Ethics and Sustainability Service Learning Class

Students from Lally's Ethics and Sustainability Service Learning class work on their projects during their Friday class period.

Taught by Roisin Lally, lecturer of philosophy, Gonzaga’s new Ethics and Sustainability Service Learning class allows students to apply the university’s ethics curriculum to their everyday lives.  

To fulfill the service portion of the course’s curriculum, the students have been working with the Inland Northwest Community Gardens where they have been taught the importance of gardening, purchasing locally and the impact these choices have on the community, the Earth and themselves. 

“I wanted to address the current ecological crisis and provide best practices for our young men and women, in the tradition of the Jesuits in the face of this challenge,” Lally said in an email. “I wanted a class that offers Gonzaga students a respite from paralyzing anxiety of the climate crises by showing them through scholarly works, active engagement and expert guidance from our partners Inland Northwest Community Gardens, WSU and Master Gardeners, as to how to build a healthy, sustainable and deeply rewarding relationship with the Earth and their sociopolitical environment.”

This is the first semester this service learning ethics course has been taught, taking place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:10 p.m. to 2 p.m. 

Along with the traditional ethics curriculum required in GU’s core, the course requires 20 hours of service with eight hours already built into the class schedule. 

“So far we’ve been giving back by working at the garden about a mile up the road,” Jon Fisher a student in the class said. “We have done weeding, some harvesting and some tasting actually. It’s been really productive and it’s really nice to get out in the sun.” 

Along with service learning, the class is also focused on an individual or group project involving both the curriculum, as well as service, that the students work on throughout the semester. 

“It correlates nicely to the material that we’re learning in class, just regarding ancient philosophy and ancient ethics in specific, and applying that to real life,” Fisher said. “It allows us to open up and think differently than a lecture style and actually apply that to what we’re doing in the real world.” 

The class is formed around the students’ projects, which they are given freedom to create based off of their own interests as they apply to the class. Some students have incorporated their own majors into their final projects, like engineering student Benjamin Powers.

“I was looking into how we could put solar panels on the new engineering building being made, to try to equal out the power that would be used in the building and make the building carbon neutral, while also tapping into the rest of the power grids,” Powers said. 

The class allows all different majors to open their minds to a different way of thinking, said business major Brendan Herriman.

Herriman studies finance and said he hasn’t really worked with sustainabiltiy and this class helped him create a better understanding of the two. 

“I thought that this would be a good opportunity to expose myself to a different way of thinking and then maybe use some of those business skills in a way that could be sustainable for our environment,” Herriman said.

Other student projects include creating a lesson plan on the different types of soil for the youth at the church attached to the Inland Northwest Community Gardens, building a new deck for the seniors visiting the gardens and working with Habitat for Humanity to incorporate small gardens into the building of new homes. 

Lally has been a huge part of the success of the class thus far. Much of her emphasis has been on giving the students the freedom to structure the class in a way that is beneficial to them. 

“[Lally] is just super passionate about what she’s teaching, which makes it super interesting and makes it easier to pay attention in class,” said Maddie Robinson, a student in the class. “She relates it back to our lives more than a lot of professors do and not by just relaying the information to us. She also shows us the impact that having a stronger relationship with the environment can do.” 



Kathryn Graham is a staff photographer. Follow Kathryn on Instagram: @katgrahammm.

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