The Cumberland Project

“Man’s struggle with Nature is increasingly a struggle with his society.” “All education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded, students are taught that they are part of or apart from the natural world” “a land ethic changes the role of homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” “Nature is an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only will tune in.” “Overcoming human alienation from nature requires a re-enchantment with the natural world, making it again a  place of wonder...” “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” “protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act.” “The American people have a right to air that they and their children can breathe without fear.” “You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.” “The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.”

Over the last decade, many universities have sought to encourage innovations in sustainability education by providing educators intensive workshop opportunities to (re)design courses with significant environmental or sustainability components.

It is toward this goal that Vanderbilt’s Program in American Studies and the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching developed and offered the Cumberland Project from 2011 to 2013. In 2017 this program was reborn with assistance from Vanderbilt’s new Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies


Modeled on Emory University’s Piedmont Project and Northern Arizona University’s Ponderosa Project, the Cumberland Project has taken various forms but is intended as a workshop resource for vibrant teaching and learning communities around sustainability themes. Emphasis has been given to a wide array of environmental studies across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

The Cumberland Project, in its past iteration, was part of a larger effort at Vanderbilt University entitled the Sustainability Project, an effort to create a campus-wide conversation that endeavored to both deepen understandings of and commitments to sustainability.  This involved various programs: the coordination of courses on sustainability, a conference on sustainability, experiential learning experiences via “road trips” focused on different dimensions of sustainability, as well as a documentary film series and other artistic projects on sustainability with the Departments of Art and Film Studies and the Program in Creative Writing.  The Sustainability Project was funded with generous support from the College of Arts and Science Fant Fund.

The Cumberland Project today focuses on a year-long learning community on sustainability education and course design with the support of the Program of Environmental and Sustainability Studies.

If you are interested in sustainability education, please use this website and the many resources it provides, and please seek out consultations with Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching.