Geography professors encourage KSU students to make a sustainable difference

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 26, 2020

Environmental sustainability might often be thought of as a global initiative, but according to Kennesaw State University geography professor Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, it starts at the local level.

Vanessa Slinger-Friedman
Vanessa Slinger-Friedman
Slinger-Friedman incorporates sustainability – the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs – into her teaching at Kennesaw State. She encourages other faculty members to do the same through “active learning,” the practice of students gaining knowledge through actual experiences rather than simply taking in information.

“I think sustainability is a topic that should be taught across the curriculum because it is applicable to every academic discipline,” Slinger-Friedman said. “By becoming aware of environmental issues and thinking critically about the issues, students can take an active role in changing the way things are done throughout all the disciplines.”

Through active learning methods, KSU geography lecturer Jason Rhodes has taught his students about the environmental concerns surrounding the fashion industry, which has been documented as one of the largest polluters in the world. Kennesaw State alumnus Britt Pickering, for example, used the knowledge she gained through Rhodes’ class to establish OwlSwap Sustainability Initiative, which combines sustainability, student research, clothing swaps and job readiness while helping disadvantaged students.

Slinger-Friedman, Rhodes and Pickering are the featured guests in the latest episode of the “Thought Provoking” podcast, featuring research and expertise from KSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Click here to listen to the podcast.

The podcast guests share several examples of Kennesaw State students being involved in hands-on sustainability initiatives in geography, architecture, engineering and marketing. Another topic is an OwlSwap research collaboration between students at KSU and a university in Bangladesh to study the challenges, social justice and environmental issues faced by garment workers as they produce the cheap, trendy clothing called “fast fashion.”

“One thing that all our sustainability efforts at KSU do is connect how faculty and staff interactions with students can positively influence student success and make them lifelong learners and critical thinkers,” Slinger-Friedman said. “They can learn about the issues and the challenges, but they also can be creative about creating and implementing solutions, even on their own campuses.”

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit