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Behind the scenes with Ann Scheerer, sustainability double degree program academic advisor, instructor

By Heather Doherty  
May 5, 2018

Ann Scheerer is the academic advisor for the sustainability double degree program and an instructor of SUS 304 – Sustainability Assessment. Before entering academia in 2009, Ann worked with local governments and nonprofits on sustainable community planning and project management in the Puget Sound region. Ann is passionate about sustainability and helping OSU students to identify their career direction in sustainability. She is currently serving on the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Steering Committee. Ann has a Ph.D. in Design and Planning from the University of Colorado as a National Science Foundation Sustainable Urban Infrastructure IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training) Fellow, an M.P.A. from the University of Washington in Seattle, an M.Sc. in Sustainable Development from Blekinge Institute in Sweden, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and a B.A. in Physics from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Ann currently serves on the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Steering Committee and as the Land Use Action Team Leader.


Briefly describe your role as an Ecampus advisor and instructor?

“As the Ecampus advisor for the sustainability double degree and minor students, I find it fascinating to connect with our Ecampus students around the world to learn what is happening in terms of sustainability in their communities. I aim to connect with students and understand their interests and passions to help them tailor their studies. I love getting to know what drives the students and help them realize a career. More practically, once a student has selected their primary major, I am here to introduce and explain the requirements and enroll students in the sustainability double degree or minor program. I advise students on course planning for their sustainability studies in conjunction with their primary major. Sustainability double degree students are required to complete a sustainability practicum internship experience, and I act as the internship coordinator and instructor of record.

I teach a sustainability core course, SUS 304 Sustainability Assessment, on Ecampus winter, spring and summer terms. This course examines a range of different methodologies for measuring and evaluating performance toward established sustainability criteria and indicators at the individual and group level. Students leave the course with the fundamental skills required to complete sustainability assessments via globally relevant approaches.”

“In my current role, I encourage sustainability students to connect with their communities. I hope to inspire this generation to get active in the movement toward sustainability in their careers and lifestyles,” Ann says.

What do you like most about advising sustainability online? Being an online instructor?

“I love meeting students from all over the country and the world. It is fascinating to witness students exploring sustainability in their communities. It is very satisfying to witness students engaging in their communities in a positive way while realizing their dreams. I get great satisfaction helping Ecampus students navigate the university rules and different deadlines and systems. I love teaching sustainability concepts and hearing how these things may be playing out in communities around the world, or not. There are so many things we can learn from each other and our different perspectives. This is unique in the online classroom.”

What made you decide to get into this field of study?

“Twenty years ago, as a policy analyst and infrastructure planner for local government in the Seattle area, I became involved in local sustainable community issues. I conducted policy analyses and managed city infrastructure programs related to sustainability, such as curbside waste and recycling program, transportation alternatives, wastewater systems, and I became an activist for sustainable communities in my free time. I continued to be active in local sustainable community building and further my education in sustainable community planning. I obtained a Ph.D. in community design and planning from the University of Colorado in 2015. In my current role, I encourage sustainability students to connect with their communities. I hope to inspire this generation to get active in the movement toward sustainability in their careers and lifestyles.”

“We are inspiring our students to think differently and create new systems of collaboration and sharing to minimize use of resources, reduce emissions, adapt to changing conditions and create healthy sustainable communities and economies.”

What would you say is the most fascinating aspect of this field of study?

“We grapple with complex ‘wicked’ problems in sustainability studies where we ask students to think out of the box when it comes to these complex issues. Considering the exponentially increasing global population and increasing consumption and waste habits (e.g. plastics, electronic devices), will there be enough resources (e.g. water, clean air, food)? This is a powerful time, some call it the Great Turning, where we can continue with business as usual consuming the planet’s resources at a rate that cannot be regenerated, or we can decide as a global society to change our carbon-based consumption-oriented lifestyles.”

Briefly describe how the sustainability double degree works online.

“The sustainability double degree (SDD) and minor are both fully available online. The SDD requires 32 credits in addition to the 180 credits for a primary degree, for a total of 212 credits for two degrees. The sustainability minor requires 27 credits (within the 180 credits). There are five core courses that all sustainability degree and minor students must take. SUS courses are offered online every term and there are no prerequisites required to take these core courses, so they may be taken in any order. Students pursuing the B.S. in Sustainability (the double degree), are required to complete a sustainability practicum experience. Ecampus students have started community gardens at their local library, conducted climate action planning process for their local government, set up a recycling system at their place of business, to name a few.”

How can earning sustainability double degree help students in their futures? What types of jobs does this degree set them up for?

“I firmly believe that sustainability concerns (climate changes, renewable energy technologies, sprawl) are driving future trends in all sectors (business, government, nonprofits). Gaining skills to mobilize new ideas and actions to resolve complex sustainability issues will be required for all industries and businesses. We are inspiring our students to think differently and create new systems of collaboration and sharing to minimize use of resources, reduce emissions, adapt to changing conditions and create healthy sustainable communities and economies.”

How do you build a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?

“I request to meet with each prospective and new sustainability student to explain the requirements and get to know each other a little bit. I want students to feel comfortable contacting me about any questions they may have.” 

What advice would you like to give to students?

“I encourage students to explore and take advantage of the many wonderful learning opportunities available to students. From a sustainability practicum to perhaps the OSU Office of Global Opportunities, there are a variety of educational experiences to take advantage of and there are many designed to be short and work with Ecampus student schedules.” 

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

“I bike to work every day rain or shine. I love to hike and find remote hot springs to soak in. A daily meditation and journaling practice keeps me grounded.”

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