Cassie Quigley, associate department chair and associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Leading (TLL) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, and Danielle Andrews-Brown, lecturer and environment sustainability coordinator in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science, received a 2022 Pitt Sustainability Award for their work in co-developing interdisciplinary courses based on environmental justice.
The Pitt Sustainability award is given annually to Pitt faculty, staff, students, and groups who make an extraordinary impact on campus sustainability. Awardees are recognized for demonstrating their impact in one or more categories of the Pitt Sustainability Plan.
The courses developed by Quigley and Andrews-Brown – titled “Place, Collective Economies, and Environmental Justice” and “Global Water: Activism and STEM Pedagogies”– are part of the Freedom Seminars offered by the School of Education. They are six-week, one-credit courses offered online to any undergraduate and graduate student at the University. The seminars, originally designed by Sabina Vaught and the TLL Coordinating Committee, include a variety of freedom projects, theories, pedagogies, and praxes.
“I was completely honored by this award, and still am,” says Quigley. “I know how much good work is going on at the University and to be nominated and awarded is really humbling.”
Quigley and Andrews-Brown say working on the Environmental Justice Freedom Seminars was a collective effort. Work began in 2020, when the University shifted to remote instruction because of the pandemic.
Quigley had proposed the environmental justice courses to the TLL department and the University’s Sustainability Committee. Meanwhile, Andrews-Brown knew some of her students were working on an environmental justice syllabus. The two connected and formed an independent summer reading group with students to learn more and advance their work.
“For four months over the summer, we read books and articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, and dreamed up the courses,” recalled Quigley. “Those dreaming sessions became a reality with the first class, Environmental Justice and Collective Economies,” and the second class, Global Water, Activism, and STEM Pedagogies. In both classes, we invited guest speakers from the community including Grow Pittsburgh, the Black Environmental Collective, Frick Environmental Center, and others.”
Both Quigley and Andrews-Brown emphasized the collaborative nature in creating the seminars. They credit all who worked on the project, specifically their undergraduate and graduate students.
“I think we made a great team, and Cassie created a brilliant space for all of us to learn, grow, and create together,” says Andrews-Brown. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without the assistance of some awesome individuals such as our graduate students, Holly Plank and Hillary Henry, as well as the undergraduates, Sydney Dubose, Dahlia Edwards, Cloe Halloway, and Debra Scott.”
All students at the University of Pittsburgh are eligible to take the Freedom Seminar courses. They are offered in the fall, spring, and summer terms.