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Baker and Christofa Receive Sustainability Grants

Eleni Christofa

Erin Baker

Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and Eleni Christofa of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department have been awarded Sustainability Curriculum Initiative grants of $1,000 each from the UMass Amherst Libraries. The Libraries awarded the grants to nine faculty members to support revising existing courses and include or augment sustainability topics. As part of the grants, liaison librarians work with faculty to integrate library resources and information literacy into their revised courses. Baker will use her grant to modify her “Introduction to Mechanical and Industrial Engineering” course, while Christofa will rework her course in “Transportation Sustainability.”

Sustainability courses that address interconnections between economy, society, and environment play an increasingly prominent role in the curriculum. To foster the connections, the Libraries, the Provost’s Office, and the Center for Teaching and Faculty Development have awarded a second round of this faculty incentive program for courses taught in fall 2014 and spring 2015.

Baker’s “Engin 113 Introduction to Mechanical and Industrial Engineering” course enrolls 190 students. As she wrote about her sustainability project, “My goal is to help developing engineers make sustainability a core part of their approach to solving problems and creating opportunities.”

In that context, Baker’s course will retool her students to apply engineering methods to energy and the environment, which she says is a global, national, and local challenge. Students will learn to practice critical thinking and engineering problem solving. Then they will be equipped to take a systems approach to design by incorporating economic, environmental, and social concerns. Last but not least, they will develop information literacy. In addition, there will be residual outcomes from her course, such as helping her students to develop strategies for successful team work, improve presentation skills, investigate computer applications, and learn about various fields in mechanical and industrial engineering.

Christofa’s “CEE 597S/697G Transportation Sustainability” course has 30 students.

“My goal is to redesign course assignments and related lectures for the Transportation Sustainability course I taught in Fall 2013,” she wrote. “I plan to incorporate more library resources, utilizing existing sustainability rating systems and providing students with opportunities to evaluate and propose solutions for on-campus transportation-related issues.”

Some of her intended learning outcomes are that students can: identify the three aspects of sustainability and discuss how transportation planning practices and management strategies affect these aspects; design bike and pedestrian facilities utilizing existing manuals and guidebooks; use the EPA’s vehicle emission model, MOVES, to estimate vehicle emissions; and perform a life-cycle assessment evaluation using the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO LCA) tool. She is also redesigning her curriculum so that her students are able to evaluate transportation design or projects using existing sustainability assessment and rating systems, such as STARS and Envision.

For more information about the Sustainability Curriculum Initiative grants, visit or contact Madeleine Charney, sustainability studies librarian, 577-0784, (May 2014)