New Courses for Sustainability Distance Education to be Created through Sustainable Idaho Grants

Monday, April 26 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – Five University of Idaho faculty will receive grants totaling almost $20,000 from the Sustainable Idaho Strategic Initiative through its annual Greening the Curriculum grant competition. The grants will fund the development of new online courses to expand the university’s distance education curriculum related to sustainability.

Selected projects have interdisciplinary appeal and address the three pillars of sustainability – environment, economics and social equity. All courses will be designed for upper division and graduate students, and will launch spring 2011.

Grant recipients are: Maxine Dakins, Environmental Science Program at the university’s Idaho Falls Center; Gary Johnson, Water Resources Research Institute at the Idaho Falls Center; Gregory Moller, Food Science and Toxicology; Julia Parker, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, and Michael O’Rourke, Philosophy.

Dakins will create a course, titled “The History of Energy,” to provide students with a comprehensive historical examination of energy sources and uses worldwide, including early use of biomass for heating and cooking, the Industrial Revolution, and the use of water and wind to power mechanical grinding operations.

Johnson’s course, “Water-Energy Connections,” will emphasize the interconnection of systems and the application of systems dynamics modeling using STELLA software. STELLA is a flexible computer modeling tool that allows students to simulate biological systems.

Moller will create a “Principles of Sustainability” course. Topics will include introductory information about sustainability issues, the culture of waste, sustainability in the built environment, industrial approaches to sustainability, energy and methods of measuring sustainability.

Parker and O’Rourke will address social sustainability through “Case Studies in International Environmental Justice.” Using real-world cases of environmental problems, students will explore the inequity of environmental impacts on people of color, developing nations and women.

Sustainable Idaho participants see these grants as having dual purposes, forwarding SI’s goal of academic transformation through sustainability curricula, and helping the university build its distance education program.

In an atmosphere of strained budgets, distance education can be an efficient way to increase course offerings and enrollment without additional costs. Online courses often allow students greater flexibility in terms of when, where and how they complete a course, which can be especially useful for place-bound students with full-time employment.

The Sustainable Idaho Strategic Initiative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff and students whose goal is to infuse sustainability into academic and operational activities at the University of Idaho. The group is led by the university’s Environmental Science Program and Sustainability Director Darin Saul.

As increasing environmental awareness drives interest in sustainable practices, the University of Idaho continues to seek carbon reduction initiatives to meet the current and future needs of society and to contribute to the quality of life and the natural resources in Idaho, the nation and the world. The University of Idaho emitted 38,981 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2007, which equals 3.59 tons per student. The university has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and has begun the work to reduce carbon emissions across operations. For more information about the university’s sustainability efforts, contact the University of Idaho Sustainability Center at or visit
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit