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Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability

CUE Course Connections

The CUES has long been a resource to Butler courses and the Indianapolis community by connecting disciplinary content and organizational missions to urban ecology, sustainability, and community betterment. This is done through class and community tours of  The Farm and Butler, grant-funded projects, and facilitating sustainability and agroecology course curricula and student projects that tie directly to a variety of disciplines from biology and business to communications and the arts and beyond.

Through CUES staff-led courses and existing courses across the Butler curriculum that engage students in disciplinary content through farm- and food-situated contexts, the CUES and the The Farm at Butler is a core part of Butler’s curriculum. The CUES is currently challenging a variety of existing Butler courses to utilize the The Farm at Butler and its interdisciplinary theme of urban agriculture as a place-based resource and a framework in which to teach key course topics.

CUES Staff-Taught Courses

CUES staff teach a variety of courses in the Core Curriculum and the Environmental Studies Program at Butler University that focus upon key topics in sustainability framed in the three pillars of sustainability: environment, equity, and economics. Many of these courses also have ICR (Indianapolis Community Requirement)-accreditation.

Fall semester:

PWB115-BI - Cultivating Well Being                          

Instructor: Mr. Tim Dorsey

This hands-on gardening course will empower students to make healthy food choices while learning how gardening can improve well-being. Students will be challenged to think about where food comes from, how to grow healthy foods at home, and the role gardening can play in a lifetime of well being.

ENV405 (ICR-designated): Food Systems and Metabolic Rift                                

Instructor: Dr. Julia Angstmann

This course explores multiple pathways of food production and distribution in the United States including growing, harvesting, processing, storage, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food to feed a growing global population. These concepts will be theoretically framed by the concept of metabolic rift, which more broadly encompasses fractures in the ecological sustainability of food production and consumption, social disruptions and inequalities resulting from the commodification of land and labor, and the alienation of humans from labor and nature. Field trips and service learning experiences highlight the ecological, social, and individual politics of the local food system and pushes students to design solutions for local food system challenges using their classroom knowledge and service learning experiences.

Spring semester:

ENV400 (ICR-designated): Sustainability Practicum on Food Waste                     

Instructor: Jamie Valentine

The Sustainability Practicum introduces students to the physical resources of this planet, to the environmental consequences of producing and using resources, ad to the disposal of these resources. This course is topic driven and requires students to address the topic at hand from multiple perspectives through lectures, discussions, volunteering, and a group designed and implemented project that involves extensive work outside of the classroom with the Butler and/or larger communities. The topic of this semester’s course is food waste.

Campus Farm-Situated, Cross-Disciplinary Place-Based Experiential Learning

In addition to CUES staff-taught courses, the CUES has been integral to testing the efficacy and student learning outcomes of implementing farm- and food-situated course content across the liberal arts curricula, leading the way to innovative uses of campus infrastructure and breaking down disciplinary silos.

In 2016, the CUES and the STEM Education Innovation and Research Institute (SEIRI) at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) received nearly $300,000 from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop, implement, and assess a cohesive program of place-based experiential research modules centered upon the theme of sustainable agriculture in four Butler undergraduate physical and natural science courses. In 2019, the CUES received an additional $600,000 from the NSF to further research the efficacy and impact of farm-situated place-based experiential learning across Butler’s curriculum—expanding the project beyond STEM-only disciplines to five additional professional disciplines: pharmacy and health sciences, pre-service teacher education, business marketing, communications, and religious studies. SEIRI is conducting research on the impacts of this program to student learning outcomes including environmental science literacy, scientific reasoning, civic mindedness, and the attachment and meanings students subscribe to the campus farm as well as the impact to faculty support networks. Both of these grant-funded projects, collectively titled: Cultivating Scientific Literacy and Action through Place: Using a Campus Farm as an Interdisciplinary Learning Hub, are innovating the way campus spaces are used for place-based, community-engaged civic education.

Participating courses to date include:

  1. BI230 – Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Professor Travis Ryan, 
    Module Title: Soil Respiration, Arthropod Biodiversity, and the Analysis of Variance            
  2. BI408 – Topics in Biology, Advanced Ecology, Professor Sean Berthrong, Module Title: Bringing Microbes and Carbon Cycling Down to Earth                     
  3. ENV200 – Intro to Environmental Studies, Professor Jesse Van Gerven, Module Title: Diverse Indianapolis Urban Farmer Perspectives on Food Systems         
  4. CH465 – Environmental Chemistry, Professor Elizabeth Davis, Module Title: Urban Agriculture and Environmental Health: Characterizing Risks of Soil Contamination 
  5. NW207, Ecology and the Natural Environment, Professor Travis Ryan, Module Title: TBD
  6. RL384, Ecotheology, Professor Brent Hege, Module Title: Employing the “Loving Eye” in Nature Journals
  7. ED317/ED418, Teaching Science and Social Studies Methods for Middle School Childhood, Professor Catherine Pangan, Module Title: Exploring Scientific & Historical Gardening Contributions with Young Learners
  8. MG480, Strategy Capstone, Professor Lawrence Lad, Module Title: Challenges to Fundamental Economics Theory in Food Value Chains
  9. ORG358, Social Responsibility and Community, Professor Lindsay Ems, Module Title: Using Digital Media to Empower Marginalized Populations
  10. RX499, Sustainable Healthy Nutrition, Professor Jane Gervasio, Module title: Sustainable Healthy Nutrition

Student Leadership Cohort

The Sustainability Leadership Cohort (SLC) is an intentional internship model that focuses on peer-to-peer mentorship and community building while providing experiential research opportunities for Butler students to practice real-world problem solving and learn tangible skills for professional development and career preparedness. Students in the SLC work on a variety of urban ecology and sustainability research projects across campus and the community. SLC students and advisors meet weekly as a cohort to support one another, co-develop ideas, and engage as a community that works to solve complex sustainability challenges.

Other Course Collaborations

The CUES and The Farm at Butler has long been a resource to Butler courses by providing class tours and facilitating student projects. Some of our past and present course collaborations include:

College of Communications

ORG 358 – Social Responsibility and Community

Instructor: Lindsay Ems

Student groups in this class work with a local non-profit to solve a communication problem identified by the organization host. In past semesters, the CUES has worked with students in this course over multiple semesters to develop 1) a winter social media campaign for The Farm at Butler focusing upon the farm’s core values: caring for the earth, caring for community, and caring for our bodies, 2) strategies to market the merging of the Center for Urban Ecology and Butler Sustainability into the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES), and 3) students are assessing the CUES’ social media presence and making recommendations on what platforms we should be using, as well as the frequency and types of posts needed to elevate our image for particular audiences. This is a continuing collaboration.

ORG 351 – Social Media Storytelling

Instructor: Lindsay Ems

Students in this class learned about The Farm and Butler University and presented social media campaigns to tell the farm’s story and elevate messaging around The Farm’s values to spur additional product sales.

STR251 – Design and Production for Strategic Communication

Instructor: Armando Pellerano

In this course, students toured The Farm at Butler and studied the CUES logo to determine an impactful complementary logo for The Farm at Butler. 

Andre B. Lacy School of Business

MK385 – Marketing Research                                    

Instructor: Professor Daniel McQuiston

A student group from this class conducted market research for the CUE Farm to determine ways to increase awareness, traffic, and revenue at the CUE Farm's weekly farm stand.  

MBA522 – Business Practicum                                           

Instructor: Professor James Simmons

The course participated in tours to local food producers and distributors and hosted a farm-to-table panel as part of this intensive course. Students then provided The Farm with recommendations for improving business and marketing aspects of The Farm. This collaboration extended over five semesters.

Ball State University, College of Architecture and Planning

The CUES is proud to have had a long working relationship with Ball State Architecture to design and build green infrastructure at The Farm at Butler.

Fourth-Year Architecture Practicum    

Instructor: Professor Timothy Gray

Fourth-year architecture majors at Ball State University have worked with The Farm at Butler on a number of sustainable design-build projects including a classroom space and a mobile greenhouse. The mobile greenhouse project was featured in over ten media outlets and won a 2016 Merit Award for Design Excellence from the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Indiana.

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