Portland State has joined an international community of higher education institutions devoted to social change and environmental sustainability. The Council of Europe’s Network for Higher Education and Democratic Culture advocates for civic responsibility and democratic culture as an important part of the education process.
PSU joins sustainability network
Portland State has joined an international community of higher education institutions devoted to social change and environmental sustainability.
The Council of Europe’s Network for Higher Education and Democratic Culture advocates for civic responsibility and democratic culture as an important part of the education process. The network was formed in Strasbourg, France in June 2006, where members formed a mission to promote and advance environmental and societal sustainability through higher education.
“PSU was hand-picked and intentionally invited to join this council,” said Kevin Kecskes, director of community-university partnerships in the PSU Center for Academic Excellence.
Kecskes said PSU was selected because of the reputation the university has in sustainability, the ideas promoted in its general education program, University Studies, and its efforts to educate faculty in new teaching methods.
PSU’s Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices has performed research and developed curriculum to educate students about urban environmental sustainability. This department is one reason why PSU was selected by the network, according to Kecskes.
Kecskes said comprehensive research PSU has done on sustainability is an example of this responsibility being realized by an institution.
“University Studies is our best institutional expression of who we are and what we believe is important at PSU,” said Kecskes.
University Studies helps reach the goals of the council, Kecskes said, because it is devoted to teaching students an appreciation of social diversity and a commitment to social responsibility.
PSU’s International Institute for Student Centered Learning and Engagement is designed to educate faculty and administrators to more deeply affect their students’ learning experience. The institute is dedicated to transforming education into a more effective tool in shaping society. This is another important goal of the network, according to the declaration.
In addition to these existing departments and programs, PSU will be adding more programs within the institution that help meet the goals of the network, according to Kecskes.
Kecskes said PSU was invited to a summit last summer, where the network was formed, but President Daniel Bernstine was unable to attend.
Bernstine did eventually sign the declaration, and PSU officially became a member of the council in December.
“We wanted to make sure that PSU was involved,” said Kecskes. “This is all a really, really good thing.”
Kecskes said higher education has not focused on social responsibility as an educational outcome in the past. PSU has dedicated institutional dollars to benefit society.
“This is who we are. We are unique,” said Kecskes.
The Network’s declaration outlines several key goals: democratic and accountable structures, processes and practices, active democratic citizenship, human rights, mutual respect, social justice, environmental and societal sustainability, dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
All institutions that signed the declaration pledged to make efforts to educate their faculty, students and surrounding communities about these goals.