Leading Sustainability-Focused Education
Jean MacGregor (BS ’67, MS ’71) has championed sustainability-focused education throughout her career. She is passionate about the “importance of ongoing communities tackling the huge adaptive challenges that sustainability presents.” Highlights of her career include supporting the establishment of the environmental studies program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, instructing at the Evergreen State College in Washington and leading a variety of national projects on learning communities in higher education.
Her favorite endeavor, however, was founding and leading Curriculum for the Bioregion from 2004 to 2018. This project is a regional sustainability-across-the-curriculum initiative, originally based in the Puget Sound bioregion and the Columbia Plateau. Seeing a gap between the exclusion of sustainability topics in curricula and its increasing importance as an issue in the 21st century, MacGregor created this project with the goal of mobilizing higher education to situate sustainability and environmental justice content and concepts in a broad array of disciplines, ranging from philosophy and biology to mathematics.
“If our courses can be visualized as trees, sustainability content needs to become part of the trunk, holding up and nourishing the whole tree,” MacGregor explains. With that lens, adapting curriculums to include sustainability and environmental justice topics became a collaborative effort with professors, individualized based on course curricula.
By linking and building communities of educators, Curriculum for the Bioregion has grown to involve over 50 colleges and universities, close to 1,000 faculty and students, and dozens of community experts in agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nongovernmental organizations and tribes.