Environmental Studies & The Collaborative Services Initiative
Antioch’s Environmental Studies Department has earned respect as one of the oldest interdisciplinary graduate environmental studies departments in the country. We educate visionary, pragmatic leaders in a collaborative, interdisciplinary setting founded on academic excellence and the principles of environmental justice and sustainability. Our graduate programs emphasize a strong base of scientific understanding integrated with social sciences and humanities. This interdisciplinary approach is essential to address the complex scientific, social, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of contemporary environmental challenges.
The CSI is a faculty-supervised capstone opportunity for graduate students to work together on projects for organizations. Student participants provide pro bono consultation services on behalf of clients. Projects can include for example applied ecological or social research, energy and materials management, program evaluation, or other consultative services within the environmental domain. These projects are completed over the course of a semester by teams of graduate students working with guidance and support from AUNE faculty and staff. Teams collaborate with an organization to develop a defined scope of services, seek solutions for client-identified challenges, and provide high-quality deliverables. At the same time, the CSI experience provides an experiential learning opportunity for students and deepens their engagement with communities.
Environmental Studies graduate students and faculty have engaged in and have successfully completed hundreds of projects serving local communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Types of previous Antioch group projects have included:
- developing, piloting and strengthening a carbon-reduction program for local businesses;
- identifying best practices for farmers’ market operations and municipal arrangements;
- building effective grassroots campaigns for passage of legislation supporting various conservation efforts;
- climate change adaptation and planning for communities;
- environmental education program evaluation and design;
- researching and preparing recommendations for various planning boards and conservation commissions;
- assessing a solid waste program;
- completing assessment processes, natural resource inventories, and ecological studies to inform community initiatives; and
- an evaluation of college campus sustainability practices.
Each CSI client will be matched with an interested team of 2-4 graduate students and an Environmental Studies faculty advisor. The team will work with the client to develop a CSI scope of work determined by the number of students that outlines the specific project objectives, tasks, timeline, and deliverables. Each project will be tailored to the client’s specific priorities; however, all CSI teams will offer:
- analysis of a problem, concern, or future organizational goal;
- depending on the size of the team, approximately 400 pro bono hours of consultation services by Environmental Studies graduate students;
- students with content knowledge reflecting one or more concentrations within Environmental Studies (e.g., Resource Management and Administration, Environmental Education, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Advocacy for Sustainability and Social Justice, and Conservation Biology);
- students with a variety of practical skills such as strategic planning, program evaluation, quantitative and qualitative research, life-cycle analysis, geographic information systems (GIS), natural resource inventory (flora and fauna) and other ecological studies, program design, community engagement, adult and youth education (teaching, curriculum design, interpretation, exhibit design), grant writing, and environmental advocacy campaign development;
- student access to University resources relevant to the project (e.g., library resources, field equipment, GIS laboratory);
- a faculty advisor supervising the student team;
- oral and/ or poster presentations of project results to client/stakeholders;
- professional quality report summarizing findings and offering specific recommendations in response to the scope of work agreed upon with the client prior to project implementation; and
- other specific deliverables as agreed upon by the client and the CSI team.
For a CSI project to be successful, it is essential that clients commit to the following:
- dedicate at least one staff member to serve as the CSI liaison to the project on an ongoing basis (e.g., for involvement in determining the scope of work, offering access to needed information or resources, and helping to ensure the project is meeting your needs and interests);
- complete an agreed-upon scope of work with the student team prior to initiation of work;
- cover direct costs such as office materials, equipment, and project-related mileage if applicable;
- provide appropriate access to organizational information essential to the project’s completion;
- provide an opportunity for the student team to present its findings;
- indicate the level of confidentiality, if required, to the CSI team and relevant Antioch faculty advisor as part of the scope of work; and
- recognize that this project is a learning opportunity for students, that we hope will be mutually beneficial to all involved parties.