Outlook: Students teaching students about sustainability

In Uppsala 25 years ago, a shift occurred in an otherwise so traditional academia. Student dissatisfaction over the curriculum in the environmental subjects led to the creation of the centre Cemus, which since then has conducted teaching.

CEMUS IS AN activist student movement that started in 1992 with the objective to overall change and improve climate and environmental teaching at educations at Uppsala University. Now, some 25 years later, Cemus is conducting a cross-border operation where students both teach other students and conduct outreach with society.

“The Cemus initiative became a success as a result of profitable conditions where people in established positions created opportunities for students to start a whole new thing. Another way to put it is that Cemus was born out of the student dissatisfaction over the course offerings, which they turned into something positive,” says Malin Östman, course coordinator at Cemus.
GREAT PARTS OF CEMUS, the Centre for Environment and Development Studies, is operated in collaboration between Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The initiative in turn led to the establishment of new educations. Cemus is still run by students who annually offer courses, lectures and events to further develop the role of society and the academic community to contribute to a more just and sustainable world.

At the end of each term, Cemus organises an event called Uppsala Sustainability Festival, with ‘bloom’ as its theme, which offers a full day of lectures, workshops, poetry and food. This event aims to call attention to worldwide issues such as global warming, poverty and integration. However, far more than problems is on the agenda — such as the increasing ratio of renewable energy in the total energy production.

Cemus has raised issues like the climate threat and sustainable development. The course offering spans across sustainable development and global environmental history, but also Master’s level courses. Student ambition and opportunities to shift the academic approach to a subject area is something Malin Östman regards as rare at Uppsala University with its very strong academic traditions.

“Cemus also has good collaborations with other departments and universities where researchers and lecturers are hired to teach in Uppsala. We are constantly adapting the context of the course to aspects that are con- sidered important and topical,” says Malin Östman.

In 2017, Cemus turns 25 which is celebrated for instance by publishing weekly essays and stories throughout the year. The texts are available on Facebook and in the magazine Cemuse.
At the end of the year, the material will be compiled into a full collection for publishing. The essays and stories are both personal experiences and more academic texts, both in writing and as podcasts or videos.


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