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THINKING Outside the Box

Students were asked to design the next sustainable building on SU given the materials in front of them, creating a model, a marketing slogan and a financial plan in six minutes.

Students at the Sustainability THINK! were asked to design the next sustainable building on SU given the materials in front of them, creating a model, a marketing slogan and a financial plan in six minutes.

Most interactions between professors and students are hierarchal, with a professor lecturing to a classroom of students. Senior math major Robert Lehr hopes to change that with a new series he calls THINK!

The THINK! series, which was funded by a Presidential Innovation Grant, is a collection of interdisciplinary events where students, professors, staff and community members engage at the same social level. It breaks the lecture-based binary set in the classroom and allows everyone an equal opportunity to participate critically and creatively. Each THINK! event is structured into two parts. The first is an interactive, interdisciplinary lecture presented by a guest who makes a connection between two or more topics. The second randomly splits audience members into teams, who then have 5-10 minutes to solve a challenge related to the topic of discussion.

“The concept for THINK! came to me when I saw how divided and lecture-based our studies were even though we are a liberal arts institution. Many of my peers were not taking full advantage of the services offered here, and I saw few opportunities to connect between disciplines. THINK! was created to make people look at particular topics from new angles and engage in unconventional ways,” says Lehr.

THINK! topics have included: Environment and Economics, Cryptography and Shakespeare, Art and Geometry, Revolutions and Stories, and Sustainability and Social Behavior.

Joshua Long, assistant professor of environmental studies, was the guest speaker for the Sustainability THINK! session. He lectured about climate change and sustainability, linking his topic to cell phones, food and clothing, and how each directly impacts the environment and the way we live.

The interactive exercise broke students up into three randomly selected teams. Each team was then assigned a topic: cell phones, food or clothing, and was asked to research how each is manufactured and produced. Each team then shared their findings with the rest of the audience members through an interactive discussion. The Sustainability THINK! talk allowed audience members to learn about trade, economics, the environment and how anthropogenic activities such as cell phone usage directly affect climate change.

The THINK! series helps people make connections, reflect deeply about the world around them, and ultimately THINK outside the box.


Story by Daniella A. Barrera, Class of 2016

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