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Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Faculty Awarded Grant to Integrate Sustainability into Engineering Education

May. 23, 2023
FABE faculty Patrick Sours and Cherish Vance

The Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering (FABE) incoming tenure-track faculty Cherish Vance and Senior Lecturer Patrick Sours (FABE/CEGE) have been awarded a grant from the American Society for Engineering Education's (ASEE) Engineering for One Planet (EOP) Mini-Grants Program. The grant aims to support educators in integrating sustainability into their programs. Out of over 100 applications received, their proposal was among the 14 selected, with each winning application receiving $8,000 for their academic programs.
The Engineering for One Planet Mini-Grants Program, administered by the ASEE with funding from the Lemelson Foundation, focuses on fostering sustainable engineering practices and making sustainability a fundamental aspect of engineering education. Its goal is to equip future engineers with the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants.

"Patrick and I applied individually last year and were not awarded, but we teamed up this year and we were really excited about the opportunity. We were very fortunate to be among the 14 chosen," said Vance. The team is rounded out by Kristen Conroy (FABE), with support from Scott Shearer (FABE), Ann Christy (FABE and Engineering Education), and David Delaine (Engineering Education). "We're excited about continuing our work in the areas of engineering and socio-cultural competence with respect to sustainability."
While Vance will serve as the team leader, Sours has been a longstanding leader in the effort to advance human-centered design, social responsibility, and community-engaged learning in engineering spaces. The proposal aims to drive curricular transformation and promote sustainable engineering through the creation of an Engineering for Sustainable Development specialization within the FABE department. This specialization will incorporate learning outcomes aligned with the Engineering for One Planet framework and further institutionalize sustainable engineering education.
"The world is full of grand challenges and wicked problems that don't necessarily have clear boundaries, and they're interconnected with a lot of different systems," said Vance. "These challenges need engineers to think more broadly with more multidisciplinary perspectives and develop intercultural competence, requiring them to be more effective in interdisciplinary teams in diverse settings. This requires a skill set that needs greater primacy in the way that we educate engineers."
The grant funds will be utilized to develop General Education courses that align with the current OSU Sustainability theme, as well as engineering electives that foster social responsibility. This initiative aims to provide students with a comprehensive engineering education that integrates sustainability principles across various disciplines.
“We're also striving to improve the negative climate and culture that is often linked to the STEM fields and the lack of representation," said Vance. "Through instructional design and culturally responsive pedagogy, our instructional members will create inclusive learning environments that value diverse viewpoints and representation, to teach students to approach engineering and sustainability in a collaborative and culturally relevant way."
Vance and Sours' work to develop new curriculum in the Engineering for Sustainable Development domain will begin Fall 2023.
View the rest of the ASEE EOP mini-grant winners here.