Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Building sustainable communities through experiential learning and geographic research: campus as a living learning lab.


Geography & Planning Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


University campuses and surrounding communities represent a unique, still under-utilized resource for sustainability education. Although local field research is common in geography undergraduate curriculum, it rarely uses holistic approach to teaching sustainability science through community-based applied research and service learning. GVSU geographers have embarked upon a journey to build a sustainable university campus integrating geography and planning curriculum and undergraduate student research with campus infrastructure and community development plans. This paper examines specific examples, such as GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project, Storm-Water Management System Plan, and Climate Action Plan that were used as opportunities to integrate university institutional policies and campus infrastructure projects with geography courses through undergraduate student research. Each case study analyzes three aspects of sustainability education: learning and assessing sustainable practices, applying geographic research to improve campus infrastructure, and integrating community- based research with civic engagement. The paper will emphasize three major learning outcomes from these projects: - An integrated sustainable campus is a complex integrated dynamic system, involving learning, infrastructure and community subsystems. - Geography is one of the core disciplines in sustainability curriculum. Through interdisciplinary integration students explore spatial patterns linking environmental, economic, cultural, and political processes. - Such integration of learning, infrastructure and community subsystems would be impossible without close collaboration of faculty, students, senior management system, and staff, as well as involvement of the local and regional community.

Conference Name

AAg Annual Conference

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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