Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET)
New undergraduate course

Students ready to tackle the sustainability tangle!

The new interdisciplinary undergraduate course CET201 Sustainable innovation had its inaugural course day last week. Around 25 students found their way to BTO’s innovation hub: Nyskapningsparken for an introduction to the eight-week course.

Students gathered around table
Johan Elfving

Main content

Walking around the room there was a buzz of excitement for what lies ahead for the students. The group is comprised of students from a variety of degrees and faculties from UiB, making the first day a getting-to-know-each-other session.

Nikola Husballe Rasmussen is an exchange student from Århus University and studies cognitive sciences. She hopes this course will help her in her studies:

- We study how we can influence people’s behaviour and this combined with sustainable innovation is very relevant for me.

For others like Tobias Elst from Germany it was the focus on green innovation that motivated him to apply:

- Where I come from in Germany it is quite a green city where we try to focus on this in our studies. I applied to Bergen because of the course in environmental psychology and then I saw this course and it was perfect.

A lot of the students are excited to be working and getting to know students from other faculties like Joakim Stavland Hjorth who studies Comparative Politics:

- My course is very theory based while this course has an applied approach and combines lots of disciplines and I think that is really exciting.

Finding solutions for real challenges

The course has been developed by student co-ordinators Johan Elfving and Åshild Aarø together with academic advisors including CET Director Håvard Haarstad and Susan Johnsen, senior advisor for innovation at UiB.

Susan Johnsen has a background as a social entrepreneur and has first-hand experience working with sustainable innovation. To say she was excited for this course is an understatement as she opened her short lecture with:

- I almost couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited. I wish I was a student now so I could take this course!

Johnsen started her work with this course around a year ago and has high expectations for the results:

- I think this is going to be extremely interesting for everyone involved. The students get to work with real challenges that they will find the solutions to. That must be so stimulating instead of only working with theory.

The students will be using design thinking methods in interdisciplinary groups. The complex problem they will be tackling this semester is city planning in Åsane.

It’s going to get messy

The first session included an outline of the course and a short introduction to design thinking methodology and what they can expect.

It was a big day for student co-ordinators Åshild Aarø and Johan Elfving from the UiB Collaboratory, who have spent many weeks discussing back and forth and prototyping the course’s structure.

- The moment our first students entered the room, I felt mostly just stoked and eager to get started. Our students actively joined in on the session from the very start - asking questions, discussing and making creative prototypes. I hope they had as much fun as I did, says Aarø.

The main message given to the students from Aarø & Elfving was to embrace the mess and solve the sustainabity tangle.

- The students have now embarked on a journey in creative ways of learning through collaboration, workshops and discussions. We are breaking free from the traditional strains of learning, and I hope the students take advantage of the course we have built from scratch for them, says Aarø.  

The sustainability course has been in the pipeline a while and Elfving is eager to see the results of all their hard work:

- This is, to my knowledge, the first student-led course at UiB, and it is important that we can show the university that this is a recipe for success. And I am confindent that it will be!

Rethinking the way we teach.

The course has generated a lot of excitement among students according to Jakob Grandin, PhD fellow at CET and coordinator for CET201.

- It is clear that students in Bergen are hungry for interdisciplinary courses on sustainable development. We had more than 80 applicants from all faculties, and could not make space for everyone this time. 

Grandin says one of the most important aspects when working with sustainability is rethinking higher education and to place interdisciplinary and student participation at the centre. The UiB Collaboratory is a new platform for reworking higher education through student-led collaboration between students and researchers in Bergen:

- I was extremely happy to see how well the students responded to this format. Putting students in charge of designing and organising higher education leads to immense innovation in learning formats and teaching methods. 

The course runs for eight weeks and will combine short lectures, workshops, panel discussions and working in interdisciplinary groups. The last day of the course the students will present their solutions.