Cecilia Cassidy
Climate Change
Spring 2024

Interrupt & Integrate: Environmental Courses Under Development at Georgetown

By Keaton Nara, COL ’22 & Earth Commons Post-Bac Fellow

Illustration of figures thinking and investigating while on top of a book. Design by Cecilia Cassidy.

Interrupt and integrate. 

These two verbs are the foundational goals of a new series of one-credit courses offered by the Red House and Joint Environment and Sustainability Program (JESP). Having first launched in fall 2023, these seminars offer students the opportunity to “interrupt” their relationship with a variety of environmental topics, followed by a focus to “integrate” new material and skills learned throughout the year in the different foundational courses in JESP. 

In designing these courses, we set out to achieve two complementary goals. 

First, we wanted to create an iterative reflective opportunity within students’ learning journeys — to hold space at the beginning and end of each semester for students to collaboratively explore their own relationship to the environment. As students move through their classes and build their working knowledge, it is important to reflect on what assumptions they hold and can identify, and then proceed to deconstruct bias while discussing these implications. 

Second, we wanted to create more opportunities for students to integrate knowledge, skills and perspectives from a variety of different disciplines. We use these courses to discuss the connections between different classes — including vastly different subjects — all while focused on a central theme. Collaboratively connecting the material between these courses is essential to creating both a cohesive learning engagement, as well as cohort sensibility.

The fall 2023 series of “interruption and integration” courses consisted of ENST-1008 Interruptions: Ecological Belonging and ENST-1009 Integrations: Environment & Wellbeing. To get a better understanding of what each course offers, here is a brief summary of their respective goals. 

Interruption: Ecological Belonging

This course is an introduction to a new way of thinking, which we are calling “ecological belonging.” In this class, students will evaluate their connections to the environment and how their sense of belonging is interwoven with both nature and the multiple ecosystems in which we live. We will discuss how these connections need to be reoriented in order to assure a sustainable future across our communities. This reorientation will be rooted in a complex systems view of the world that, at the same time, rejects linear and solutionist thinking, while also favoring a new way of thinking that begins with inner work and balances knowledge with uncertainty.

Integration: Environment and Wellbeing

This closing integration course is focused on exploring the interconnectedness of our personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of the world. In this course, we strive to cultivate a sense of hope and agency as we confront the challenging reality of our environmental conditions. Our work centers on one question: “What does it mean to be well in an unwell world?”

As displayed in the opening syllabus lines of these courses, there is a strong emphasis on questioning our perspectives and balancing both the internal and the external within our lives. In the first fall launch of these courses, we witnessed students creatively embrace these new ways of thinking via group discussions, art, technology and storytelling in order to explore different dimensions of their interdisciplinary course work. We want to continue developing these courses as spaces for students to reflect on and reconnect with their knowledge, practices and values as we collectively confront the world’s wicked problems.

The interruption and integration courses have been developed and taught by a collaborative teaching team, with Professor Randall Amster as the faculty of record, joined by Noah Martin, Randall Bass, Jan Menafee and myself. In the spring of 2024, we will run new interruptions, ENST-1018, and integrations, ENST-1019, seminars focused on Environment and Power.

climate change
Environmental Studies