Summer 2018: Sustainability Leadership

Course Description

Creating a more sustainable society presents a serious challenge and at the same time an enormous opportunity. In this class, students will discover what makes a leader for sustainability. They will consider a range of global and local crises from a leadership point of view in the context of sustainability science, which addresses the development of communities in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental system-of-systems environment. The course will be based on taking a problem-motivated and solution-focused approach to the challenges considered.

This Service Learning Class is a mandatory course for the Minor in Conservation Leadership ODU offers in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learning Goals

Students will acquire the skills and styles that we consider most relevant for sustainability leaders:

  • The ability to apply system thinking in a trans-disciplinary environment to the analysis and solution of problems;
  • A deep understanding of the long-term impacts current trends and interventions;
  • An understanding of the ethical and moral components of the challenges and a value-orientation that contributes to facing the challenges sustainably;
  • Understand and respect the importance of human cognitive biases and cultural differences on the social construct of reality and decision making;
  • A caring, inclusive attitude and emotional intelligence in the interaction with stakeholders;
  • The foresight to develop a strong vision for a better world and sustainable future;
  • The ability to identify underlying and often unrealized paradigms and the willingness to innovate and make radical changes, including the transition to new paradigms, if needed.

Course Contents

Humanity's struggle for sustainability in the face of rapid social, economic, and environmental changes points to a failure of individual and collective leadership. There is a lack in quality and quantity in governments, businesses, and society in general of leadership with the vision, insight, and strength required to make progress towards sustainability. Without this leadership, the most serious and urgent social and environmental crises cannot be resolved. The sustainability challenges include population growth, food and resource security, land use and its impact on the earth's life-support system, climate change, social stability and equality, and achieving an economic system that facilitates and rewards sustainability.

Creating a more sustainable society presents a serious challenge and at the same time an enormous opportunity for advancement. While we do have the understanding to create the required system knowledge and to develop the goal knowledge for desirable futures, there is a lack in terms of the transformation knowledge that forms the basis of system interventions to get closer to desirable futures.

In this class, students will discover what makes a leader for sustainability. They will consider a range of these crises from a leadership point of view in the context of sustainability science, which is a science field that addresses the development of communities in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental system-of-systems environment. Creating transformation knowledge that can help to make the transition from the current state to a desirable future and implementing the interventions that can change the system trajectory in the desired way requires leadership skills that are different from those required to keep a system on a predictable and well defined trajectory.

Sustainability leaders can craft a vision for a better world and inspire individuals and communities to act collectively to enable progress and make transformation towards the vision of such desirable future. Institutions and their leaders working in isolation cannot solve the wicked problems that societies face. Sustainability leaders must have the skills to bring diverse groups together across institutions, disciplines and societal sectors and across different levels to overcome the disciplinary and sectoral segmentation. Addressing the grant challenges at all levels from local to global requires a deep understanding and appreciation of the interconnected nature of the coupled social, economic and environmental systems. Such “systems thinking” is fundamental for sustainability. For this kind of thinking the promotion and sharing of knowledge across traditional disciplinary boundaries is imperative. The course will account for this by taking a problem-motivated and solution-focused approach to the challenges considered.

Financial Support

Financial support is available for the service learning week, including travel costs, lodging, and per diem for food. The availability of funding is depending on economic needs and academic standing. A GPA of 2.5 is required to be eligible for funding.


[2018/02/06] The course is a service learning course and includes research projects serving the needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service. The students will carry out fieldwork related to the Everglades National Park in Florida in the week of June 11, 2018. Participation in the fieldwork is mandatory.


Prerequistes are successful completion of the BIOL/OEAS/IDS 466W class or, for participation in the 567 course, completion of BIOL/OEAS 566. Students are expected to have reached the Commonwealth of Virginia standards-of-learning in high school math, science, and writing. Regular class attendance is required as some of the information will only be provided during class.

Most necessary information for the course, including the reading list and homework are posted here:

You are responsible for reading and complying with all information posted.

Work Skills and Collaboration

You must be able to access Blackboard and the class web page at on a daily basis. Assignment details including deadlines, course materials, schedule changes, and other important information will be posted at the class web page regularly. Please visit the course website for detailed weekly course information.

Grades will be available on the class page on Blackboard.

Collaboration is expressly permitted, encouraged, and may even be required for team projects, but must follow these guidelines:

  • You must actively participate in the collaborative project;
  • You must write your own individual report on any team project work;
  • All team members’ names must be included in any written project work;
  • You must understand the material and be able to answer questions on it.


The course combines lectures with exercises and project work. Assignments include weekly readings and a brief case study paper. The project work includes a service learning activity, which results in a joint report with clearly identified individual contributions. The report has to be presented to a group of stakeholders during the service learning week, which results in presentations of each student. Personal reflections on the service-learning experience and a brief video reflecting on the fieldwork are to be prepared by each student.

You will be graded on a standard scale:
100-90% =A
89.9-80% =B
79.9-70% =C
69.9-60% =D
59.9% and below=F.

The course requires deliverables to be upload to Blackboard in a timely manner respecting all deadlines.

The overall grade for the class will be composed of individual grades using:
Participation in class (documented through 2+2 Form-submissions): 5%
Case study paper: 20% Preparation of field work: 20%
Final Report: 25%
Presentation: 20%
Video and reflections: 10%

University regulations prohibit communicating test results via email or by phone. If you wish to talk about your grade, please make an appointment. All scores will be placed on BlackBoard as soon as possible after they are graded.

Grade forgiveness policy:

Missed deadlines are only acceptable for valid reasons such as: participation in ODU sports team events (a coach's note is needed), evidence of illness (doctor's or Student Health Services' note needed), bereavement of an immediate family member (death notice needed), or documented court appearance (copy of notice to appear needed). Advance notice in writing must be given whenever possible.

Late submissions will be graded on a reduced point scale as follows:
up to 24 hrs late = 90%
up to 48 hrs late = 80%

A further 10% per day reduction in possible points earned will be applied, up to a maximum total of 5 days late, after which the assignment will not be accepted without evidence that the student was sick or there was a family emergency.

Course Disclaimer

Every attempt is made to provide a syllabus that is complete and that provides an accurate overview of the course. However, circumstances and events may make it necessary for the instructor to modify the syllabus during the semester. This may depend, in part, on the progress, needs, and experiences of the students.

Teaching Philosophy

The material covered in this course is exciting and can also be challenging. I encourage you to ask questions in class if you are uncertain about concepts, ideas or formulas. I recommend that you read the reading material weekly, prior to the lecture and study your own lecture notes frequently. The material that I cover in this class will build upon itself, and reading through course notes regularly will allow you to catch problems early, if you find that you are having them.

Honor Code

By taking this course, you agree to adhere to Old Dominion University’s honor code. Cheating on exams, quizzes, plagiarism in written work, and failing to participate fully in group work will not be tolerated; infractions will be dealt with according to University policy. General honor code guidelines for various course assignments are posted in the on Blackboard (Policies > General Policies); all students are responsible for reading, understanding, and following those guidelines.

All students should follow the principles of the ODU Honor Code:

Honor Code: We, the students of Old Dominion University, aspire to be honest and forthright in our academic endeavors. Therefore, we will practice honesty and integrity and be guided by the tenets of the Monarch Creed. We will meet the challenges to be beyond reproach in our actions and our words. We will conduct ourselves in a manner that commands the dignity and respect that we also give to others. 

Academic Integrity

Old Dominion University is committed to students' personal and academic success. In order to achieve this vision, students, faculty, and staff work together to create an environment that provides the best opportunity for academic inquiry and learning. All students must be honest and forthright in their academic studies. Your work in this course and classroom behavior must align with the expectations outlined in the Code of Student Conduct, which can be found at The following behaviors along with classroom disruptions violate this policy, corrupt the educational process, and will not be tolerated:

  • Cheating: Using unauthorized assistance, materials, study aids, or other information in any academic exercise.
  • Plagiarism: Using someone else's language, ideas, or other original material without acknowledging its source in any academic exercise.
  • Fabrication: Inventing, altering or falsifying any data, citation or information in any academic exercise.
  • Facilitation: Helping another student commit, or attempt to commit, any Academic Integrity violation, or failure to report suspected Academic Integrity violations to a faculty member.

Requirements of the ODU Departments of Biological Sciences and Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Science

By taking this course, you agree to adhere to the requirements and policies of the ODU Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Ocean Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; these may be found on Blackboard (Policies > General Policies).

Missing Classes

If you miss a class no make-up will be provided. If you missed a class and homework was due, you have to email the homework on the same day, unless it is impossible due to documented medical conditions.

If you miss a week or more of classes because of an illness, personal crisis of some kind, or illness of immediate family member, you should notify the Office of Student Affairs and submit required documentation ( Once your request has been validated by the Office of Student Ombudsperson Services (S.O.S.), the course instructor will be issued an official absence notice. Nevertheless, these notices do not “excuse” the absence, nor do they guarantee that the student will be permitted to make up tests. The absence notice simply documents that the student’s illness or other circumstances indicate that the student was unable to participate in class for designated period of time. The authority to excuse absence rests with the instructor, whose decision is final.

If you are Experiencing Difficulty

If you are having any difficulty – with specific course content or anything else we can help with – please do not hesitate to ask for help. Please come and talk to me in person as soon as the problem arises. Remember also that you have access to a variety of student services on campus.

If you have any Special Needs

Please inform me as soon as possible of any special needs you might have, including medical conditions that may require special accommodation.


A syllabus constitutes a contract between the student and the course instructor. Participation in this course indicates your acceptance of its schedule, requirements, and policies. Please review the syllabus and the course requirements as soon as possible. If you believe that the nature of this course does not meet your interests, needs or expectations, if you are not prepared for the amount of work involved or if you anticipate that the class meetings, assignment deadlines or abiding by the course policies will constitute an unacceptable hardship for you, you should drop the class by the drop/add deadline, which is located in the ODU Schedule of Classes.

Managing Conflicts

If you are having a conflict with another student in your class, please let us know right away. Any issues we cannot resolve among ourselves will be taken to either the Biology Department Chair, Dr. Wayne Hynes, or the OEAS Department Chair, Dr. Fred Dobbs, for mediation.

Class Schedule

Note that all deliverables have to be uploaded to Blackboard.

May 2018

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Apr 30
May 1
May 2
May 3
May 4

May 7
May 8
May 9
May 10
May 11
May 14
Class 1
May 15
May 16
May 17
May 18
May 21

May 22
May 23
May 24
May 25
May 28
Pickup and validation of Card in Falls Church
May 29 May 30 May 31
Jun 1

June 2018

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Jun 4

Jun 5 Jun 6 Jun 7
Jun 8
Jun 11
Fieldwork Week
Jun 12 Jun 13 Jun 14
Jun 15
Jun 18

Jun 19 Jun 20 Jun 21
Jun 22
Jun 25

Jun 26 Jun 27 Jun 28
IDS 369 Internship Orientation Workshop
Jun 29
IDS 369 Internship Orientation Workshop