Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the QEP? The College’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is sustainability literacy as a bridge to addressing 21st-century problems.
2. Why take on a QEP? The College is a member of SACSCOC, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This is a regional body that accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in the southern states. In order to gain accreditation from SACSCOC (a process that the College must undergo every 10 years), there are certain requirements. Among those is the need to generate an enhanced learning project that impacts all enrolled students in some way.
The enhanced learning project, or QEP, is customarily presented by way of a 100-page document that will be evaluated by representatives from SACSOC during an on-site visit. (The College’s previous QEP was the First Year Experience.) The next QEP topic, sustainability literacy as a bridge to addressing 21st-century problems, is scheduled to officially begin in fall 2017.
3. Why choose sustainability literacy? It’s about problem solving. The College has committed to sustainability literacy in order to equip its students with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be more effective problem solvers in the future. Implicit in this choice is the fact that students will live in a society facing steep challenges, which include the consequences of climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, economic inequality, energy insecurity and social injustice, among others.
Addressing these problems will require critical skills including systems thinking and creative problem solving. Thus, the College’s new QEP is about preparing its students to effectively address systemic problems that cannot be solved with knowledge from just a single discipline, but require a holistic understanding – a concept that is often referred to as tending to the Triple Bottom Line.
4. What is the Triple Bottom Line? Every activity that humans undertake, whether that’s generating electrical power, growing food, or taking a trip, has costs associated with it. We are most accustomed to understanding the financial costs, but there social and environmental costs involved in everything we do as well.
For example, if a country or state decides to build a dam, there will be financial costs, but there will also be costs to anyone who is displaced by the dam and its future reservoir (a social cost) as well as costs to the ecosystems affected by that reservoir (an environmental cost).
When we acknowledge the non-financial impacts (often called “external costs”) and place equal emphasis on their importance, then we demonstrate awareness of the Triple Bottom Line, and consequently sustainability literacy.
It’s helpful to know that over two thirds of global Fortune 500 companies publish sustainability reports. In recent years, those reports have evolved from mere environmental impact statements to include social and economic performance metrics for these companies.
5. How does the College define sustainability? The College defines sustainability as the integration of economic, social and environmental systems in ways that allow for individual, institutional, community, regional and planetary resilience.
6. How does the College define sustainability literacy? The College defines sustainability literacy as having the knowledge and skills to advocate for resilient social, economic and environmental systems.
7. How is the College implementing its QEP? The College intends for all camus community members to participate and embrace this initiative, including students, faculty and staff. In order to facilitate campuswide participation, the College is utilizing three avenues of advocacy: education, empowerment and expression.
Regarding education, the College has begun compiling a list of sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses. These are loosely referred to as Triple-Bottom-Line courses because the lessons taught imply an understanding of the environmental and social costs of doing business along with financial costs. (A list of sustainability focused and sustainability related courses can be found here.) In addition, faculty at the College are encouraged to propose new courses that qualify as sustainability-focused or related. On top of that, students can apply to become a Sustainability Literacy Scholar. (More information on Sustainability Literacy Scholars can be found in the official QEP, here.)
Regarding empowerment, students can serve internships, take alternative breaks, study abroad or join a student club or organization focused on issues of sustainability. Faculty can also include students in their sustainability-focused research and assign coursework that incorporates sustainability issues.
Regarding expression, students, faculty and staff can blog, volunteer, adopt sustainable lifestyle practices and embrace an inclusive outlook. In addition, students, faculty and staff can attend events orchestrated to help further the goals of the QEP such as the Social Justice Coffee Hour, Yes! I'm a Feminist, and other on an off campus offerings.
Also, to help focus the QEP, the College will select a new CofC Sustains/Solves theme each year. For the 2017-‘18 academic year, that theme will be water quality and accessibility. That year, there will be a campuswide focus on how population growth, global warming and pollution threaten the earth’s potable water supplies. The College will maintain this focus by emphasizing that theme at Convocation, through visiting speakers and other events.