The US’s first STARS gold member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the University of Colorado at Boulder is committed to sustainability in our practices as a campus, in our research, and in our curriculum. To further these goals, the Program for Writing and Rhetoric has dedicated itself to providing interested students with sustainability-based classes. We teach courses at the first-year and upper-division level that consider sustainability in various media: in print, on film, on the Web, in art, in fact, and in fiction. Over 20 PWR faculty integrate sustainability concerns into their courses. In April 2012, the Program for Writing and Rhetoric received the Campus Sustainability Award from CU's Environmental Center.

PWR Receives 2012 Campus Sustainability Award

The Program for Writing and Rhetoric has received one of the University of Colorado’s Campus Sustainability Awards, which are given each April to outstanding individuals and departments demonstrating a strong commitment to reducing CU-Boulder’s impact on the environment.

Under the leadership of Director John Ackerman, the Program for Writing and Rhetoric has become a powerful force for the education of students in sustainability through the establishment of a Sustainability Committee in 2009.The committee strives to incorporate the theme of sustainability into writing courses, rhetoric classes and specific assignments within the program. This integration promotes both—awareness within the student body of a larger goal within the community—as well as an innovative approach to the subject of sustainability.

Students are asked to read articles on sustainability from sources like The New York Times, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, New York Magazine and others to discuss not only the content and the method, but also the purpose of the writing and how effectively it presents the ideas of the author.In this fashion, students learn how to write and think in an in-depth manner concerning issues such as sustainability and human impact on the environment. The hope is that this also teaches them how to find credible and persuasive evidence to support their stances, by understanding the mechanics of an effective argument.

Another exercise implemented by the program is one in which students are asked to record their food consumption for 24 hours and then, after doing so, to pick one food item from that list to investigate—to learn what the various food sources are that provide different food products—as well as to help students become more-informed consumers.This encourages students to then research which foods have negative impacts upon the ecosystem because of how they are produced, as well as the conditions of the workers producing these foods.

The committee consists of seven members, as well as a number of devotees, while at least 20 of PWR’s teachers are shaping their courses to better cater to the issue of sustainability and to better promote awareness among the 8,000 students who pass through the department each year.In March 2011, the Sustainability Committee held a seminar for PWR faculty surrounding the sustainability concerns that face the CU community and how to best incorporate these topics into writing and rhetoric courses.

This year, the Sustainability Committee is organizing two presentations on sustainability and rhetoric, compiling readings involving the issue, organizing a faculty reading group specifically dedicated to sustainability and actively reaching out to community partners to establish ties that will aid in the development of service-learning projects for students.