12th-13th February 2020: Symposium "Sustainability Literacy: Faculty, Staff, and Students as Agents of Change", College of Charleston, USA

It is widely accepted that there is a perceived need to foster literacy about sustainability, both within and outside higher education institutions. By doing so, one can foster a deeper awareness of sustainable development and its many ramifications into both, professional and personal behaviours. However, the extent to which sustainability literacy exists or is being practiced, has not been sufficiently exploited.


It is widely accepted that there is a need to foster literacy about sustainability, both within and outside higher education institutions. By doing so, one can foster a deeper awareness of sustainable development and its many ramifications into both, professional and personal behaviours. However, the extent to which sustainability literacy exists or is being practiced, has not been sufficiently exploited.

The Symposium “Sustainability Literacy: Faculty, Staff, and Students as Agents of Change” will address this gap. It will focus on the means, methods and processes via which sustainability awareness and literacy may be fostered and deployed, as  tools via which we can promote and support sustainability efforts, both within higher education and beyond.

Promoting participatory and inclusive approaches to sustainability, towards the use of literacy, may provide a sound basis for a broader engagement of faculty, staff, and students into matters related to sustainable development. A broader sustainability literacy may lead not only to increased awareness, but also to improvements in both teaching and research programmes.

The transdisciplinary Symposium will bring together lecturers, researchers and practitioners from a wide spectrum of the Social and Natural, and Physical Sciences, the Humanities, public health, and other domains of higher education, representing sustainability in the widest sense.


The Symposium is being organised by the European School of Sustainability Science and Research (ESSSR), the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP), and the College of Charleston (CofC), South Carolina, with support from CofC’s Sustainability Literacy Institute.

The aims of the Symposium are as follows:

  • i. to provide teaching, research and sustainability staff at universities with an opportunity to display and present their works on sustainability literacy (i.e.  curriculum innovation, empirical work, activities, case studies and practical projects);
  • ii. to foster the exchange of information, ideas and experiences acquired in applying sustainability literacy, especially successful initiatives and good practice;
  • iii. to network the participants and provide a platform so they can explore the possibilities for further cooperation.

The Symposium will also focus on the means to integrate, promote or otherwise catalyse efforts to implement the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will contribute to the further development of this central topic. The Symposium is a further event organised as part of the “Accelerating Sustainable Development Series”, which consists of a series of key gatherings on the subject matter of sustainable development. Other events have been organised with a focus on research (Turin, July 2019), teaching (Stockholm, September 2019) and on campus activities (Spain, 2nd-3rd December 2019).

Last but not least, a further aim of the event will be to document and disseminate the wealth of experiences on implementing sustainability research available today. To this purpose, papers which have been accepted, presented and discussed at the Symposium may be submitted for a special issue of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, published by Emerald Publishing (UK), which is the world´s leading journal on sustainability in a higher education context: www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/ijshe.htm.


Delegates attending the Symposium will come from a cross-sectoral range of areas. These are:

  • i. research and teaching staff
  • ii. student groups;
  • iii. members of university administrations;
  • iv. project officers and consultants;
  • v. other people interested in the field.

It is believed that this wide range of participants will help to outline the need for integrated approaches towards sustainability and the arts, promote cross-sectorial collaboration and hence contribute towards advancing the cause of integrating sustainability and the arts in higher education even further.


The Symposium will be organised around two main strands:

Strand 1: the posters

Participating universities will be able to put-up displays describing their works, research and teaching projects, and to distribute the relevant information to the participants.

Strand 2: the presentations

A set of presentations will be organised, divided into sections. The programme will be structured when all abstracts  have been submitted.

The  events organised as part of the “Accelerating Sustainable Development Series” are high level events, which count on a strong participation of interested colleagues and vibrant discussions. Therefore, it is important to note that the submission of papers to the event and their subsequent consideration for the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education are subject to the following condition: only papers from researchers who have registered, attended the event and presented and discussed their works will be considered for the special issue. Submissions which do not meet this criteria, will not be considered.

The Symposium will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, USA on February 12th and February 13th 2020. The schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, February 12th 2020

  • 13:30-14:00- Arrival and set-up of displays
  • 14:00-14:10- Welcome
  • 14:10-16:00- Presentations and discussion
  • 16:00-16:30 – Break
  • 16:30-18:00- Presentations and discussion
  • 18:00- 19:00- Reception

Thursday, February 13th 2020

  • 09:00-11.00- Presentations and discussions
  • 11.00-11:30 – Break
  • 11:30-12:30- Presentations and discussions
  • 12:30-13:30- Lunch
  • 13:30-15:30- Presentations and discussion
  • 15:30-16:00- Final discussion and close of the event

In order to ensure an efficient use of the time, delegates are kindly asked to organise their travel in a way that allows them to travel back after 17:30 on February 12th 2020, so they do not miss the final discussion.

  • Deadline for submission of abstracts: 30th October  2019
  • Deadline for submission of papers: 6th January 2020
  • Deadline for registrations: 20th January 2020

Since the special issue is expected to be produced soon after the Symposium, the deadlines need to be followed.

The event will be held at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. The exact address is: 66 George Street, Charleston, SC, 29424. Directions to CofC: http://www.cofc.edu/visit/drivingdirections.php 

For more information on visiting and staying in Charleston, please visit these websites: https://www.charlestoncvb.com/plan-your-trip/lodging~123/

A fee of € 240 will be charged to  delegates to offset the preparation costs. The fee includes coffee breaks and lunches on 12th-13th February 2020, and a reception on 12th February 2020. For registrations cancelled up to 30 days before the event, a 50% refund may be provided. For cancellations made less than 30 days no refund are possible, since all arrangements have been made and a seat cannot be resold. Thank you for your understanding.


Registrations are now open and are possible until  20th January 2020. Regrettably, registrations after the deadline may not be possible. Since the space for displays and the time for presentations is limited, delegates are advised to submit their abstracts and register as soon as possible. The organisers will notify any interested delegate or organisation in case there are any limitations with time for presentations, or in respect of space for displays. Registered delegates will then receive further details on the payment of the fees and updated information on the preparations for the event. The decision as to which papers will be accepted for presentation will be taken by the Chairperson, following consultation with the organising committee.



  • European School of Sustainability Science and Research
  • College of Charleston, South Carolina
  • Sustainability Curriculum Consortium (SCC) 
  • Sustainability Literacy Institute, CofC
  • Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme
  • Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Prof. Walter Leal (BSc, PhD, DSc, DPhil, DL, DLitt), Director, European School of Sustainability Science, Germany
  • Prof. Ira Feldman, founder and managing director of Sustainability Curriculum Consortium. Current research and teaching affiliations: George Mason University, City University of New York, University of Waterloo
  • Dr. Todd LeVasseur, College of Charleston, Sustainability Literacy Institute

All questions related to scientific inputs (e.g abstracts, papers) and strategic partnerships should be sent to:

Professor Walter Leal
European School of Sustainability Science, Germany



All questions related to registrations should be sent to:

Dr. Todd LeVasseur

An abstract should be up to 200 words, it should describe the rationale and aims of the paper, and some of its results. General descriptions of broad contexts should be avoided.  The full contact details about the author(s) need to be provided. Abstracts should be written in the third person and not in the first or second one (e.g. I, me, or my paper). Please see below for a sample abstract. Authors whose abstracts have been accepted, will receive further details about how to submit their full papers, and further logistical information. They should be sent to: Dr. Mihaela Sima, Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme, simamik(@)yahoo.com

Sample abstract

Some developments on education for sustainable development in higher education institutions

Prof. Walter Leal Filho (BSc, PhD, DSc, DPhil, DL, DLitt, FSB, FRGS, FLS)
Professor of Environment and Technology
School of Science and the Environment
Manchester Metropolitan University
Chester Street
Manchester, M1 5GD

United Kingdom



The implementation of sustainable development in higher education is a global trend. Yet, the intensity and the depth with which higher education institutions are taking on the challenge of sustainability, significantly differs.

This paper presents a global analysis about how higher education institutions are including sustainability issues in the different areas (e.g. teaching, research, outreach and institutional management) and describes the progress made in this field during the last 10 years. A special emphasis is given to the problems and barriers which prevent developments in respect of the integration of sustainability issues in higher education. Finally, some concrete steps which may be undertaken in order to allow universities to integrate sustainable development in their activities but also in regional development, are outlined. This paper will be useful to anyone interested in the different levels of emphasis given to sustainable development at higher education institutions across the world.


Questions related to abstracts:
Dr. Mihaela Sima

Questions related to registrations:
Dr. Todd LeVasseu