The graduate program being proposed is a natural outgrowth of the Urban Community and Environment concentration in the BA in Liberal Studies program at Antioch University Los Angeles. We propose an interdisciplinary, low residency Master of Arts in Urban Sustainability program that places a strong emphasis on community engagement and field work. The Masters Program involves two years of full-time coursework that integrates theoretical learning with field-based practice. The degree program will be delivered using a low-residency format with on-campus residencies being held 4 times per year. During their first year, students engage in two interdisciplinary seminar courses as well as smaller, research-oriented courses. First year students will begin their field work and attend residencies four times during the year. The second year of the program requires students to continue their fieldwork and launch a capstone project while taking elective courses related to their individual disciplinary interests. Students will be encouraged to develop capstone projects that involve the design, implementation or evaluation of sustainable programs in cooperation with and for the benefit of community organizations.
Collaboration with local urban communities is central to the development and long-term success of this program. To this end, several community activists and advocates are currently contributing to the development of the program curriculum. Once launched, the Urban Sustainability program will incorporate off-site residencies in which students are hosted by community organizations working on urban sustainability issues.
Antioch University Los Angeles has a long-standing, deeply-rooted commitment to promoting various forms of justice in our community. The consequences of climate change and unsustainable communities will fall largely to the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised citizens and will exacerbate pre-existing imbalances of social and economic well being. AULA has a responsibility to demonstrate its own citizenship by providing education for those who seek to mitigate these imbalances through advocacy for change in practice and policy.
In response to recent concerns about the global environmental crisis, AULA faculty initiated discussions about incorporating environmental studies into our existing curricula as well as constructing new degree options focused in this area. Early initiatives involved both the sustainability component of the MAE program and the addition of an Urban Community and Environment (UCE) concentration in Fall 2005 to the BA program. The interdisciplinary focus of the UCE program included environment as one of its major components, looking at the social, economic, and political forces impacting all aspects of life in an urban context.
Early discussions of a Masters in Urban Sustainability program commenced during the late stages of developing the UCE concentration in the BA program. Faculty invited colleague Dr. Mitchell Thomashow, then chair of the Antioch New England environmental studies programs, to lecture on his recently published book Bringing the Biosphere Home. This event was followed by several meetings of AULA faculty in which the idea of graduate-level education with an environmental focus emerged as a high priority. The original idea for a graduate program focused on an interdisciplinary environmental studies program with an urban emphasis, evolving into its current configuration in response to the emergence of sustainability as a global imperative.
Simultaneously, the Student Action Network (SAN) engaged in a series of initiatives to educate the AULA community about sustainable practices. These initiatives included a campus-wide recycling program, an urban bicycle safety training course, and the airing of movies such as Affluenza, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Eleventh Hour. In partnership with Culver City, CA, SAN also initiated a lecture series featuring AULA faculty and students as well as environmental leaders in the Culver City community. Additionally, core faculty member Donald Strauss gave several Climate Change presentations based on the academy-award winning movie An Inconvenient Truth and his completion of a training program conducted by Al Gore. More recently, SAN hosted a sustainable supper for the community, serving locally-grown foods and providing educational content to aid and encourage attendees to adopt sustainable practices in their own homes.
From the beginning of this undertaking our President, Dr. Neal King has strongly demonstrated his commitment to sustainable practice as both a campus and personal priority. In Spring 2007, President Neal King signed the American University and College President's Climate Commitment that obligated our campus to implement programs targeted at reducing greenhouse gases caused by any of the university's operations. This includes engaging in energy audits and assessment of university transportation practices, as well as examination of campus procurement practices. In October 2007, as part of the President's inaugural week activities, the university hosted a sustainability symposium in which local environmental leaders engaged in dialog with members of the AULA community.
Early in 2008, faculty members began discussions with President Neal King regarding the development of an interdisciplinary Masters degree program in Urban Sustainability. To date, we have begun to discuss delivery models and preliminary curricular design. This initial planning has largely been done in collaboration with representatives of community organizations with particular expertise in this area. This brand new initiative by Antioch University Los Angeles will add a new and dynamic dimension to our academic programs in a way that allows us to serve communities and provide sustainability in an urban context.