UK Students to Present Sustainability Research at NSF Showcase

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 26, 2013) — Graduate and undergraduate students who participated in the National Science Foundation-funded Systems Thinking for Sustainability (NSF-STFS) course at the University of Kentucky will present their research findings in a showcase Tuesday, April 30, in the Lexmark Public Room in UK's Main Building. This project showcase, which is free and open to the public, will display the range of multivalent viewpoints, issues investigated, and potential solutions discovered over the course of the Spring 2013 semester.

This year’s umbrella project titled Campus Living advances the research developed by the Spring 2012 STFS class. Using last year’s projects as springboards for deeper and more thorough approaches, the students’ projects explore sustainable issues through the lens of systems thinking as a means of simultaneously seeing and assessing the issues from multiple vantage points. The topics selected for this year’s projects are germane to ongoing campus planning initiatives and include topics such as open space utilization, building the campus community, sustainable transportation, energy and water usage, campus amenities, and enhancing the student center experience.

The presentation agenda for the showcase is as follows:

  • informal discussions with individual student teams 10:30 to 11 a.m.;
  • team presentations 11 a.m. to noon; and
  • a question and response session noon to 12:30 p.m.


The faculty who collaboratively taught the NSF-STFS course are Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering Fazleena Badurdeen; College of Design Associate Dean for Research Gregory Luhan; Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Margaret Schroeder of the College of Education; Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dusan Sekulic; and Assistant Professor Leslie Vincent of Gatton College of Business and Economics.

NSF-STFS is a NSF-funded project focused on the development of an innovative team-taught interdisciplinary course that will transform STEM education for undergraduates.  This course features the interactive teamwork of four UK colleges: Design, Engineering, Education and Gatton College of Business and Economics, that uses a project- and  problem-based learning approach to address issues related to sustainability and living on the UK campus.

The NSF TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM) project, "Systems Thinking for Sustainability" (or STFS for short) started in Fall 2012 and will continue through the Spring 2014 semester. The project involves designing and teaching a cross-disciplinary course using sustainability as a unifying rubric for examining the societal, environmental, and economic domains. The hope and expectation of the three-year study is to enable students to engage in and learn from a systems approach to solving problems in sustainability areas (the subject area for the course) that will help students develop the perspectives and skills they need to work together in an increasingly cross-disciplinary world facing progressively more complex problems like the transition to sustainability. The immediate benefit for many of the students, aside from working across disciplines through rigorous research-driven methods, is the synergistic link between the STFS course and their own discipline specific capstone projects and studio projects.

The STFS faculty continues to analyze the data developed in the class to frame research paper presentations and to inform workshops at international conferences using the showcase as a valuable vehicle to demonstrate “proof-of-concept” approaches that bridge between pedagogy and practice. To further substantiate how knowledge generated at the University of Kentucky can be translated to meet other outcomes, the faculty has also been working with a number of universities both in the U.S. and abroad to position the course beyond UK starting in Fall 2013 semester.

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;