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Session Summary: Sustainability Cross-Disciplinarity

Submitted by: Becky Jacobs, University of Tennessee

Session Summary: Sustainability Cross-Disciplinarity: Collaborating Across Colleges and Campuses

On Saturday afternoon, Becky Jacobs, University of Tennessee; Noah Sachs, University of Richmond; and Judd Sneirson, Savannah Law School, moderated a lively discussion about cross-disciplinary initiatives involving law schools. Participants, including Joan Heminway, University of Tennessee; Marcia Narine Weldon, University of Miami; Lee C. Paddock, George Washington; Edward Richards, LSU; Keith Rizzardi, St. Thomas; Karen Woody, Indiana Vanessa Zboreak, Wake Forest; and several distinguished guests discussed existing, proposed, and aspirational sustainability programs on their respective campuses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and the law school’s involvement therein. A number of schools have either graduate or undergraduate degree programs or minors, with several law schools offering joint degree opportunities for J.D./LLM students.

Discussants from a number of schools described the Centers or Institutes that promote sustainability on their campuses and discovered that they have varying focuses, i.e., scholarly endeavors and/or research, degree-granting, and programming.  These “centers” are housed in various colleges at different campuses.

The discussants also shared their experiences and suggestions on the benefits and the challenges of teaching in an inter-disciplinary classroom, including grading issues; material selection; the level of detail required for law students to master non-law materials; and teaching load issues. A number of schools also offer service and/or experiential learning opportunities, and the group considered how schools might create or expand those types of courses.

Of great interest to all was the conversation about definitional and ideological/political issues that have arisen or that may arise relating to sustainability programming and activities. Nomenclature and framing figured into this conversation with a consideration of student, administrative, alumni/donor, and legislative pushback or objections.

The group explored the benefits to law schools and to individual faculty from interdisciplinary research and debated ideas on how schools and individual professors might reach out to scholars in other departments, or, in the case of a stand-alone law school such as Savannah, at other campuses. A number of concrete suggestions came from this discussion, all of which the group hopes to continue to explore in more detail in the future.

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