Monday, August 3, 2009 - 2:30 PM

COS 5-4: The politics of green: Civically engaging undergraduate students

Denise Mitten, Ferris State University and Scott M Herron, Ferris State University.


Ferris State University is one of eight institutions participating in the Political Engagement Project (PEP) sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and The New York Times. The project strives to create a civically engaged campus through classroom initiatives across disciplines and in a wide variety of campus activities.  The take home message from this presentation will be learning about a model of success for civically engaging undergraduate students leading to a civically engaged college campus environment. This presentation fits well with this year’s conference theme:  Ecological Knowledge and a Global Sustainable Society. The PEP model provides a venue for transferring ecological knowledge to application. Students at Ferris have used ecological knowledge to evaluate concentrated animal feed operations, phosphorous lawn fertilizer laws, storm runoff issues, and more.

Each semester, the PEP steering committee picks a campus theme. Spring 2008 the theme was global warming featuring a community and university forum discussing local environmental issues. In spring 2009 the theme was Politics of Green including speakers on environmental justice, an environmental film series, and hosting the Michigan Energy Conference.

Ecology, biology and natural resource management professors have been able to lead the campus in helping students understand a number of environmental issues facing humans globally and Michigan in particular. Through using experiential learning activities professors have helped students research problems, offer solutions, and educate others on a number of environmental issues. When involved in these class and co-curricular activities students begin to understand that a strong foundation in ecology is essential in order to be able to apply ecological principles, such as restoration ecology, population dynamics, and carrying capacity, to problem solving or to evaluating ecologically sensitive issues. In a non- partisan manner, ecologists and scientists can contribute to creating and maintain a global sustainable society.