Introduction to the special issue: negotiating boundaries: effective leadership of interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability programs

  • David GosselinEmail author
  • Shirley Vincent
  • Chris Boone
  • Antje Danielson
  • Rod Parnell
  • Deana Pennington


This special issue explores challenges and opportunities confronting higher education related to leadership at a variety of levels and the creation of linkages between students, faculty, administration, and community stakeholders necessary to address the many “wicked problems” facing society. One common thread among all the papers is that higher education is being challenged to collectively reexamine and change the paradigms under which they operate. Each of the articles express explicitly or implicitly that change happens through relationships and negotiating boundaries. The papers in this issue explore the challenges of leadership and program development at different scales from student and faculty learning to institutional initiatives that span across an entire campus. The leadership, relationship development, and boundary crossing experiences presented in the papers in this issue address four primary themes—Interdisciplinary Team Building Strategies, Curriculum and Community Connections, Institution-Level Leadership and Perspectives, and Interdisciplinary Leadership and Scholarship Support. Each of the individual papers address a pressing need in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work for development of effective, situation-relevant methods for negotiating disciplinary and professional boundaries.


Leadership Interdisciplinary Environmental programs Sustainability programs Curriculum Professional development Institutional structure Wicked problems 



This development of this special issue was supported by the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors and the Center for Environmental Education Research, National Council for Science and the Environment, and by the National Socio-environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875.


  1. Bammer G (2015) Negotiating boundaries, leadership, and integration and implementation sciences (I2S). J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0325-x Google Scholar
  2. Benson MH, Lippitt CD, Morrison R, Cosens B, Boll J, Chaffin BC, Fremier AK, Heinse R, Kauneckis D, Link TE, Scruggs CE, Stone M, Valentin V (2015) Five ways to support interdisciplinary work before tenure. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0326-9 Google Scholar
  3. Benton-Short L, Merrigan KA (2015) Beyond interdisciplinary: how sustainability creates opportunities for pan-university efforts. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0341-x Google Scholar
  4. Brunson M, Baker MA (2015) Translational training for tomorrow's environmental scientists. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0333-x Google Scholar
  5. Committee on the Science of Team Science (2015) Enhancing the effectiveness of Team Science. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., p 289. doi: 10.17226/19007
  6. Geidel G, Winner WE (2015) Environmental science: the interdisciplinary STEM field. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0339-4 Google Scholar
  7. Gosselin D, Cooper S, Lawton S, Bonnstetter RJ, Bonnstetter BJ (2015) Lowering the walls and crossing boundaries: applications of experiential learning to teaching collaboration. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0312-2 Google Scholar
  8. Halvorsen KE, Knowlton JL, Mayer AS, Phifer CC, Martins T, Pischke EC, Propato TS, Cavigliasso P, Garcia C, Chiappe M, Eastmond A, Licata J, Kuhlberg M, Medeiros R, Picasso V, Mendez G, Primo P, Frado A, Veron S, Dunn JL (2015) A case study of strategies for fostering international, interdisciplinary research. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0336-7 Google Scholar
  9. Hawthorne D, Wei C (2016) Learning to integrate across natural and social sciences. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0358-1
  10. Kaza S, Natkin LW, Rowse T (2015) Developing sustainability leadership through faculty professional development. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0330-0 Google Scholar
  11. MacDonald L, Shriberg M (2015) Sustainability leadership programs in higher education: alumni outcomes and impacts. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0344-7 Google Scholar
  12. Meyer SR, Levesque VR, Bieluch KH, Michelle L, Johnson ML, McGreavy B, Dreyer S, Smith H (2015) Sustainability science graduate students as boundary spanners. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0313-1 Google Scholar
  13. Motloch JL (2015) Gabriele Bammer (ed): disciplining interdisciplinarity: integration and implementation sciences for researching complex real-world problems (and the deeper science challenge to co-evolve with complexity). J Environ Stud Sci doi  10.1007/s13412-015-0303-3
  14. O’Connell K, Bruckner MZ, Manduca CA, Gosselin DC (2015) Supporting interdisciplinary teaching about earth with the InTeGrate website. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0317-x Google Scholar
  15. Parnell R (2015) Grassroots participation integrated with strong administrative commitment is essential to address challenges of sustainability leadership: tools for successfully meeting in the middle. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0319-8 Google Scholar
  16. Pennington D (2015) A conceptual model for knowledge integration in interdisciplinary teams: orchestrating individual learning and group processes. J Environ Stud Sci (in production)Google Scholar
  17. Pennington D, Bammer G, Danielson A, Gosselin D, Gouvea J, Habron G, Hawthorne D, Parnell R, Thompson K, Vincent S, Wei C (2015) The EMBeRS project: employing model-based reasoning in socio-environmental synthesis. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0335-8 Google Scholar
  18. Rittel H, Webber M (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning pp. 155–169, policy sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam 1973Google Scholar
  19. Smardon R (2015) Mitchell Thomashow: the nine elements of a sustainable campus. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0282-4 Google Scholar
  20. Sorensen AE, Jordan RC, Shwom R, Ebert-May D, Isenhour C, McCright AM, Robinson JM (2015) Model-based reasoning to foster environmental and socio-scientific literacy in higher education. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0352-7 Google Scholar
  21. Vincent S, Dutton K (2015) Three perspectives on US interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability programs: a review of the findings of the 2003–2014 studies of the center for environmental education research, national council for science and the environment. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0281-5 Google Scholar
  22. Vincent S, Roberts JT, Mulkey S (2015) Interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability education: islands of progress in a sea of dysfunction. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0279-z Google Scholar
  23. Vogt J, Fischer BC, Haue RJ (2015) Urban forestry and arboriculture as interdisciplinary environmental science: importance and incorporation of other disciplines. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0309-x Google Scholar
  24. Ward M, Bowen B, Burian S, Cachelin A, McCool D (2015) Institutionalizing interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum at a large, research-intensive university: challenges and opportunities. J Environ Stud Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0315-z Google Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Gosselin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shirley Vincent
    • 2
  • Chris Boone
    • 3
  • Antje Danielson
    • 4
  • Rod Parnell
    • 5
  • Deana Pennington
    • 6
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Center for Education Research, National Council for Science and the EnvironmentMadisonUSA
  3. 3.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniverstiyTempeUSA
  4. 4.Tufts Institute of the EnvironmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  5. 5.Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  6. 6.University of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA

Personalised recommendations