Since 2013, I have been the primary instructor for the Sustainable Cities seminar where students collaborate with San Francisco Bay Area government agencies and community organizations to support their sustainability goals.
The course assumes no prior background in Urban Studies. It aims to nurture a “T” shaped student where the first half of the course is wide and broad in establishing a foundation, then deep and narrow in connecting specific topics. This structure enables students to gain knowledge about sustainability and develop skills for real-life projects.
Unlike courses where students could spend a quarter studying one aspect of sustainability in depth, Sustainable Cities provides students with an overview of sustainability topics, frameworks that explain how they fit together, and tangible examples of how these issues overlap and unfold in a real-world project. This approach allows students to connect the dots and see how sustainability issues are interrelated.
This course uses a framework for assessing sustainable communities through the following lenses: environmental quality, economic vitality, social equity, and cultural continuity. The Four Pillars of Sustainability provide a scaffold for students to ask questions beyond “what is sustainability” and instead “sustainable for whom and how.”