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Dr. Yiwen Chiu
Associate Professor

1 Grand Ave., Cal Poly
NRES 180-504
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
TEL: 805-756-2972
yichiu at

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Writing the Science of Sustainability: AgWriteCulture

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In 2017, our group received the NIFA/HEC grant to conduct a educational project titled "Writing the Science of Sustainable Agriculture – A Transdisciplinary Teaching Model." This project aims to create a transdisciplinary curriculum between environmental science and writing & rhetoric, and to investigate how this new teaching approach can benefit students' learning experience and performance. The project is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources Management and Environmental Science (NRES), English Department (ENGL)Writing & Rhetoric Center (WRC), and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT).

This project can provide an educational platform allowing instructors to work closely for delivering a series of well-aligned courses that can enhance students' competence to quantify and communicate sustainability. We want to help students develop an array of analytical and communicative skills that will enable them to tackle real-world issues. Helping students develop this emerging skill set in science communication at the undergraduate level will enable them to work effectively in career positions in sustainable agriculture and will enable them to better consider the social and cultural contexts in which scientific knowledge is produced and disseminated through writing. Findings from the assessment of these linked pilot courses will be published in peer-reviewed journals and at academic conferences so that programs nationwide can adapt and adopt the project to improve curricula and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in food, agricultural, natural resource, and human (FANH) sciences system and in writing in the disciplines. These outcomes will be a critical driving force in the retention of agricultural professionals in FANH industries in the future.

Project Objectives

  • Leverage existing teaching resources to strengthen teaching quality
  • Enhance student's competence to perform analytical tasks and be able to interpret and communicate the result effectively and professionally
  • Assess the effectiveness of the proposed teaching approach and how it can improve students' learning outcome and academic performance

Time Frame

This is a three-year project starting from 2017 Fall and will end by 2020 Spring.

Student Participation

For those who are eager to enhance your learning experience and willing to take challenges to advance your quantitative and communication skills, you should consider to be part of this project. To participate, you have to concurrently enroll in the following paired courses under the track of your preference:

Session 1: NR 142 (Environmental Management) AND ENGL 134 (Writing and Rhetoric)

Session 2:NR 314 (Environmental Life-cycle Analysis) AND ENGL 302 (Writing: Advanced Composition)

You can participate in both tracks if your course plan permits. To sign up, you will have to strategically plan your course schedules to accommodate this pairing requirement. As part of the project's objective is to understand how this new teaching approach can improve student's learning outcome, we have to collect participants' academic data (such as grades and GPA) for future assessment. Therefore, once you make up your mind to be on board, you will have to sign a *consent form* to acknowledge your understanding on your role and what kinds of personal information will be collected for this research purpose. However, your academic data will be randomly ID-ed;to disconnect your identity from your personal records. All student participants' data are compiled and processed by designated university personnel and none of the researcher/instructors will handle students' personal information directly. For more information on how we thrive to protect participant's data confidentiality, please contact the project director Dr. Yiwen Chiu.

Meet Our Team

Dr. Yiwen Chiu (NRES)

Office: 180-504
Tel: (805)756-2972
Email: yichiu at calpoly

In this project, Dr. Chiu is in charge of teaching NR 142 (Environmental Management) and 314 (Environmental Life-cycle Analysis). She specializes in environmental modeling and assessment. She currently leads the QuantSus to promote research and education in sustainable practices by engaging STEM students who are enthusiastic to learn and driven to reach higher academic standards. All courses she taught share the same key objective: to reinforce the relationship between humans and nature, and to strategically manage anthropogenic activities for sustaining natural systems.

Because doing research with her or taking her classes often involves using computational tools intensively, which many students may find overwhelming, she always makes effort and spends tremendous amount of time to meet with students to understand their academic difficulties. Her ultimate goal is to help students realize their unlimited potential, and prepare them to take challenges and tackle hurdles no matter what their future career pathways will be.

(Editor's note: Dr. Chiu is a well-known workaholic. If you are burning the midnight oil before an exam or homework assignment deadline, don't feel bad, chances are she's still at her office working late -- as usual.)


Dr. Jason Peters (ENGL)

Office: 47-35C
Phone: (805)756-2596
E-mail: jpeters at calpoly

All the ENGL courses involved in this project (ENGL 134 and ENGL 302) are taught by Dr. Peters. He specializes in scientific reasoning and technical writing. Through out this project, he is particularly interested in helping students improving their competencies to better interpret numerical information. He's worked closed with faculty from the fields of environmental protection and ecological conservation. This project provides a perfect platform allowing Dr. Chiu and him to align their teaching objectives to facilitate an exploratory approach for improving both learning and teaching outcomes.

Dr. Dawn Janke (Writing & Rhetoric Center)

Office: 10-130
Email: djanke at calpoly

Dr. Janke is the Director of Writing & Rhetoric Center and serving as a steering committee member to assist in curriculum implementation and project assessment. She is a teaching and learning specialist with over fifteen years of experience in higher education. She trains and supervises a staff of 40+ undergraduate and graduate students that provide writing support for students at all levels in all disciplines on campus. In addition, Dr. Janke also oversees the completion of two CSU-mandated student milestones, one for first-year student writers and another for upper-division writers. She works with administrators, faculty, and staff across campus to evaluate student writing and ensure student retention and success with particular drive to support first generation and international students. In addition, her work extends beyond the Writing & Rhetoric Center program: she consults with faculty on their writing projects, serves as a Title IX Investigator, and is a lead author on the university's Learn by Doing project, a repository for varied campus approaches to experiential education.



Student Testimony

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