LAND O' LAKES - Students in the online doctorate program at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point learn the building blocks of educational sustainability from day one.
"Building sustainable practices in our workplaces, in our environment, in the natural world in the schools," said UWSP Director of Sustainability, Joy O'Neil.
During their four-day summer residency at the Conserve School in Land O Lakes, students from each stage of the three-year Ed.D. program come together to connect with classmates and professors in person.
For students just beginning the program, the summer residency marks the first, and one of the few times, they'll meet their classmates. Because the program takes place primarily online, students seldom see each other during the academic year.
Despite their meetings are infrequent, second and third year students know from experience how much knowledge can be passed down in just a few day.
"As new people are coming in it's just adding more experience to the table to these already rich conversations that we already have," said Kim Wahl, a third year student.
The program is only in its third year so this is the first time there have been three groups learning at once.
"One cohort is doing a poster after their first year, so the cohort that's behind them gets to see what they're doing and so they can know what to expect," said O'Neil.
O'Neil has been with the program since the beginning and she says it steadily growing.
"It's becoming a global and national program," said O'Neil. "We do have 17 students for cohort three."
Students in the program say they'll apply sustainability practices to a number of different fields. Newswatch 12 spoke to a few of those students to find out their plans and passions.
"I'm working for a project sponsored by the ministry of education in China. This projects tries to promote green education in Chinese universities," said Jane Li, a second year student.
"I teach in culinary education, and the culinary industry has a lot of challenges it has to face in sustainability," said Branden Lewis, a third year student.
"My research will take place in a Hmong bilingual EL program in the St. Paul public school and how they integrate culturally responsive and relevant practices," said Xee Yang, a third year student.
"I've always wanted to connect people to the outdoors, and so I've really been into environmental sustainability but at this moment in time we need to get beyond environmental sustainability," said Jennifer Ortega, a third year student.
In their three years at UWSP, students learn that sustainability transcends the old adage, "reduce, reuse and recycle."
"That's what sustainability really talks about too, is how we can build communities and support one another," said O'Neil.
Students also gain the tools to affect the change they want to make.
"The core is wanting a better word. That's it, just wanting a better world," said O'Neil.