers, scientists and slaves. Our goal is to make visible the hidden but consequential practices unfolding at sea so that we think the “planet” beyond land-based perspectives. As of August 24, the Tuesday morning section has one seat available, and the Tuesday afternoon section has one seat available.

SUST 440 Environmental Economics. This course examines theories and methods of economics relevant for understanding the environment. It combines theoretical analyses and economic history to understand the social forces relevant to sustainability and climate change with discussions on specific environmental policies related to pollution, energy, climate change, and health issues. Specific topics addressed include externalities, property rights, economies of scale, competition and concentration, distribution, growth and development, and demographic shifts. Alternative policies will be addressed including regulation, cost-benefit analysis, population controls, fines and criminal penalties, the carbon tax, cap-and trade, green technologies, campaigns to change consumer behavior, and anti-poverty programs. As of August 24, the Monday morning section has four seats available.

SUST 445 Sustainable Technology. This course considers the microeconomics and macroeconomics of technological change and what determines which technologies become widely adopted. Specific sectors which will be examined include transportation, energy production, construction, and food production. Energy-saving and resource-saving technologies in other sectors will also be considered. The role of the public sector-both on a national and international level-will be addressed. As of August 24, the Monday afternoon section has six seats available.

Seat availability is likely to change quickly, so be sure to confirm registration if any of these classes particularly appeal to you.

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A Quick Reading List on American White Supremacy.

With the start of a new school year, a reminder that history provides important context for the present day. Here is a brief, by no means comprehensive, list of books that provide context for our times.

Suitable for General US History Survey Courses:
Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People.

Kalil Gibran Muhammed, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.

Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States.

Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940.

C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.

Suitable for Environmental History and Environmental Studies Courses:
Carolyn Finney, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors.

Sylvia Hood Washington, Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954.

…and I will mention that I organized my book Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States (out in paperback on September 1) so that it could be used in either surveys of general US history or American environmental history.

Pratt Sustainability Studies Minor Resources

PrattEastBuildingA new semester begins Monday, and Pratt students with questions about the Sustainability Studies minor can find some answers in the following places:

What classes count for the minor? We have a list of the permanent catalog courses that may be used for the minor on the minor’s web site.

How do I declare the minor? Check with your academic advisor to ensure you have enough time in your schedule to complete the minor as well as your major and general education requirements. If you do, download this form and arrange to see me. We’ll discuss your schedule, and once I approve you for the minor you can bring it back to your advisor [EDIT] go to Myrtle Hall and turn it in to the Registrar’s Office and be registered.

When do you have office hours? I hold regular office hours Tuesdays noon-2pm in DeKalb 108. I can also make appointments at other times pending my teaching schedule and committee obligations.

Does Pratt have sustainability resources on campus? Yes, all sorts. If you are interested in integrating sustainability into your design process, I highly recommend visiting the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies in the basement of the Engineering building for brainstorming and options on sourcing materials, evaluating material choices, and assessing design options. (CSDS just moved into a new, larger space; go down the stairs and follow the signs.)

Art students who would like to conserve supplies can check out Turn Up Art’s room to get salvaged materials. Turn Up Art is also in the basement of the Engineering building.

The library’s expert research librarians have developed a set of useful LibGuides for pursuing sustainability research. Here’s one for the Sustainable Core course. We have access to several databases relevant to sustainability, including Building Green (case studies of sustainable architecture projects around the world) and Material ConneXion (materials library in Manhattan with searchable database indexed on materiality issues such as durability, toxicity, recyclability, and just about any factor a designer would want to consider for clothing, buildings, furniture, or the range of designed goods). Access is free for Pratt students logged in through the campus network.

Does Pratt have student groups interested in environmental issues? Yes. Pratt Envirolutions meets regularly during the school year; the faculty advisor in 2015-16 is my officemate Professor Jen Telesca. Pratt’s chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) regularly undertakes political action campaigns related to the environment. Pratt students have also worked with groups such as Greenpeace, though the two organizations above have perhaps the most visible presence on campus.

What do I do if I have questions about the minor that are not answered by this page? Talk with me and I will do my best to answer them.

Pratt Sustainability Studies Minor Resources

Registration for Fall 2015 is upon us at Pratt, and the Institute has updated its website. Students wanting to register for sections relevant to the Sustainability Studies minor can click on this link, scroll down to the bottom half, and click on each linked course to see scheduling and availability of sections. Next term, my classes include a Friday morning section of SUST 201 The Sustainable Core and a Tuesday afternoon section of SUST 405 Production, Consumption, and Waste.

Students interested in declaring the minor should speak to their advisor and also to me prior to declaring. The minor declaration form may be downloaded here.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pratt’s Sustainability Minor (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Pratt_DeKalbAt Pratt, we are fine-tuning our social media, and one of the results of that effort is the new, updated Sustainability Studies minor page. Pratt undergraduates curious about their options in the 15-credit minor can see which courses are required, what electives are offered, and follow links to those courses’ links in the schedule.

The department is likely to expand the list of elective offerings for the minor in the future, and this page is an excellent resource for students curious about the program. If you are interested in the program or its courses, feel free to ask me questions.

Andrew Patner

XPATNER-CST-020415-04.JPG

Andrew Patner’s author photo for the I.F. Stone biography. Taken about six years after his teaching stint at KAM.

Andrew Patner, who died yesterday after a brief illness, spent decades as a critic, radio host, and author in our home city of Chicago. His death is hitting the city’s arts community hard, as it should. He’s spent decades discussing classical music, jazz, and literature there, and his perspective will be greatly missed.

My experience of Andrew is as a reader, but also as a student.  The year before my Bar Mitzvah, Andrew attempted to herd the cats that were the 12-year-olds at Hyde Park’s KAM Isaiah Israel. Andrew exhibited unending patience with us before moving on to complete his education and begin his career.

My family moved to California the year after my Bar Mitzvah, but I’d occasionally cross paths with Andrew. I read his biography of I.F. Stone with interest when it came out in 1988, saw him at a memorial service for deceased University of Chicago professor Hans Zeisel a few years later, and, when I returned to Chicago, regularly read his work. (Which was easy, as Andrew was prolific.)

About five years ago, shortly after I began teaching at Roosevelt University, I went to the Spertus Institute to see Lee Shai Weissbach discuss his history of small-town Jews. Andrew and his mother Irene were in attendance, so we caught up. My book on the scrap recycling industry had come up in the discussion, and it interested Andrew. He related his family connection to the trade as a cousin of Michigan’s famed Padnos family (whose archival materials had been among the sources I used in my dissertation), and we chatted about the legacy of American Jews in the scrap trade.

His connection to the scrap trade should not have been a surprise; Andrew seemed to have connections everywhere. He was also a friend of Studs Terkel, and when I heard the sad news yesterday, I spent an hour listening to the two polymaths discuss everything from the University of Chicago Law School to Mahalia Jackson. The conversation represented the best of what I remember about Hyde Park, and it’s a good way to remember him.

Spring 2015 Sustainability Classes Begin at Pratt

Pratt_DeKalbThe Spring 2015 semester begins at Pratt today, and students in the Sustainability Studies minor have several options for classes.

Some sections (including SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit and MSCI 438-01 Chemistry of Modern Poly Materials) have filled to capacity, but other options remain for Pratt students interested in taking sustainability-related coursework from the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies. (There are also options in other departments; discuss them with your academic advisor.)

I am leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching SUST 201 The Sustainable Core, which remains open for registration.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2015: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

In addition, Assistant Professor Jennifer Telesca (Pratt’s newest Sustainability faculty member) has two new special topics courses of interest.  The first is SS 490-15 Environmental Justice, offered Thursdays from 2-4:50pm. While aspects of EJ are covered in SUST 201, SUST 401, and SUST 405, this seminar gives students the opportunity to have in-depth discussions of equity issues relating to the environment.

Jen Telesca is also teaching two sections of The Human-Animal Relationship. While the Tuesday section (SS 490-21, Tuesdays from 2-4:50pm) is filled to capacity, SS 490-22 is offered Wednesdays from 9:30am-12:30pm and has spaces available.

There are no prerequisites for any of these courses. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.