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October 20, 2013, 8:38 AM

COMM 589


(Formerly titled “Sustainability Communication”)

Spring 2014

Mondays | 8:55AM – 11:35am

Prof. Matthew C. Nisbet

Open to All American University Majors with 2.5 GPA and Junior, Senior, or Graduate Standing

In this course, students are introduced to different schools of thought, modes of practice, and areas of research relevant to engaging the public and society on climate change and related environmental issues.  Students will gain an integrated understanding of the institutions, organizations, and actors involved in public communication and policymaker engagement; and the different roles they can play as professionals, educators, and advocates. Blending seminar-style discussion with strategic exercises, the course focuses on common themes and linkages relative to debates over climate change, the siting of wind and solar power; the transport and development of natural gas and oil; the regulation of geo-engineering and food biotechnology; the transition to local economies and food/energy systems; the transformation of urban spaces and transportation infrastructures; and the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystem services, to name just a few examples.  Assignments include classroom discussion and organized debates, short analysis papers, and a major research paper on a topic of the student’s choosing.  Students will have the opportunity to further develop their research papers as part of their thesis or capstone projects or to collaborate with the professor and other students on the development and submission of peer-reviewed studies.


View the reading list and syllabus from the Spring 2013 version of this course.


MATTHEW C. NISBET, PH.D. is Associate Professor of Communication at American University, Washington, D.C. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over health, security and the environment. Since 2002, he has authored more than 70 peer-reviewed studies, scholarly book chapters, and reports.  He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Communication from Cornell University and an AB in Government from Dartmouth College.  Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow.  He currently serves as a member of the National Academies Roundtable Committee on Public Interfaces in the Life Sciences and as an affiliate faculty member with the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet’s research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism.”




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