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By Giovanni Ciarlo

Gaia Education reaches out for new partnerships in Higher Education.

From October 10 to 12, 2016 Gaia Education, in partnership with Custom Academic Programmes in Ecovillages (CAPE) and Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) , came together in Baltimore, USA to exhibit their programmes at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) annual conference and expo.

AASHE is a membership association of colleges and universities, businesses and nonprofits who are working together to lead the sustainability transformation. The annual conference is aimed at: Administrators, Graduate and Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Businesses, Community, and Staff. It is a full-on multisensory experience involving meeting new people, making professional connections, building relationships, and being part of the global Sustainability in Education movement. Over 2300 participants from all across North America and the World attended the conference.

The idea of having a joint exhibit space for the three organizations came from CAPE founder and GEN president, Daniel Greenberg, who invited Gaia Education's Academic Director, Giovanni Ciarlo, to join him in Baltimore for the two day event.

The purpose of the three-way partnership is to forge cross-organizational relationships and find new partners and students among universities in the USA that have, or wish to have, sustainability studies integrated into their course offerings. From attending this event and hearing what institutions of higher education are doing in the field of sustainability, we can confirm the role that Gaia Education and the ecovillage network play in this emerging area of learning.

Gaia Education's online holistic design approach is unique among adult education programmes, in that it meets all requirements for an online course on designing for sustainability. The EDE, offered in ecovillages around the world, are ideal sites for study abroad and immersion programmes in experiential education. CAPE is the consulting entity that links them all together.

There were numerous opportunities to attend presentations given by sustainability professionals, professors, students, activists, and entrepreneurs. The programme included:

  • Presenters' sessions and workshops (panels, case studies, networking, posters, film, pre and post conference workshops, art installations...)
  • Key note speakers
  • Student speakers
  • Student groups
  • Colloquium on Sustainability Research and Business Education
  • Demonstrations
  • Over 200 exhibitors

The presentations addressed topics of Coordination and Planning, Campus Culture, Curriculum, Public Engagement, Diversity, Air and Climate, Buildings, Grounds, Energy, Food, Water, Transportation, Waste, Investments, Purchasing, Wellbeing, Research, and Employment.

Gaia Education entered the Poster Session with a display of its new poster, created by branding guru Alexandre Pereira, highlighting all the programmes Gaia Education has on offer for 2016-17. It was an opportunity to speak with people directly, answer questions, and explain the work of Gaia Education and its partners.

One of the key ideas to take-away from this conference was the confirmation that in academic circles it is widely recognized that learners today are looking beyond a university degree in sustainability, to something more valuable in practical terms; a certificate that attests to their knowledge of both the theoretical and practical application of sustainability in a variety of traditional jobs for which they have completed a degree, and thus can add a sustainability certificate to their skills set. Gaia Education is serving that niche in the education market, and that is the value of a partnership with institutions of higher education.

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Jess Gerrior, of the Sustainability Curriculum Consortium, and Giovanni Ciarlo during the poster session

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More information: AASHE Conference and Expo