River City Project 2023: Sustainability Across the Curriculum

How can you best integrate a sustainability lens into your teaching, courses, pedagogy, and worldview?


At the University of Richmond, sustainability is defined as the creation of environmental, social, and economic conditions that foster health and well-being for people and the natural world in this generation and for the generations to come. Sustainability is an inherently interdisciplinary approach for shaping a better world and can be applied to any discipline or field. 

The River City Project, UR’s Faculty Development Workshop is focused on creating the space for faculty to ideate how to incorporate the practice and principles of sustainability into their curriculum through exploring various sustainability frameworks, networking with others, placed based education, and interdisciplinary collaboration.


Participating faculty will attend a two-day workshop held May 3-4, 2023, hosted by UR’s Office for Sustainability, and will primarily meet in the Faculty Hub in addition to experiential trips both on and off campus. Through design exercises and discussion centered on local-to-global sustainability issues and challenges, participants will develop a shared understanding of sustainability, explore sustainability competencies and pedagogy, cultivate a justice lens, and develop or enhance their sustainability worldview. Participants will receive a stipend for attending the two-day workshop. 

Following the two-day workshop in May, participants will be invited to become Sustainability Fellows for the following year. Fellows will convene for two-hour check-ins the following September, November, January, and March for continued dialogue. Sustainability Fellows will highlight course modifications to their syllabus for how they’ve included or enhanced sustainability in an existing or new course, in addition to being encouraged to host their own workshop, engagement event, or project to be determined. Following completion of the Fellowship, Fellows will receive an additional stipend.

Revised Courses & Fellows

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  • Accounting

    Daniel Paik (2013) - ACCT 301: Intermediate Financial Accounting I

    Students completed a "Sustainability Accounting" project.

    Joyce van der Laan Smith (2014)- ACCT 311 Advanced Accounting

    Students learned about Corporate Responsibility or Sustainability reports, specifically what should be measured, how it should be measured, and the tendency towards "greenwashing" when formulating reports like these.

  • American Studies

    Meghan Rosatelli (2014)- Digital America

    This course introduced a unit on the materiality of technology, specifically in regards to the life-‐cycle of devices— a global, often brutal, system of mining, manufacturing, selling, shipping, and stripping of dangerous materials.

    Melissa Ooten (2015)- AMST 398 Disaster, Memory, and Popular Culture

    This course focused on environmental disaster and addressed the environmental damage caused by “natural" disaster events as well as human disasters. As part of the course, students walked the slave trail and discussed about how institutions like slavery adversely affect the environment.

  • Art History

    Elizabeth Schlatter (2015)- ARTH 322 Museum Studies Seminar

    During this course, students examined sustainability in museum operations through readings, class discussions, projects, and final presentations and reports. As students organized the exhibition "Tell Me A Story: Museum Studeis Seminar", they incorporated sustainability into their plans by proper treatment of waste after receptions and the exhibition, using local products and resources, and communicating the importance of sustainability to the public.

  • Biology

    Emily Boone (2013) - Environmental Studies 201

    This course included a focus on local issues centered around the James River. Students also participated in a trash audit.

    Carrie Wu (2013) - Evolutionary Biology 225

    This course integrated a "Fish Forensics" module, in which students used genetic markers to determine whether Chilean Sea Bass fillets purchased in Richmond originated from MSC-certified sustainable fisheries. For this lab, students also researched the process behing MSC certification. Furthermore, students worked in pairs to identify other examples of how population differentiation resulting from evolutionary processes has been used in or affects society, and later prepared presentations on their system.

    Eugene Wu (2014) - BIOL 199 Invasions in Biology

    This course centered around a field trip to University of Virginia’s Long Term Ecological Research site on the Virginia coast. Students examined people’s role in transporting and managing invasive species, as well as human impacts on the environment in the context of humans stumbling on new viruses as humanity expands our footprint or viruses expanding their endemic areas due to human activity.

    Amy Treonis (2015)- SOC279/BIOL351 Eating Locally, Thinking Globally; BIOL199 Astrobiology

    The science of sustainable agriculture was one of the core themes for this semester of SOC279/BIOL351. The class travelled to Belize January 2016 to learn about tropical agriculture and conservation, spending time in cacao agroforestry systems as well as in intensive, conventional banana plantations, allowing them a deeper understanding of the societal aspects of understanding in agrifood systems.

    During the Fall BIOL 199, one module focused on the sustainability of life on Earth. Students worked in groups to produce “blueprints” for a life-support system for one year for a pair of hamsters on the planet Mars. In doing so, they were outlining the life support systems necessary for humans on Earth.

  • Business Administration

    Judith Schrempf-Stirling (2015)- BUAD 392 Ethical, Legal and Social Responsibilities of Business

    For the fall semester, a new five-session “sustainability” module was added that focused on ethical issues around food, including food deserts and food addiction. During the spring semester, the course addressed further ethical issues in the food industry, such as the power of food companies and food engineering, de-marketing obesity, and food deserts. Students participated in group discussions on these topics.

  • French

    Olivier Delers (2014) - FREN 327: The Question of Modernity

    Students were introduced to the history of the public awareness of sustainability in France, the influential role of the "green" party, and the current discourse on environmental issues and sustainability. This was accomplished through reading texts centered on cultural and ideological issues related to sustainability in France, followed by critical analysis and discussion of those texts.

  • First Year Seminar

    Mavis Brown (2013) - First Year Seminar 100: Knowing and Choosing in the Face of Adversity

    This course aimed to create a heightened sense of awareness about the immediacy of sustainability and to create an environmentally minded community of learners in this class that will be good stewards of the environment. Students read texts on climate change, worked in pairs to prepare presentations on a specific climate change-related topic, and wrote research papers on the topics they had selected for their presentations.

    Yvonne Howell (2013) - First Year Seminar 100: Buckwheat and Caviar: The ’Sustainable’ Planet in Russian Science and Literature

    This course explored Russian/Soviet cultural history from the perspective of contemporary sustainability issues, enabling students to define sustainability, discuss key Russian literary and scientific sources of the 21st century notion of a “sustainable planet”, and identify the role of cultural context and historical factors that shape our notions of “sustainability”.

  • Geography

    Todd Lookingbill (2014)

    Interdisciplinary students in a Sophomore Scholars in Residence program explored the balance between seemingly contradictory goals to leave protected lands unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations and to harness our nation’s natural resources for energy, minerals, and water. Case studies addressed issues of forestry, fracking, wind and water development, and mining.

    David Salisbury (2014)

    A Sustainable River City Module in GEOG/IS 210 taught UR students to connect the global to the local, as they learn how other cultures engage sustainability through their own river cities even as students become more aware of the city of Richmond’s relationship with the James River itself.

    Mary Finley-Brook (2015)

    GEOG 210 students participated in campus sustainability group projects, including battery recycling, dining hall waste diversion, paper towel composting, and use of to go containers. They also attended a Shockoe Solar guest lecture at an installation site.

    Students in GEOG 280 courses attended an Environmental Justice panel discussion, took a fieldtrip to Kayford Mountain, West Virginia with Mountain Keepers, participated in a fieldtrip to Cove Point, Maryland, and took a fieldtrip to Newport News, Virginia with Southeast CARES Coalition.

    GEOG 401 students participated in Earth Day tabling with Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Power Dialog community outreach and education during poster session. Additionally, students attended a climate justice panel discussion with Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Sierra Club as well as a Shockoe Solar lecture at an installation site.

  • German

    Martin Sulzer-Reichel (2015)- GRMN 301 Conversation and Composition Through Film, GRMN 311 The Culture and History of Germany

    During GRMN 301, students looked at a few clips from German mystery and sitcom series and compared the living environment there with the living environments here, specifically focusing on the small gardens with herbs or vegetables that are a part of everyday life in the shows. Students also watched films and discussed how the directors used nature in their works.

    In GRMN 311, students compared city patterns in the US with those in Germany. Students also spent time comparing church architecture in Germany and Richmond, Virginia.

  • History

    Carol Summers (2014)- IS 290 Perspectives on International Studies

    Students were introduced to some of the ethical and moral perspectives on sustainability, and how they intersect with the science. Additionally, students examine how international actors are experiencing climate change and what they are doing about it.

  • Management

    Andy Litteral (2014)- BUAD 202 Statistics for Business and Economics

    Sustainability content was incorporated throughout the course through an emphasis on use of sustainability-related "real data".

  • Modern Literatures & Cultures

    Yvonne Howell (2014)

    A previous First Year Seminar Course was designed to answer the question "What are we sustaining?" while exploring Russian literature. The experience incorporating sustainability into that course has inspired the formation of an Environmental Studies/ Russian Studies elective for more advanced students, who will be able to grapple more deeply with some of the readings and concepts.

  • Philosophy

    Ladelle McWhorter (2013) - PHIL 269/ENVR 269 Environmental Ethics

    This course inclides units on environmental justice and climate change. Students work in groups to research sea level rise in the Norfolk area, and listen to guest speakers discuss the National Environmental Policy Act, the future effects of climate change in Virginia, and the effects of international climate change.

  • Sociology

    Elizabeth Ransom (2014)- Soc 330: Science, Technology & Society

    This course explored scientific research as it relates to sustainability, including how scientific knowledge is similar to and different from other forms of knowledge. Addressing knowledge systems opened up opportunities for students to analyze other topics, like climate change, which despite scientific evidence, continue to be controversial and difficult to resolve.

  • Theatre

    Maja E. White (2015)- THTR307 Stage Lighting Design

    Three projects in this course had a "green" focus. These included observation and documentation of changes in natural light, contrasting lighting effects created by conventional and LED lights, and replicating the lighting present in an image using conventional or LED lights. Additionally, iPads were acquired for students to use as an alternative to paper for many assignments and in-class activities.