James Vrhovac Turns Nightmares Into Action — Faculty Highlight

By Dani Moritz-Long

Like so many others, English Professor James Vrhovac’s life changed overnight when his first child was born — but not just for the reasons you might expect.

Yes, the usual drastic life changes occurred, like saying goodbye to sound sleep and hello to the kind of love only a parent can know. But he also achieved a heightened awareness about the importance of sustainability and the impact his choices would have on his children.

“I have always been a nature enthusiast, and I’ve done my part cleaning up after myself, recycling and trying not to junk up the world more than necessary,” he explained. “But I never really did those things with any greater purpose in mind beyond the moment the action actually took place. I just did what I felt I was supposed to do.”

When his daughter was born, however, that mindlessness transitioned into a very real awareness of a fear that science-fiction, disastrous climate change outcomes could be exactly the future he hands his daughter.

“After my daughter was born, I started making connections to issues of climate dangers and human impact and her future,” he said. “I realized these speculative ideas might be possible futures for her. Then my son was born when I first began working at Valencia, and I dipped more into the research as material to use in my classes. The funny thing about knowledge is it forces you to either accept it and look forward or look away and hope for the best. I feel sustainability is a value or mindset more than a passion because I want to make sure they and their children have a viable future.”

In looking forward, James has incorporated sustainability — which he defines as working toward conditions that will allow for all life in our global ecosystem to adapt and thrive in our changing environment without compromising this same ability for future generations — into much of his work at Valencia.

He infuses the ideas of sustainability in his curriculum, co-advises the IDEAS for Valencia student club, which is a chapter of the IDEAS for Us organization, and participates on the Education for Sustainability Leadership Team. He encourages anyone interested in following the team’s work and learning from their findings to register for one of two upcoming professional develop courses in the Valencia EDGE: Health and Responsible Consumption (locator number 3202), on Friday, September 29, 2017, and Poverty, Health, Work and Equity (locator number 3203) on Friday, October 27, 2017.

To learn how to register for these Faculty Development opportunities, click here.

“I believe my work with the Education for Sustainability Leadership Team is one of those things I will be able to look back on and know I was part of something bigger than the people in it,” he said. “I know committees are a staple of academic institutions, but when I look toward other institutions and organizations to see what similar groups have done, I cannot help but feel thankful and in awe that I have a chance to work with amazing people and create something that will help the future.”

James is also inspired by his involvement in this summer’s Sustainability Destination track, which helped him find new ways to infuse sustainability themes into his curriculum.

“The experience of the track was eye-opening,” he said. “I felt comfortable going into the course based on prior knowledge, but, like fireworks, the facilitators expanded and exploded my understanding of the subject and showed me ways I never thought of making connections between these important principles and student learning.”

He looks forward to continuing to find ways to increase sustainability, so that his children and their children can live their lives sans science fiction, apocalyptic predictions.

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