Dennis DeVries, a professor in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, was honored with one of the 2015 Spirit of Sustainability Awards April 22.
The Auburn University Spirit of Sustainability Awards program began in 2013 to recognize Auburn students, faculty, staff and alumni who exemplify the Auburn spirit by making significant contributions toward sustainability on campus or in their community.
DeVries is an educator recognized for the depth and breadth of his impact in one of Auburn’s most important sustainability initiatives: the undergraduate minor in sustainability.
Since fall 2011, DeVries has taught a variety of sustainability classes with distinction. He has taught a broad array of students from diverse academic disciplines and backgrounds. Classes have included the Honors College class Sustainability and the Modern World, introductory and capstone classes in the sustainability minor and individual student projects. His goal is to nurture in his students a solid understanding of sustainability and an appreciation for its relevance to every discipline.
DeVries’ involvement with the sustainability minor is beyond his regular academic appointment. He has not asked for nor received release from the teaching, research and service activities expected of a full professor. He said he has found that teaching sustainability classes has enhanced his research in conservation biology and the interface between ecology and fisheries/resource management. He has also found a positive impact in his work as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students in his lab.
DeVries collaboratively co-teaches with several faculty members and postdocs from other disciplines. Discarding a typical lecture format, instructors use a creative combination of lectures, group discussions and small group projects to improve learning. DeVries and his colleagues have co-authored a book chapter detailing their effective approaches and experiences with this method.
DeVries said he finds it gratifying to observe how many students show up in the capstone class after taking his introductory class, and how much students’ knowledge and appreciation for sustainability develop and mature throughout their experiences in the minor. Perhaps most gratifying, he said, is when he sees that his students are prepared to take their understanding of sustainability with them beyond the wall of Auburn and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable world.