Which do you find more impactful in your work? To be out doing that field work or to be teaching those courses and having that analysis with your students?
Recently Hope for Creation communications assistant Tanai Dawson sat down with Cybelle Shattuck, WMU faculty and author of Faith, Hope, and Sustainability: The Greening of US Faith Communities, to learn more about her story. Cybelle is an Associate Professor with a joint position in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. We'll share segments of her interview over the next few days, in anticipation of her talk on February 18.
At this point, the teaching has the biggest impact because the students will take what I present and use it in ways I can't even conceive of. They’ll be creative and come up with new ways to make a difference. The Eco-Justice class is now a general education course and that means I've got students in there who've never thought about it, they're from business, marketing, nursing. They've never taken an environmental studies course. I ask at the end, “What will you remember from this course? What will you take away?” They start talking about how they just never had that awareness, never heard about redlining, never thought about why people live in certain neighborhoods. They never realized it wasn't by choice, they've never thought about how that history carries forward. They're appalled by processes where people are not given the opportunity to say what's going to happen to the air and water in their communities. They believe in justice. When they discover that the policies and processes aren't fair, they want to change that. You know that most of them won’t end up working for nonprofit or environmental organizations. Some will go into nursing, but a student from nursing who's now thinking about environmental justice is going to think about what's happening in terms of air pollution, in terms of access to green space, what's happening in terms of access to nutritious food. They’re making connections between environmental conditions and health in a way that they wouldn't have without that course. For the students who are going into business, I hope this will affect the way they do business. What kind of companies do they want to work for? What kind of policies do they want in those companies? What do they think about the ethics of what their job is going to be in the future? My field research has the potential to be helpful, but it's a slower process of actually connecting it to people on the ground because it goes into a book. People need to read the book. Then I give talks and they get recorded and 30-100 people will see them and that's great, but it’s fewer than the number of people I work with in the classroom. Another thing that's really interesting is that teaching environmental studies is way more fun than teaching religion. And that's because the students who come into environmental studies courses really want to change the way we live in this world, the way we work with our environment, the way the systems are structured. When I read students’ written assignments, I learn about what they're working toward, what their ideas are. In environmental studies, they'll talk in group work and on papers, thinking about how it applies to their career goals.
Find out more from Cybelle Shattuck in her compelling interview on faith and sustainability daily in anticipation for her event on February 18th!