CC Professor Promotes Real World Activism in Environmental Studies Class

First year Professor Zach Sugg’s final block at Colorado College featured a unique addition to the curriculum. Students in his Environmental Justice in the Southwest class were required to write a standard case study and then create a blog from their research. The case study was a more scholarly and academic project, according to Sugg, while the blog post required some different techniques.

“We talked about [it] in class some: the differences in style, the differences in tone. We talked about how long should the blog post be,” said Sugg. “Every blog post was peer reviewed by the class in draft form.”

Riley Hutchings, a sophomore, said, “it was a very broad assignment.” According to Hutchings the way she wrote her case study was very different than the blog post.

“I definitely wrote them differently,” Hutchings said. “My essay was a lot more academic and [the blog post] was like a synopsis of my essay and a lot more directed at my readers. Some other people took way more personal tones.”

According to Sugg, students overcame challenges with the help of peer suggestions. “I think having the time to do some peer review of what they wrote helped improve the final set of posts that went into the blog,” said Sugg.

Without having tried this type of final before, Sugg believes that it was a very positive experience and hopes to improve upon it for the next class.

“This was my first time trying the project out,” said Sugg. “There were a lot of moving parts and it’s difficult to make everything happen in the confines of the block schedule. There are some things I would fix but overall I was happy with the final product.”

Sugg believes that the project also benefited students by requiring them to use a different style of writing than they are used to.

“I think it’s an important skill to write for a non-academic, broader audience,” said Sugg. “That’s what I hoped that it added to the class.”

Inspiration for the project came from ideas within the field itself. Sugg wanted to incorporate the real world element of awareness into the class.

“Part of it has to do with the nature of environmental justice because [it’s] a movement that’s both academic and non-academic. There’s lots of organizations out there that are not affiliated with universities that are doing lots of organizing and social action and raising awareness,” said Sugg.

Sugg felt that, as the teacher, he should not be the only one to read the students work. He believed having a final that was accessible to the public would address this concern. Organizations, other students, or casual readers can use the research done in the class and presented in the blog to educate themselves and others.

“In the spirit of environmental justice, I wanted to have some sort of writing that was outward facing, to communicate awareness on a range of topics,” said Sugg. “I felt that the case studies were kind of important to put out there into the world.”

Hutchings agreed and said, “I think it is definitely cool to show the public what we had done and inform them of more issues in the world.”

According to Sugg, the final project took on different forms before it was presented to the class.

“I got the idea from some conversations with folks from the Writing Center on campus. I had initially thought I would do a wiki page but they suggested that a blog might be a better way to go about it, so I took their advice,” said Sugg.

Readers can find the class blog posts on the Colorado College affiliated website: https://sites.coloradocollege.edu/ejsw/

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