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Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

Progress: Sustainability in Education

General Education
In Fall 2017, Aquinas College passed a new undergraduate general education learning outcome related to sustainability. The outcomes reads: “Acquire awareness and tools to foster human flourishing and a sustainable world”, and will help assure all of our students graduate with sustainability literacy. It went into effect for the 2018/19 school year.

First Year Experience
One of the practices included in our general education curriculum is a first year experience required by all incoming freshmen. Beginning in Fall Semester 2014, our First Year Seminar includes a series of six lectures for first semester students, each followed by small group discussion and reflection assignments led by full-time faculty members from across the disciplines. The vision of Economicology and sustainability is included in the First Year Seminar.

Dedicated Sustainability Academic Programs:

  • Aquinas College currently offers undergraduate studies in Sustainable Business. The 65-semester hour Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Business major is an interdisciplinary program that integrates science, business and environmental studies. Undergraduate students can also choose to complete the 28-semester hour Sustainable Business minor. >More Information
  • The Environmental Studies major offers a concentration in Sustainability in Policy.

Integrating Sustainability into Existing Programs

Our dedicated sustainable business programs are graduating agents of change each year, but we are also working hard to integrate the concepts of sustainability into existing academic programs. Through our faculty fellows program (which began in 2014), professors from a wide array of disciplines are learning sustainability principles and acquiring the necessary tools to incorporate sustainability. Aquinas uses the AASHE STARS system of identifying courses that are dedicated to sustainability and courses that include sustainability as a module or unit. A few noteworthy data points in the 2019 report include:
• Exceptional performance in the academic section (44.73 out of 58 possible points) and the campus engagement section (17.80 out of 21.0 possible points).
• 20.61% of Aquinas academic courses have a sustainability component, including 21.9% of undergraduate courses and 9.1% of graduate courses.
• 75.8% of academic departments have sustainability course offerings.
Sustainability Research on Campus
Several Aquinas faculty are actively engaged in research-related to sustainability. Please contact them for current research status.

  • Biology: Larry Rob Peters; Rob Bajema
  • Business: Deborah Steketee
  • Chemistry: Jonathan Fritz
  • Community Leadership: Mike Lorr
  • English: Gretchen Rumohr-Voskuil
  • Environmental Studies: Jim Rasmussen
  • Geography: Mary Clinthorne
  • History: Chad Gunnoe
  • Sociology: Mike Lorr
  • Theology: Robert Marko
  • Women’s Studies: Amy-Dunham Strand

“Kool-Aid” Chemistry Lab
people in a labEach year the Chemistry Department performs Spectrometer Experiments.  In past years the chemical solutions used for the experiment were nickel nitrate, copper sulfate, and cobalt chloride.  These compounds are hazardous to human health and the environment among other things.  Nickel nitrate is a cancer causing compound that is extremely toxic to aquatic organisms (MSDS). Copper sulfate is “very toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long term damage in the environment” (MSDS). Cobalt chloride “may cause damage to the upper respiratory tract, skin, eyes, and teeth” (MSDS).
The chemistry department has taken a new approach to this experiment most recently, thanks to Dr. Beth Jensen. This year the department decided to replace these harmful chemicals with Kool-Aid.  Kool-Aid is a non-hazardous mixture that provides color just as well as the previously mentioned compounds.  Kool-Aid does not negatively affect the environment or human health providing for a more environmentally and socially friendly experiment.

*Note: These links are only accessible from the Aquinas computer network and AQNet.