Engaging in a University Curriculum Involving Sustainability Themes

A Two-Year Case Study of a First-year Writing Course


  • Tara Hembrough Southeastern Oklahoma State University






Writing about environmental and sustainability issues has grown in popularity, especially in lower-division writing courses. Yet, for teachers and writing program administrators, what are the benefits and drawbacks in asking students to interact with place-based discourses? How does implementing an ecocomposition curriculum and sustainability topics in first-year composition affect students’ writing outcomes? This article discusses a two-year, case study at a comprehensive research university of an experimental course-design model involving 1,421 students and 63 teachers. Students engaged with the university’s sustainability theme in Composition I, as well as other courses. This article includes a description of Composition I’s framework and its assessment practices, and raters measure the writing outcomes for the class’s major essay, a literature review. Overall, teachers utilizing ecocomposition practices presented students with a cohesive, relevant curriculum and assisted them in developing and organizing the literature review; writing and thinking about diverse spaces related to their experiences, majors, and futures; and forging and documenting campus and local ties, including through community-based learning. The study’s results have implications for teaching ecocomposition and sustainability themes in first-year composition.

Author Biography

Tara Hembrough, Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Dr. Tara Hembrough is an Assistant Professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She teaches in the English Department and serves as the Area Head for Professional and Technical Writing. Her forthcoming publications concern student veterans and writing program administration.


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How to Cite

Hembrough, T. (2019). Engaging in a University Curriculum Involving Sustainability Themes: A Two-Year Case Study of a First-year Writing Course. Writing and Pedagogy, 11(2), 223–252. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.34315



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