UPIKE: Applied sustainability inspires experiential learning


Staff Report



PIKEVILLE – University of Pikeville students are making connections across academic majors and learning how various fields of study come together.

Students enrolled in “Research in Applied Sustainability,” “Digital Media,” “Regenerative Psychology,” “Diversity and Cultural Competence,” and independent research courses applied their diverse coursework to community-based fieldwork in applied sustainability. Sustainability-related service learning projects took students outside the classroom to a farm in Mt. Vernon, a veterans’ program and a former mine site in Pike County and community gardens in southern West Virginia.

As part of each course, students presented their applied sustainability research and projects during a conference on campus.

“Participating courses within the emerging applied sustainability program at the university are exploring the model of interdisciplinary studies and projects as a valuable educational strategy for developing peer-to-peer relationships with students on campus,” said Eric Mathis, visiting scholar of applied sustainability at UPIKE.

Students in the “Research in Applied Sustainability” course created annotated bibliographies for research areas within the industrial hemp sector including food, bio-pharmaceutical and building materials. The course was taught by Darla French, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology.

A “Regenerative Psychology” class explored three fields of psychology including eco-psychology, complexity theory and psychology of war. A new field in psychology, the discipline collectively examines societal disorders including obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder and violence. Service learning played a role in the course as students worked alongside veterans on gardening projects and cleanup of a local pond.

“Sometimes students don’t understand references but the experiential component brings it all together for them,” said John Howie, Ph.D., professor of psychology.

After working at Healing Ground Farm, social work students prepared a business plan for the sustainable farm in Mt. Vernon which produces veteran-grown pasture-raised pork, poultry, dairy and fresh produce. The “Diversity and Cultural Competence” course was taught by Lisa Theur, associate professor of social work.

Film and media arts students created mini-documentaries featuring members of Sustainable Williamson’s Health Innovation HUB which serves as a vehicle for economic development and neighborhood revitalization in southern West Virginia. The digital media class, taught by Andrew Reed, FMA, assistant professor of film and media arts, presented news pieces during the conference. Documentary projects include, “The Growing Warriors Project,” “Freedom Seed and Feed,” “Amizade Global Service-Learning,” “My Mobile Market,” “Coalfield Development Corporation,” and “Sustainable Pike County.”

Independent student research was also presented during the conference, including a business plan for the Institute for Regenerative Design and Innovation.

Staff Report

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