Aerial view of the St. Lawrence Sustainability Farm located on Rt. 68 in Canton, New York.

Sustainability Program 2.0

Ryan Deuel

“This program is really meant to teach students how to live more sustainability while also exploring career opportunities that focus on environmental stewardship,” says Jessica Prody, assistant professor of performance and communication arts, currently serving as the Sustainability Program’s faculty coordinator. “But it goes further than that: Students are actually taught life skills, critical thinking and how to be resilient. These are things that colleges aren’t teaching students these days.”

The Sustainability Program is a year-long, living-learning community at St. Lawrence’s Sustainability Farm, where students live and take courses with other students committed to creating a more sustainable world. Building off the previous curriculum and capitalizing on the farm site’s proximity to campus, Prody considers this new iteration of the program a reboot of the original Sustainability Semester, which first launched in 2013.

She said the reboot results fosters more cross-conversation with the rest of the campus over the course of the entire academic year. 

“Some faculty teach courses out there, and they find it to be much more laid back than being on the main campus with far fewer distractions,” Prody says. “It also allows students to come back to campus for their other courses.”

Students live and work at the farm through the school year and take at least 1.5 credits at the farm each semester. There’s a mandatory dinner at the farm on Thursdays, and students are often up by 6:30 a.m. for chores.

Olivia “Liv” Raynard ’18 officially joined the Sustainability Program in the fall 2017 semester, after Samuel Joseph, director of the Sustainability Program and homesteader-in-residence had introduced her to the program. 

“I realized that the program would teach me life skills that I just couldn’t pass up” she recalls. “I wanted to learn how to live independently and sustainably so I could apply it to my life after graduation.”

Prody mentions that going home for students can be just as much of a culture shock as returning from a semester abroad. Raynard not only experienced that culture shock, she found herself taking charge of situations at home in ways she had never done before.

“One thing that really bothered me when I was home was the fact that my parents did not compost their food waste,” she says. “Before living in the (Sustainability) house, it never really bothered me that my parents didn’t compost, but at the farm, composting had become an unconscious, everyday habit of mine. It dawned on me how easy it would be to help my parents create a composting system that would fit into their everyday lives with minimal effort. I realized it was my responsibility to help them create this system and show them how to properly run it.”

It is this type of change and lifestyle reboot, that the Sustainability Program faculty hope to influence and that will bring new life to every generation of Laurentians.

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