Unity College to Add Climate Change to All Aspects of Curriculum

By Curtis, Abigail | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), February 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

Unity College to Add Climate Change to All Aspects of Curriculum


Curtis, Abigail, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


UNITY, Maine -- In a Maine winter that has been notable for a historic blizzard, blustery nor'easters and intermittent warm and rainy snaps, Unity College officials are trying to crank up the heat on something that they believe is missing in higher education: an absolute focus on global climate change.

"The young adults in college today will experience progressively dangerous, disruptive climates. There's not a thing on earth we can do to stop that -- it's in the pipeline," Unity College President Stephen Mulkey said recently. "What we can salvage is a livable planet for our grandkids and our children."

Toward that end, Unity College -- which has branded itself as America's Environmental College -- intends to tie every aspect of its curriculum to the mitigation of climate change, according to a press release issued by the institution.

Mulkey said that he believes that there is "no more important mission of higher education" than the teaching of sustainability science, but is disappointed that most other colleges and universities do not seem to agree.

"Sustainability is the thread that connects every discipline in the academy, but the vast majority of institutions have not picked up on that thread," he said.

For years, Unity College has attracted students who are interested in the ideas of wilderness and the environment. Its students can major in disciplines including conservation law enforcement, captive wildlife care and education, environmental writing and media studies, sustainable agriculture and adventure therapy. The student body has often been described as eclectic, with a healthy interest in on-campus activities that include tracking greenhouse emissions and dining at the annual "Hunters & Huggers Dinner," where they can chomp on locally obtained venison as well as vegetarian delicacies.

Students filled a bus that headed south to Washington, D.C., earlier this month for a rally to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would bring oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. They called themselves the "Climate Riders," said Jesse Pyles, the campus sustainability coordinator.

"It feels like it's really kind of codifying our mission on climate change and science," Pyles said of the new curriculum initiative. "That makes us the perfect place to move the dial on climate change, nationally. I think it's a little bit of a shot in the arm. It does bring renewed attention to what we are doing outside of the classroom."

Student Marina Theberge, a 20-year-old sustainable agriculture major from Atkinson, N.H., said that she thinks the change is positive, and timely.

"Every class seems to incorporate more environmental aspects in it," she said.

One of those classes, in the captive wildlife department, is called Enrichment and Exhibit Design. …

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