Palouse Project promotes sustainability, faculty interaction

By Julie Titone, College of Education, and Claire Walli, CEREO intern
Students of Ken Faunce, left, and Tom Salsbury will collaborate thanks
to the Palouse Project. (Photo by Julie Titone, WSU College of Education.)
‘Brown bag’ sustainability series
starts this fall, open to all
PULLMAN, Wash. – The monthly Palouse Project brown bag series, which begins Sept. 9, will feature interdisciplinary conversations about sustainability related research and teaching.
The programs are open to everyone in the WSU community and will include opening presentations by WSU faculty. They are sponsored by CEREO, WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach.
The sessions will be noon-1 p.m. in Smith CUE 512. The fall semester lineup:
  • Sept. 9: Todd Norton, assistant professor of communication, discussing “Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Research, Education and Outreach in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Corridor: Integrating Biophysical and Human Dimensions Research.”
  • Oct. 6: Jeff Sanders, assistant professor of history, sharing “Perspectives on Environmental History.”
  • Nov. 4: Jolie Kaytes, associate professor of landscape architecture, presenting on “Waterviews: Visions for the Snake River.”
  • Dec. 8: William Budd, professor of political science, focusing on “Working to Understand and Build Sustainable Communities.”

Dawn Shinew,, 509-335-5027

PULLMAN, Wash. – This fall, Washington State University faculty who rarely interact will start a series of lunch-hour conversations about their work. And freshmen from a world civilizations class will team up with senior education majors.
The unusual cross-discipline efforts are among the first fruits of the Palouse Project, an initiative that brings together faculty from across campus to raise interest in sustainability education. It encourages them to apply locally inspired lessons to their classes – hence, the regional name.
“The Palouse Project really challenges people to reach outside the box of ‘recycling’ or ‘hybrid vehicles’ as default sustainable concepts to a whole host of issues, such as behavior,” said Mike Wolcott, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Maintaining momentum
Wolcott was one of 25 faculty members who attended a two-day workshop in May that launched the Palouse Project. Their feedback on the experience included the words energetic, productive and passionate.
“There was an incredible sense of collegiality and learning from one another, in addition to a realization that there aren’t enough opportunities like this,” said Allyson Beall, an instructor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO) is behind the Palouse Project and hopes to keep momentum going. To that end, it is sponsoring monthly conversations focused on sustainability teaching and research. The noon Palouse Project Brown Bag sessions begin Sept. 9 in Smith CUE 512.
Inspired, organized by bioregion
The Palouse Project builds on similar work at Northern Arizona University (the Ponderosa Project) and Emory University (the Piedmont Project). Its impetus was Jean MacGregor from Evergreen State College, who received a Fund for the Improvement of Secondary Education grant to do “curriculum for the bioregion” workshops at colleges in western Washington.
The inaugural Palouse Project workshop was sponsored CEREO, the WSU provost’s office and MacGregor’s grant. It included presentations on economics, public health and safety, architecture and design on campus, and even Google Earth. Participants were able to draw connections to their own fields, strengthened by understanding of how other disciplines relate to the same information.
They got out of the lecture hall too, attending a reception at WSU’s organic farm and visiting Nez Perce National Historical Park. The field trip included presentations by Kent Keller, professor of geology, and Robert McCoy, associate professor of history.
Engaging students across disciplines
In one workshop exercise, Tom Salsbury, an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and Ken Faunce, a world civilizations instructor, discovered that they had ideas that dovetailed. As a result, about 30 freshmen from Faunce’s world civilizations course who have some interest in teaching will pair with Salsbury’s seniors, who are preparing for their student teaching experience.
“Ken’s content area is immigration. Mine is methods for teaching English language learners,” said Salsbury of the collaboration. “The kids my students will be teaching all are the products of the immigration process.”
The students will be asked to gather family history from two generations back and then look two generations into the future. Each freshman/senior pair will create a multimedia project to share what they’ve learned.
“We want them to explain what has shaped them and how the changes they’re going through are going to affect their kids and grandkids,” Faunce said.
A culture of sustainability
Palouse Project leaders include Dawn Shinew, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, and Mary Wack, dean of the University College and vice provost for undergraduate education. They hope the workshop will become an annual event to help create an academic culture of sustainability.
Faculty members at the first Palouse Project workshop were primarily from the General Education program, were connected to CEREO or were involved in teacher education. Shinew and Wack hope to include different faculty in a second Palouse Project workshop next spring.
“If it becomes an annual workshop and 25-50 faculty participate each year,” Shinew said, “then over the course of five years almost 250 faculty, who each interact with hundreds of students, will be exposed to these ideas.”
Dawn Shinew,, 509-335-5027

Media contact:
Julie Titone,, 509-335-6850

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