RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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200 The University in the Anthropocene: Higher Education and Community Engagement in Environmental Management
Affiliation Higher Education Research Group
Convenor(s) Rebecca Farnum (King's College London, UK)
Chair(s) Rebecca Farnum (King's College London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 03 September 2015, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Newman Building - Lecture Theatre C&D
Session abstract Critiques of academia and universities as an “Ivory Tower” are not new. But nor are strong links between the university and its community – through jobs, public lectures, and knowledge exchange. This Session seeks to understand the university’s place in the anthropocene, considering the role of higher education in sustainability efforts. The Session’s focus will be on multi-tiered education and engagement around local environmental management and activism. Examples of this might include:

• programmes in which undergraduate students volunteer in local schools to mentor eco-teams;
• courses involving mandatory volunteering opportunities and/or internships with reflective assignments; and
• scholarship involving local stakeholders for data collection resulting in concrete policy proposals or management suggestions.

This kind of engagement raises multiple questions about matters of educational pedagogy, scientific epistemology, best practices for environmental management, and the function of the university. This Roundtable will consider:

• the value of integrating community engagement in undergraduate education for more powerful and lasting learning outcomes;
• the benefits to be gained through partnerships between higher education institutions and other public and private parties, as well as the costs of those partnerships;
• the goals and responsibilities of research focused on environmental sustainability and development;
• the role of the university in the community: Does academia have a “responsibility” to people or groups?;
• whether activism and engagement detract from the purity and impartiality of academic research or improve its robustness; and
• the extant opportunities for universities to forge partnerships with local schools, organisations, policymakers, and corporations.

Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Keynote: Reflections on the Value of University Engagement
Timothy O'Riordan (University of East Anglia, UK)
Bright Futures: Partnerships between Universities, Scholars, and Schools for Environmental and Social Sustainability
Cherish Watton (University of Cambridge, UK)
Rebecca Farnum (King's College London, UK)
The Norfolk County Council Environmental and Outdoor Learning Team brings high school students from a variety of partner to Holt Hall for educational residential programmes. There, students are joined by County Council staff, university undergraduates, and Marshall Scholars to engage in shared learning leading to action plans for environmental campaigns in their home communities. The most recent of these, “Bright Futures”, focuses on carbon reduction activism and young people’s employability. The programme has successfully run multiple times and is scheduled to be offered four times a year for the next four years, bringing in different school and international partners. To support young students in their environmental work following these residentials, the Council has developed the Carbon Reduction Mentor Fund, partnering university student mentors with high school student participants for sustained training and engagement.
Cherish Watton, an undergraduate student from Cambridge who set up her own eco-business during three gap years to help develop these programmes, will join NCC Educational Associate Rebecca Farnum to present some of the lessons learned and values gained from this multi-tiered mentoring model. They will pull from a dialogue and presentation prepared for the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ “Beyond 2015” Campaign (https://beyond2015.acu.ac.uk/submissions/view?id=123) and consider the costs and benefits from student, university, school, environmental, and scholarship perspectives.
Intrepid Explorers: sharing experiences and learning from field research
Kate Baker (King's College London, UK)
Intrepid Explorers is an educational activity of the Department of Geography, King’s College London. It is run by students who believe that by sharing experiences and learning from field research, we can inspire current and future generations to support and advance science.

The platform started in 2012 when PhD students realised that academics and students within the Department of Geography travel all over the world to conduct field research but on return they disseminate only academic results, with little spoken about the experiences and stories behind the field research. Intrepid Explorers enabled a space for the researchers and guests of the department to communicate life as a field researcher in a manner that is accessible to all. The weekly seminars proved to be successful in engaging students and staff from all research groups, along with the general public. Collaborations and interdisciplinary projects have stemmed from Intrepid Explorers’ seminars and activities.

In 2015, Intrepid Explorers has expanded from a lunchtime seminar series to a platform organising documentary film screenings, evening talks and microadventures.
The seminar convenors have been on panels for RGS EXPLORE and to celebrate International Women's Day Intrepid Explorers in association with the RGS (with IBG) organised an afternoon of talks and films.

Website: http://www.intrepidexplorers.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/intrepidexplorerskcl

Presented by Kate Baker on behalf of the co-creators of Intrepid Explorers; Briony Turner, Faith Taylor and Kate Baker. Department of Geography, King’s College London.
Making a difference: transformative learning approaches to support University students’ confidence and motivation to act as agents of change
Marisa Goulden (University of East Anglia, UK)
Learners, in particular those studying courses related to environment and sustainability challenges, have the potential to act as agents of transformative change through their personal and professional lives. However, little is known about the effectiveness of mainstream academic approaches to environmental education in building the resources and skills that students need to act as agents of change. By focusing on the severity of global environmental problems and theoretical critiques do academics risk overwhelming students and reducing their motivation and sense of efficacy? In this paper, I examine some of the limitations of academic approaches that emphasise cognitive aspects of learning and rarely explore the emotional or existential responses that learners may have.
I draw on the concept of transformative learning to explore teaching and learning experiences that enable deeper emotional engagement with global environment, development and sustainability problems in ways that help shift perspectives and habits and empower students to make a difference. In addition to literature review, this study uses interviews and focus groups to draw on the experiences of learners and teachers on programmes related to Environment and Development. The research finds that students are inspired by fellow students and teachers who have a strong motivation to ‘make a difference’, especially those lecturers who take on a role as agents of change themselves. Opportunities to engage with professionals and communities of practice outside the academy had a positive influence on student motivation and confidence. The paper concludes with suggestions for further strengthening student motivation and confidence to act as agents of transformative change by providing increased opportunities for deeper reflection and action. This includes opportunities to expand project work in partnership with communities and organisations outside academia as well as some of the challenges and benefits of doing this.
Integrating International Volunteering across the University & in the Curriculum
Chloe Hudson (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Oriel Kenny (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Su Robinson (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Volunteering needs to be meaningful both for the volunteer and the host organisation or community. Palacious (2008) suggests that a university-led international volunteering programme may be more legitimate than 'gap year' programmes because a university provides opportunities for accountability, reflection and setting learning outcomes.
Leeds Beckett University has an institutional commitment to volunteering and provides a range of local and international opportunities to support community partners and provide student and staff with challenging and rewarding experiences to help build, knowledge, skills and personal qualities beyond the classroom. As with other experiential learning opportunities, such as internships at festivals and work placements, the opportunity to be immersed in a situation and witness issues first-hand can be stimulating, rewarding and sometimes overwhelming but always provides a unique understanding that cannot be conveyed in class and allows for both reflection and learning about highly nuanced and complex issues encountered but also personal growth which continues long after the project had finished.
Within the university, PAGE (Politics & Applied Global Ethics) has made volunteering an integral part of their courses and designed a module to develop students employabilty skills and reflective capacity but also with the intention of building longer term relationships with host organisations as well as the responsibility of students benefiting to 'pay it forward'.
This paper draws on the authors' experiences of being involved with a range of volunteer experiences, including the Israel Palestine collaboration with Abrahams Path & in country organisations. Our institutional experience is that volunteer participants need to be carefully selected to ensure they have appropriate motivation and skills to engage with the experience, that they need appropriate preparation before and support during the experience and that host organisations need to be equal partners in initiating and facilitating the volunteer experience.