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Program Overview

The Climate and Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program provides support and a peer learning community for faculty and other instructors who are interested in redesigning an existing course to substantively engage with issues of climate and sustainability, to be taught in Fall 2023 or Spring 2024. Participants will receive:

  • $5,000 deposited to their Duke discretionary account;
  • resources, support and guidance from pedagogy experts and faculty experienced in incorporating climate and sustainability into course curricula;
  • the option to request $1,750 funding for a graduate student to support the course redesign; and
  • the opportunity to collaborate on course redesign with a group of peers from across campus. 

The program is a partnership between the Duke Climate Commitment and Duke Learning Innovation.

About the Climate and Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program

This Program builds on the work of the 2010-2019 Duke University Trillium Sustainability Fellows Program. Similar to the Trillium Sustainability Fellows, the Climate and Sustainability Teaching Fellows Program will form a learning community dedicated to increasing the prevalence and quality of climate and sustainability concepts in academic courses, across all departments. The Program continues a long history of environmental education and sustainability leadership at Duke, and adds to the Duke community of climate- and sustainability-engaged scholars who wish to instill this engagement in their students. The Program will support the redesign of courses so that they:

  • Develop student knowledge and skills regarding climate literacy and/or fluency (draft definitions);
  • Include active pedagogies such as collaborative projects, team-based learning, service-learning, games or role plays, or others as appropriate for the course learning objectives;
  • Align with the curricular priorities and needs of the school, department, or other unit; and
  • Have a strong chance of attracting significant student interest from year to year.

Program Dates and Time Commitment

The program will run from May 9, 2023, to April 2024, although the majority of the programmatic activities will take place before December 12, 2023. Teaching Fellows will be required to participate in the following cohort meetings:

  • A 4-day series of intensive in-person workshops will kick off the program, Tues May 9 – Friday May 12, from 10 AM – 3 PM daily. Possible workshop goals/structure:
    • Day 1: What is “climate literacy/climate fluency” and what could these look like in courses?
    • Day 2: Learning objectives
    • Day 3: Aligning assessments with learning objectives
    • Day 4: Course activities/active learning
  • (Optional) In-person cohort dinner tentatively planned for Monday May 8, 2023.
  • Four, one-hour virtual meetings in summer 2023 (May 31, June 21, July 12, August 2, 10 AM EDT),
  • In-person meeting August 16, 2023 (10 AM – 1 PM),
  • In-person meeting December 11, 2023 (10 AM – 1 PM),
  • In-person wrap-up meeting, for debrief and sharing lessons-learned April 2024 (date TBD).

In addition to the cohort meetings, Teaching Fellows will participate in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 program activities including:

  • Drafting a redesigned course syllabus for their own course (Summer 2023);
  • Reviewing 3-4 draft syllabi developed by peer Teaching Fellows and providing feedback (Summer/Fall 2023);
  • (Optional) Visiting the classroom of a Climate and Sustainability course offered by a faculty member experienced in teaching climate and sustainability content (Fall 2023) OR visiting the classroom of another peer Teaching Fellow (Fall 2023 or Spring 2024);
  • Working with Duke Learning Innovation to collect student feedback on the first offering of your redesigned course (Fall 2023 or Spring 2024);
  • Contributing to a group product or output from the Fellows program that would assist colleagues on campus in redesigning their own courses. The nature of this product will be determined later and may vary but some examples could include working with some or all of the Fellows cohort to:
    • Share your reflections and experiences with the campus community via a series of blog posts, organizing a symposium with presentations, etc.
    • Contributing content to a relevant website created and designed by the Duke Climate Commitment Communications Manager or other web designer/communicator.
    • Creating one or more video vignettes working with University Communications as part of a larger effort to publicize Duke’s Climate Commitment work.

Teaching Fellows are expected to attend all meetings, complete work between meetings, be prepared for meeting activities, and redesign an existing course to substantively engage with issues of climate and sustainability to be taught in Fall 2023 or Spring 2024.

Graduate student participation and funding

As noted above, participants will have the option of requesting $1,750 to cover 75 hours of a doctoral student’s time to work as a graduate assistant supporting the course redesign. These graduate assistant positions are eligible for work study. We strongly encourage faculty to consider including a grad student in their instructional team, and we can assist in trying to identify and recruit a student if the faculty member doesn’t have a student in mind.

  • Students can come from any discipline or department (e.g., no requirement for the student to be in the Nicholas School, or in a natural science department), but their eligibility to work on this project and receive financial support will need to be verified by their department.
  • The ideal student would have some prior training in effective course design and development.
  • The graduate assistantship must take place between May 9, 2023 and April 2024; faculty who work with a graduate assistant will determine when the assistant’s time would be best allocated.
  • Ph.D. students can spend their time on course development work (which may include syllabus development, creation of course materials such as videos, developing graded or ungraded assignments, building asynchronous web-based modules or similar activities) or on relevant course implementation activities.


Faculty of any level and rank, instructors, or staff with instructional responsibility from any Duke unit may apply. We hope to form a diverse cohort of participants who can learn from one another, and who come from natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, computational, and engineering areas. Participants must be available to participate (in-person, when the program requires it) during the dates/times listed in the “Program Dates and Time Commitment” section above. If you cannot make the session dates and times, we encourage you to schedule a course design consultation with Duke Learning Innovation rather than applying for this program. 

The course that participating Fellows redesign should be targeted at undergraduate students. We expect participants to offer the course in either Fall 2023 or Spring 2024. Participants should have support from their unit for offering the redesigned course on a regular basis, at least three times in the subsequent five-year period. Academic staff participants should have agreement from their managers that participating in program activities will be considered part of their regular work assignment during the time of the Fellowship (rather than being considered an overload).

Funding Details

Faculty or instructor Fellows who fully participate in all required meetings and activities will receive $5,000 transferred to their research account, to be used at their discretion. One or both Fellows who are co-teaching a course may also apply; if both individuals participate fully, the pair will receive a total of $7,500 transferred to their research accounts to use at their discretion.  Note: the funding will be dispersed in two cycles: half in May 2023 and half in December 2023. Consistent lack of participation may result in a pro-rated award. Also note: Fellows who are academic staff are considered to engage in the Fellowship activities as part of their regular work load during the time of the Fellowship and therefore are not eligible to receive the payments mentioned above.

Application process

Application forms should be submitted by 5 PM EST March 7, 2023 via the application form. The form requests the following information (you will be able to save and return to your application):

  • Applicant and co-applicant (if any) information, including any experience teaching climate/sustainability content or skills in prior courses,
  • Description how the applicant plans to revise the course, including brief explanation of how the course might be changed to incorporate climate/sustainability content or skill development,
  • Statement about what the applicant hopes to get out of their participation in the program,
  • Link to the syllabus for the existing course, which should include existing course learning objectives,
  • Whether or not the applicant would like to request funding for a graduate student assistant to help with the course redesign, what work the graduate student would do and when, and the name of the graduate student you have in mind (if any, so far).
  • Link to a letter of support from department chair or appropriate school dean, touching on
    • Alignment with the curricular priorities and needs of the unit,
    • Alignment with other unit activities related to the Duke Climate Commitment,
    • The intent to offer the course at least three times in the coming years, and
    • For academic staff applicants, the understanding that staff may allocate time from their regular workday for program participation.

Faculty who are co-teaching a course (or faculty who teach different sections of a core course) may submit one application with one letter of support. The application should make clear that the course would be co-taught and should clarify whether one, or both, faculty intend to participate in the program.

We are prioritizing applications in which:

  • The faculty demonstrate commitment to and enthusiasm about the goals of the Scholars Program,
  • The course is situated within the larger educational goals of the Climate Commitment and the department or school related to climate and sustainability education for Duke students,
  • The course will include interdisciplinary connections and approaches,
  • The course will include authentic, real-world products related to climate and sustainability fluency, or course activities which clearly position students to engage in creation of such products outside of the class or as a next step in their learning pathway,
  • The course is housed in a department where few courses to date are strongly related to climate and sustainability,
  • The course has the potential to have a broad student impact (examples: large classes, courses with in-depth experiential learning, courses that include a lot students early in their respective academic career, and core/gateway/introductory classes).

Review Process

The selection process will be overseen by the Duke Climate Commitment and Duke Learning Innovation. Decisions will be made by the end of March 2023.

FAQ Section

Can I apply to design a new class focused on climate?

A: Not at this time. This RFP is for redesigning existing classes to incorporate more climate content.

Who can I follow up with I have questions about the process?

A: For any questions related to the online application, logistical questions, questions about the proposal, or to talk through specific ideas for a proposal, please contact Duke Learning Innovation.

What is the definition of climate fluency?

A: As of January, we are circulating a draft definition of climate fluency in an open comment period. The finalized definition may look different in its final form. This is an iterative process. We encourage you to look at the current definition in review and invite your feedback on the definition using an email you should have received (or see a slightly earlier version of the draft definitions here).

How can grad students engage?

A: Graduate students can be requested for inclusion as partners on any project, as long as they have an active role in the project planning and implementation, and the work provides a professional development opportunity for them. As an example, graduate students can:

  • Help determine course learning objectives related to climate literacy or fluency,
  • Design and create assignments and assessments in alignment with learning objectives, such as group projects, writing assignment prompts and grading rubrics, question banks for tests, discussion prompts or guided reading prompts,
  • Create relevant course materials such as videos, annotated slide decks, collated bibliographies, data sets, or other materials as relevant to the course activities,
  • Build the course’s Sakai or Canvas site,
  • Create “lesson plans” for in-class active learning activities aligned with the course learning objectives.

The eligibility of any specific graduate student to work as a graduate assistant on a course redesign project would need to be verified with that student’s DGSA.

How might I infuse climate and sustainability topics into my class, to help my students build their climate literacy and fluency?

A: Some examples:

  • Module in chemistry lab on green chemistry; projects in chemistry class on applications of green chemistry in real-world situations.
  • Debating merits and drawbacks of climate legislation in public policy, political science, or law classes.
  • Exploring anthropologic consequences of climate shifts in historic and prehistoric human communities.
  • Creating and analyzing works of art related to climate change impacts in the developing world.


For any questions related to the online application, logistical questions, questions about the proposal, or to talk through specific ideas for a proposal, please contact Duke Learning Innovation.