Students in John Saunders' courses at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus learn about sustainability and environmentally friendly living practices, largely through hands-on activities and outdoor excursions.

Courtesy Photo

Students in John Saunders' courses at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus learn about sustainability and environmentally friendly living practices, largely through hands-on activities and outdoor excursions.

Colorado Mountain College courses turn green

Courses in a variety of subjects focus on sustainability

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Courtesy Photo

Pete Huber assists teaching during John Saunders' Mountain Orientation course on Southern Medicine Bow Mountain. More than 30 courses at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus include an element of sustainability and "green living."

— Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus is quickly turning green, as a faculty and student initiative is bringing a focus on sustainability and eco-consciousness to a wide range of courses. From business to orienteering and literature to economics, professors at CMC's Steamboat Springs campus are infusing their curriculum with lessons about environmental impacts and awareness.

As students prepare to enroll for the new school year, they have a choice of more than 30 "eco-focused" courses.

Professors say the reconfiguration serves a variety of goals. It creates continuity between courses, brings additional awareness to environmental issues and makes good business sense.

Jeff Troeger, professor of Introduction to Business and Environmental Economics courses, said students will benefit from understanding the economics of sustainable living, and will have more chances to make another kind of green as well.

"What's interesting in the business world is that the modern, more progressive companies are saying, 'this is an economic advantage, and we can distinguish ourselves from our competitors,'" Troeger said. "There's nothing wrong with doing good and making money at the same time."

Students in Troeger's courses learn about how market forces are changing to fit a sustainable ethic.

"I think a lot of people don't understand, but we're absolutely in one of the most fundamental changes in terms of civilization," Troeger said. "The old era is over, and it's not coming back. It's never coming back."

The curriculum for the courses remains primarily the same, said associate professor John Saunders, who teaches Wilderness and the American Ethic, among other courses.

"I told my students two years ago that if they want to get in a job market with some longevity and want to give back (to society), anything with sustainability in the name is a good bet," he said.

Wilderness and the American Ethic, which Saunders co-teaches with Becky Potter, encourages students to rethink their associations with nature.

"In that class, we are going to be looking at how we currently view wilderness," Potter said. "How we view our relationship with the land, how our cultural paradigms affect that relationship. It's a way to have our students become more aware of all the influences that have caused them to have their current relationship with wilderness, land and landscape."

The course already is filled for the beginning of next year, even before official registration begins.

Bridging gaps

Potter also is bringing a wilderness ethic to her English Composition courses. She said the courses are a good fit for the school and its students.

"I think these types of courses are fairly tailor-made for our students. They tend to be in Steamboat because they enjoy the outdoors," she said.

A consistent eco-focus also brings continuity to the coursework, she said, so when students move from one discipline to the next throughout their day, there is a thread that ties it all together.

"There's lots of 'aha' moments. It allows a flow of conversations across all disciplines," Potter said. "We talk about everything from religion to philosophy to politics to biology."

Troeger said many professors had been using an eco-focus in their own courses throughout the college, but it was not until they all came together for a group discussion that the program became cohesive.

"There were islands of courses where people had started to bring sustainability into their coursework," he said. "Several different faculty members started meeting informally and, all of the sudden, we came up with close to 20 courses."

Regular, fall registration for CMC's Steamboat campus begins Monday. Classes begin Aug. 25 for all Colorado Mountain College campuses.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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