First of its kind GE Theme focuses on sustainability, student experience

When Ohio State announced plans to update its General Education curriculum in autumn of 2022, Drake Institute Affiliate Stavros T. Constantinou, PhD, associate professor of geography, recognized an opportunity for his education abroad course.

First created in 2017, Geog 3753.02: The Geography of the European Union (EU) was offered in 2018 at Neapolis University Pafos in Cyprus, with nine students who completed the course.

Constantinou reviewed student feedback, which revealed two needs: more focus on pre-orientation and group cohesion before departure, and greater emphasis on the cultural aspects of Cyprus. "I wanted to increase the comfort level of students embarking on this trip and prepare them more fully to take advantage of classroom and structured educational experiences in Cyprus. I also sought to improve their ability to connect the places they visited with the broader historical, socioeconomic and geopolitical topics covered in class."

His course redesign efforts began, and after completing the first two phases of the Teaching Practices Inventory, he participated in the third phase, Instructional Redesign, enrolling in the six-week Course Design Institute course in the spring of 2019.

"The course facilitators were Laurie Maynell and Kelly Newlon, and I can honestly say that I profited greatly from their knowledge and teaching style," says Constantinou, adding that the course exceeded his expectations and provided him with significant career opportunities in global education.

To fit the New GE Sustainability Theme, he shifted the course emphasis to specific sustainability issues related to the EU. The new course received approval for the New GE with the title Geog 3755: Geography of the EU and the Challenges of Sustainability.

It is the first course to be approved as a study-away, four-credit-hour course and only the second course to be approved under the Sustainability Theme.

The course combines classroom and experiential learning on the island of Cyprus. The content focuses on the broad range of sustainability challenges that face the EU, using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an unifying theme. Students learn how Cyprus, the easternmost member of the EU and the Eurozone, provides a case study for sustainability. Throughout their stay in Cyprus, students participate actively in six structured educational experiences, carefully selected to incorporate several UN SDGs as prioritized by the Cyprus government.

The new course fulfills the GE Thematic Pathway requirement for new Ohio State students (autumn 2022 and later) and has been approved as an Integrative High-Impact Practice: Education Abroad and Away course. Additionally, legacy students can use this course to fulfill their Open Options or another GE requirement.

"I am honored that my course has been approved and am very excited to lead the first four-credit-hour program in the Sustainability Theme," Constantinou says. "In addition to the knowledge that this new course will allow students to fulfill the Sustainability Theme requirement, I am eager to share the new content with students. I am a strong proponent of sustainability and global education and believe this course will showcase both themes."