Sustainability & Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative

The S&EJ initiative is designed to increase faculty engagement with sustainability and environmental justice in the curriculum and facilitate integration of these topics into existing courses. This across-the-curriculum approach has proven effective to foster a culture of sustainability at dozens of colleges and universities.   

Wesleyan's program began in 2016 with a workshop/seminar series and now includes faculty gatherings and an annual request for proposals to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. 

Learn more about the program through the tabs below. If you have questions, please email Elan Abrell (Coordinator, Sustainability and Environmental Justice; Assoc. Prof. of the Practice in Environmental Studies, Science in Society, & Integrative Sciences) or Jen Kleindienst (Sustainability Director).

  • Request for Proposals

    Wesleyan’s Sustainability & Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative seeks to increase the number of Wesleyan courses that integrate sustainability and/or environmental justice into the curriculum to enhance students' exposure and deepen faculty research in this critical area. This across-the-curriculum approach has proven to be an effective way to foster a culture of sustainability at dozens of colleges and universities. In 2024, we awarded $500-1000 stipends to 8 Wesleyan faculty to modify existing courses to incorporate themes related to sustainability and/or environmental justice.

    The 2024 request for proposals is now closed.  We will open the next RFP process in Fall 2024.  

    Please direct questions to Elan Abrell.

  • Sustainability & Environmental Justice Criteria

    Wesleyan Sustainability & Environmental Justice Course Criteria

    Developed October 2016 and revised in January 2018 by the faculty cohort

    The criteria below are used to provide parameters for determining whether courses include sustainability and/or environmental justice content.  The criteria can also guide faculty in submitting requests for proposals for the S&EJ Initiative and to evaluate whether their course is a good fit for the S&EJ course cluster.


    Courses are considered to have a sustainability component when they engage in any of the following explorations:

    1. Explore the relationship between power, social inequities and the development of just and sustainable communities.

    2. Explore how diversity, including biodiversity and/or cultural diversity, contributes to sustainable systems.

    3. Explore dynamics of production and consumption as they relate to environmental health and human well-being and explore strategies for developing sustainable life practices.

    4. Explore how social systems promote, or fail to promote, cultures of sustainability, especially in terms of tolerance, non-violence and peace.

    5. Explore how human well-being depends on ecosystem processes and materials.

    6. Explore the politics and/or economics of sustainable development including its social benefits and environmental costs, and raise critical questions about what development and progress mean for different communities.

    7. Explore how science and technology shape environmental and public health at both the local and global levels.

    8. Explore multiple ways of representing and understanding humans’ relationships to the environment, and how taken-for-granted metaphors and stories can promote or damage environmental and public health.

    These potential explorations are not exhaustive of all of the possible courses that might contain a sustainability component.

    Courses that Include Sustainability Content

    STARS assessment tool: “Courses that are primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability, but incorporate a unit or module on sustainability or a sustainability challenge, include one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrate sustainability issues throughout the term.”

    Courses that are Sustainability Focused

    STARS assessment tool: “Courses in which the primary and explicit focus is on sustainability and/or on understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenge.”

    Courses are considered to be sustainability-focused when they focus significantly on any of the eight explorations above.

  • Course Cluster

    The Sustainability & Environmental Justice course cluster offers an opportunity to identify courses that have been part of this initiative and others engaging on these topics.

    In 2019, Wesleyan launched a new course cluster in sustainability & environmental justice.  Encompassing climate change, ecological sustainability, and environmental justice, this course cluster recognizes that sustainability and environmental justice are (or should be) central to public policy debates, scientific and intellectual inquiry, and the foundations of social and economic life. By framing sustainability and environmental justice together, we draw attention to equitable access to protection to all species without unfairly distributing risk of harm to some individuals and groups that live within them.

    This course cluster is intended to cut across Wesleyan’s academic divisions and within all disciplines, whether natural, social, or humanistic modes of thought and practice. A course cluster also makes these courses easier to find for both students and faculty advisors (especially important as they cross both disciplinary and divisional lines), attract prospective students to Wesleyan, and raise awareness of this field among students and faculty. Refer to the list of criteria above for ideas of what course content might be included in this course cluster.

    To submit a course to the cluster, please contact Elan Abrell.

  • Faculty Cohort

    The following faculty have completed the Sustainability & Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative (2019-present) or Sustainability Across the Curriculum Program (2016-2018) and are part of a growing faculty cohort interested in expanding sustainability integration into courses.

    1. Elan Abrell - ENVS (2022, 2023, leading S&EJ Initiative 2023 - present)
    2. Abigail Boggs - SOC, FGSS, EDST (2020)
    3. Katie Brewer Ball - THEA, AFAM, FGSS (2020, 2024)
    4. Peggy Carey Best - SOC (2016)
    5. Lisa Cohen - ENGL, FGSS (2023)
    6. Andy Curran - FREN (2023)
    7. Katherine Brunson - ARCP, CEAS (2021)
    8. Carolina Diaz - RLL, LAST, FGSS (2022, 2023, 2024)
    9. Kim Diver - E&ES (2016)
    10. Benjamin Elling - CHEM/CIS (2023)
    11. Paul Erickson - HIST, SISP, ENVS (2018)
    12. Candice Etson - PHYS (2018)
    13. Courtney Fullilove - HIST (2022)
    14. Giulio Gallarotti - GOVT (2022)
    15. Elaine Gan - SISP, FGSS (2023, 2024)
    16. Megan Glick - AMST, SISP, FGSS (2020)
    17. Amy Grillo - CSPL/ENVS (2023)
    18. Tony Hatch - SISP, AFAM, ENVS, SOC (2016; led S&EJ Initiatve 2019 - 2023)
    19. Ron Jenkins - THEA (2021)
    20. Bill Johnston - HIST, CEAS, SISP, ENVS (2016)
    21. Yu Nong Khew - ARST (2024)
    22. Valeria Lopez Fadul - HIST, LAST (2022)
    23. Emy Matesan - GOVT, CSS (2023)
    24. Robin Mazzola - THEA (2022)
    25. Elizabeth McAlister - RELI, FYS (2022)
    26. Marguerite Nguyen - ENGL, CEAS, ENVS (2020)
    27. Kristin Oberiano - HIST, AMST (2022)
    28. Suzanne OConnell - E&ES, CIS (2016; led S&EJ Initative 2016 - 2019)
    29. Marcela Oteíza - THEA, DANC, COE (2021, 2023)
    30. Katie Pearl - THEA (2021)
    31. Helen Poulos - ENVS, E&ES (2019)
    32. Joyce Powzyk - BIOL (2019)
    33. Justine Quijada - RELI, REES, ENVS (2016)
    34. Mary-Jane Rubenstein - RELI, FGSS, SISP (2019)
    35. Joseph Russo - ANTH (2024)
    36. Hirsh Sawhney - ECON (2020)
    37. Olga Sendra Ferrer - RLL (2020, 2024)
    38. Anu Sharma - ANTH, FGSS (2021)
    39. Sadia Shepard - FILM (2021)
    40. Meng-Ju (Renee) Sher - PHYS (2022)
    41. Anna Shusterman - PSYC, EDST (2016, 2020)
    42. Zaira Simone-Thompson - AFAM (2023)
    43. Elise Springer - PHIL, FGSS (2016)
    44. Brian Stewart - PHYS, ENVS (2022)
    45. Ying Jia Tan - HIST, CEAS (2018, 2023)
    46. Amy Tang - ENGL, AMST (2024)
    47. Roman Utkin - REES, FGSS (2021)
    48. Lauren van Haaften-Schick - CHUM (2023)
    49. Danielle Vogel - ENGL (2019)
    50. Clifton Watson - CSPL (2020, 2022)
    51. Sarah Wiliarty - GOVT, CSS, FGSS, GRST (2023, 2024)
    52. Camilla Zamboni - ITAL, EDST (2020)

    Faculty who have participated but are no longer teaching at Wesleyan

    1. Tess Bird - SISP (2019)
    2. Kate Galloway - MUSC (2018)
    3. Anisha Gupta - CHEM (2020)
    4. Jan Naegele - NS&B, BIOL, CIS (2016; co-founded S&EJ Initiative)
    5. Jennifer Raynor - ECON (2020)
    6. Jeanette Samyn - ENGL, CHUM (2016)
    7. Heather Vermeulen - FGSS, AFAM (2020)
  • Amended Courses

    The following courses have been amended through the Sustainability Across the Curriculum Program/Sustainability & Environmental Justice Initiative:

    1. The Abya Yala Connection (Diaz)
    2. Advanced Nonfiction Workshop (Cohen)
    3. Advanced Topics in Condensed Matter (Sher)
    4. Advanced Topics in Performance Studies: Imagining Anticolonial Performance Practices (Brewer Ball)
    5. Afterparty: End times, Pleasure, and Clean Up (Brewer Ball)
    6. American Christianities: What Do Christians Want? (McAlister)
    7. Anthropocene as Modern Grand Narrative (Tan)
    8. Biodiversity and its Histories (Fullilove)
    9. Botanical STS: Plants as Nature, Capital, Empire (Gan)
    10. Britons and other Life Forms (Samyn)
    11. Caribbean Geographies (Simone-Thompson)
    12. Censorship, Culture Wars, and Controversy in Art (van Haaften-Schick)
    13. Chinese Eco-Civilization: History, Experience, and Myths (Tan)
    14. Community-Engaged Qualitative Research: The Other 1% (Grillo)
    15. Community Impact Residency - Fall (Watson)
    16. Community Impact Residency - Spring (Watson)
    17. Conservation Biology (Powzyk)
    18. Cultural Studies of Health (Hatch)
    19. Democracy and Dictatorship: Politics in the Contemporary World (Matesan)
    20. Developmental Neurobiology (Naegele)
    21. Developmental Psychology (Shusterman)
    22. Eat, Grow, Save: The Anthropology of Food and Justice (Sharma)
    23. Eating Others: Histories and Cultures of Animal Edibility (Abrell)
    24. Ecopoetics (Vogel)
    25. Elementary Italian II (Zamboni)
    26. Environmental and Resource Economics (Raynor)
    27. Environmental Justice and Sustainability (Abrell)
    28. Environmental Philosophy (Springer)
    29. Extreme Landscapes of the Anthropocene (Bird)
    30. Film and Anthropology (Russo)
    31. From Chocolate to Coca: Commodities and the Making of Latin America (Lopez Vadul)
    32. Histories of Race: Rethinking the Human in an Era of Enlightenment (Curran)
    33. History of Ecology (Erickson)
    34. Image/Word: Narrative and Photography in Contemporary Spain (Sendra Ferrer)
    35. Incarcerated Stories: Documenting In/Justice (Jenkins)
    36. India and the World: Fiction and Film about India and Globalization (Sawhney)
    37. Indigenous Religions: Politics, Land, Healing (Quijada)
    38. Intermediate Chemistry Laboratory (Gupta)
    39. International Politics (Gallaroti)
    40. Interrogating Sustainability - FYS (Abrell)
    41. Introduction to Archaeology (Brunson)
    42. An Introduction to Collaborative Documentary Filmmaking (Shepard)
    43. Introduction to Directing (Pearl)
    44. Introduction to Environmental Science & Sustainability (OConnell)
    45. Introduction to Environmental Studies (Poulos)
    46. Introduction to (Geo)Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (Diver)
    47. Introduction to Japanese History (Johnston)
    48. Introductory Sociology (Boggs)
    49. Liminal Animals: Animals in Urban Spaces (Abrell)
    50. Litanies for Survival, Plots for Revolution (Vermeulen)
    51. Losers of World War II (Wiliarty)
    52. The Making of Modern Japan, 1500 to the Present (Johnston)
    53. Multispecies Worldbuilding: The Chestnut Project (Gan)
    54. Neuroplasticity: How Experience Changes the Brain (Naegele)
    55. The Other 9/11: Dictatorial and Post-Dictatorial Films and Literature in Chile (Diaz)
    56. Pantheologies- Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, World (Rubenstein)
    57. Principles of Polymer Chemistry (Elling)
    58. Product Design II (Khew)
    59. Production Lab Costume/Wardrobe Section (Mazzola)
    60. Queer Russia (Utkin)
    61. Race and Medicine in America (Glick)
    62. Radical Sustainability (Stewart)
    63. Refugee Literature (Nguyen)
    64. Research Methods in Cognitive Development and Education (Shusterman)
    65. Science Materials for a Malagasy Classroom (Powzyk)
    66. The Secret Life of Waste: Trash in Latin American Art & Literature (Diaz)
    67. Sophomore Government Tutorial: State and Society in the Modern Age (Wiliarty)
    68. The Soviet Century (Utkin)
    69. Space Design for Performance (Oteíza)
    70. Text and Visual Imagination (Oteíza)
    71. Theorizing Religion with Zombies (McAlister)
    72. Thermal and Statistical Physics (Etson)
    73. Time, Masks, Mirrors: Aging in America (Carey Best)
    74. Transpacific Ecologies: Race, Literature, Environment (Tang)
    75. US Overseas Empire (Oberiano)
    76. World Music (Galloway)
  • Program History

    During the 2016-17 school year, Wesleyan organized the first Sustainability Across the Curriculum program through the financial assistance of the Wesleyan Green Fund. A full-day workshop for faculty was held in October 2016, followed by a four-session seminar with the same cohort in November 2016.  

    In 2017-18, the Sustainability Office and Center for Pedagogical Innovation, with support from the College of the Environment, Wesleyan Green Fund, and Academic Affairs, held a second year of Sustainability Across the Curriculum.  A workshop took place in January 2018 and was again followed by a seminar series in Spring 2018.  

    2018-19 saw a greater focus on environmental justice as the program was renamed the Sustainability & Environmental Justice Initiative.  This initiative has continued, supported by financial support from the College of the Environment and Wesleyan Green Fund.

    By the numbers:

    • Year 1 (2016-17): 9 faculty, 10 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Suzanne OConnell)
    • Year 2 (2017-18): 4 faculty, 4 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Suzanne OConnell)
    • Year 3 (2018-19): 5 faculty, 6 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Suzanne OConnell)
    • Year 4 (2019-20): 12 faculty, 15 courses(Faculty Coordinator: Tony Hatch)
    • Year 5 (2020-21): 7 faculty, 8 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Tony Hatch)
    • Year 6 (2021-22): 11 faculty, 15 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Tony Hatch)
    • Year 7 (2022-23): 13 faculty, 13 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Tony Hatch) 
    • Year 8 (2023-24): 8 faculty, 8 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Elan Abrell)
    • Year 9 (2024-25: 8 faculty, 8 courses (Faculty Coordinator: Elan Abrell)
  • What's in it for faculty?

    Program benefits include

    • Collaborating on pedagogy with other faculty
    • Developing and expanding your own pedagogical tools
    • Creating a faculty community focused on sustainability
    • Grants available for course development
  • Faculty Resources
    The Sustainability & Environmental Justice in the Classroom Living Document, originally created by Caelan Desmond ‘24 and Juliette Lilly ‘22, is meant to evolve and be added to over time.  Faculty are invited to share resources relating to environmental justice and sustainability education and their own disciplines by making suggested changes to the document itself.