Three Family and Consumer Sciences faculty receive the climate change teaching fellow mini grants

May 18, 2020

Dr. Caroline Webber

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Caroline Webber, associate professor and director of the WMU Dietetic Internship Program, Kim Buchholz, interior design instructor, and Dustin Altschul, part-time interior design instructor, from the Department of Family and Consumer Science in the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, have been awarded $500 Climate Change Teaching Fellow Mini Grants. The awards, given by the WMU Climate Change Working Group, seek to foster the integration of climate change as a topic in WMU courses at all levels and in all disciplines and may be used towards activities that further climate change curricular goals.

Kim Buchholz

Dr. Webber plans to further develop a new online course, "Food Systems, Nutrition, and Climate Change" that will become part of the graduate program for dietitians and to integrate the topic of climate change into the post-baccalaureate dietetic internship which includes 1200+ hours of supervised practice. “It is estimated that 21-37% of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and consumption of food, but this statistic gets little press. How our food is produced and the choices consumers make do make a difference, and because of this, it's important that this topic be included in our education program,” she explained.

Dustin Altschul

Kim Buchholz has revised the course description for “Residential Architectural Design Studio” to focus on how interior designers directly contribute towards housing evolution, including health, well-being, shelter, and resiliency in the face of climate change. Through this course, students partner with Community Action Allegan County (CAAC) and Michigan Career Technical Institute (MCTI) to research, design, and build homes that respond to the unique demographic and housing conditions in Allegan County. “Students will leave the course feeling knowledgeable and empowered to enter into the evolving interior design profession as it is redefined (before our very eyes) to respond to climate change, and thus the future of human habitation,” said Buchholz. The relationship formed between WMU students, CAAC, MCTI, community members and trade students illustrates how and why accessible, resilient housing, as well as participatory design practice strategies, are leading the charge in sustainable research within the residential design sector.

Dustin Altschul is developing a new course, “Intro to Constructed Environments II,” which will debut in spring 2021. He plans to bring in guest lecturers to help deepen students’ understanding of climate change and how their design decisions impact that world. The students will learn how to take an active role in reducing climate change through design agency, including consideration of how materials are specified, engagement of construction practices, and how human comfort is provided for within built environments. Students will engage in projects that will help them develop the vision for how current construction practices can be modified to be more environmentally centered. “Reducing climate change requires interdisciplinary action, so I am rather elated to work with the Climate Change Working Group to expand my broader understanding of climate that I can bring to the classroom,” shared Altschul.