Sustainability in Teaching, Research, and Community Practice: The FCS Department at California State University, Northridge

By Pontikis, Kyriakos; Martin, Allen et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Sustainability in Teaching, Research, and Community Practice: The FCS Department at California State University, Northridge


Pontikis, Kyriakos, Martin, Allen, Cai, Yi, Kim, Jongeun, Cao, Wei, Giordano, Angie, Torabian-Riasati, Setareh, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how a large comprehensive family and consumer sciences unit has incorporated sustainability into its curriculum and research agenda. It summarizes how each area within the department (Interior Design, Apparel Design and Merchandising, Consumer Affairs, Family Studies, Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science) has been addressing sustainability concepts. It also explains how faculty came together to offer a co-taught seminar that combines sustainability concepts across the department. A brief description of this seminar, including learning objectives and outcome measures, is presented. This article offers an agenda for departmental curricular and research activities-some of which are student centered or collaborations among faculty-that incorporate sustainability knowledge and practices within the local and global communities.

The body of knowledge that shapes the current and future generation of family and consumer sciences (FCS) students is articulated in the Accreditation Documents for Undergraduate Programs in Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS, 2010). This body of knowledge consists of core concepts (basic human needs, individual well-being, family strengths, and community vitality), integrative elements (life course development, human ecosystem), and cross-cutting themes (capacity building, global interdependence, resource development and sustainability, appropriate use of technology, and wellness). According to this document:

Resource development and sustainability involves managing resources wisely, protecting the environment, promoting sustainable practices, and creating public policy from generation to generation. (AAFCS, 2010, pp. 57-58).

Sustainability is one of the critical elements of knowledge that all FCS students are expected to learn. This large, comprehensive FCS unit at California State University (CSU) has incorporated sustainability into its curriculum and research agenda. The purpose of this article is to summarize how each area within the department has been addressing sustainability concepts. It also covers how faculty from each area came together to offer a co-taught seminar that combines sustainability concepts across the department. A brief description of the seminar, including course learning objectives and outcome measures, is presented. The article offers an agenda for future departmental curricular and research activities, some of which are student centered and/or collaborations among faculty, incorporating sustainability knowledge and practices within the community.

INTERIOR DESIGN (ID)

The undergraduate ID program teaches a variety of courses that have substantial sustainability content. In these courses - History of Intertors and Architecture, Introductory Textiles, Materials Standards and Specifications, Lighting and Mechanical Systems, and Interior Design Studios - students learn sustainable design theories, concepts, practices, and applications. Knowledge gained is brought into the capstone class, Senior Comprehensive ID Studio, in which students design a 12,000-15,000 sq. ft. sustainability project. In the capstone class, students learn sustainable building processes such as pattern languages (Alexander, Ishikawa, & Silverstein, 1977), generative design (Alexander, 2003), and green building. The outcome of the class is the development of "a green pattern language" (Pontikis, in press) - used as a programming tool - a set of working drawings, models, details, green material samples board, and specifications, all aimed at the creation of a sustainable building environment (Pontikis, 2010a).

The graduate program specializes in sustainable interior design. This specialization, titled "The Humane Green" (Pontikis, 2010a), integrates the two predominant models of sustainable design: "green design," the aim of which is to address technical aspects of buildings, and "humane design," which addresses livable and responsive qualities of buildings.

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