A+ A A-

S General Studies

General Studies and Social Innovation

Chair: Thomas Schmaus

Contributions: Maria Parreira, Ruben Greif, Maurice Saß, Thomas Schmaus


Presentation by Ruben Greif, Maurice Saß and Thomas Schmaus: "Steps towards human ecological General Studies"




General Studies and Social Innovation - Organized Section Part 1 & discussion


Presentation by Ruben Greif, Maurice Saß and Thomas Schmaus: "Steps towards human ecological General Studies"


At Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences „Studium Generale“ is a compulsory and integral component of every degree programme as a basic supplementary study programme. Students can take various courses from a wide range of offerings, with a focus on philosophy, aesthetics, art studies and social sciences. For some years now, we have increasingly offered courses that deal with topics that are relevant to human ecology. This instance gives us the opportunity to deliberately focus the General Studies programme in such a way that it can be offered as basic human ecology studies that accompany every degree programme.
In the organised session we would like to give an insight into the current state of affairs and, in colaboration with the participants, outline possible paths to a future in which human ecology can be realised as a holistic educational project. We will deal with philosophical, art-historical and social initiative taking aspects as examples. 



Presentation by  Thomas Schmaus: "Philosophy"

In this contribution, a teaching concept is presented that I have been implementing for two years with changing themes. In each case, a (human) ecosystem is presented and made tangible both as a natural space and as a cultural space (e.g. forest, river, mountain, desert, sea). The basic orientation is philosophical (anthropology, ethics, natural and cultural philosophy), but the courses also integrate other scientific perspectives as well as literary and aesthetic impulses. The aim is to obtain a holistic approach in order to understand and experience the complex and culturally shaped situatedness of humans in each of the ecosystems. An integral part of each course is therefore an excursion with various tasks and exercises. 

Presentation by Maurice Saß: "Art History"

The aim of my contribution is to illustrate with two case studies the role that art history can play in teaching human ecological issues in the context of an academic ‘Studium Generale’ (General Studies). The main concern of my courses is to sensitize to the fact that historical works of art are not only a beautiful mirror of past times, but that works of art are an active factor in the (intellectual) history of our culture. Ecologically relevant ideas, fascinations and attitudes have been brought forth, popularized, and handed down by artworks, but also subverted, further developed, and buried. Many of the ecological problems and challenges of our present world have a long history. On the one hand, knowing them helps to better understand the complexity and usually inconsistency of our individual and collective interests and political credos. But above all, works of European art history cannot only be understood as approaches to the roots of our global crises. Rather, this history has been marked by a plurality of human ecological attitudes and constellations that – while perhaps often marginalized throughout history – are useful to discover for resolving the mental crises we face. 

Presentation by Ruben Greif: "Social Initiative"

My role at our university is to coordinate sustainability endeavour in research, teaching and campus life, including student initiatives, on behalf of the president’s office. Besides this, as a lecturer, I am responsible for a module on Bachelor level, in which students develop and implement practical projects in the field of Social Innovation. In my presentation I will give an insight in this work, including a brief introduction to the “Green Office” movement, which is progressively spreading at universities throughout Europe. Using concrete examples, I will illustrate how we offer spaces, both in study modules and in campus life, in which students practice the transfer of multidisciplinary theoretical impulses into action for sustainable development and, by this, experience their self-efficacy and the power to shape their own living environment. Finally, I would like to invite participants to an exchange of experiences and ideas about related formats and approaches.


General Studies and Social Innovation - Organized Section Part 2 & discussion


Presentation by Maria Parreira: "Human ecology and social innovation: an exploratory conceptual perspective"


  This communication argues, over an exploratory conceptual perspective, that education and research activities in human ecology, as knowledge production and management processes, are drivers in the construction of social-ecological pools of autonomy and common resources, considered in this exercise as vital recourses for the development of social innovation dynamics. Throughout a literature review, with focus on human ecology and social innovation literature, we develop an exploratory conceptual perspective that creates a parallel, that is, explores common issues, for both domains of human ecology and social innovation. For that purpose, we argue that human ecology academic efforts are key agents in the promotion of integrative prospects of social innovation to tackle the actual ecological crisis. The core of the conceptual perspective follows a social metabolism´s lens and contributions from Elinor Ostrom´s works about commons and collective goods (focusing on knowledge domain), designing arguments and prospects based on academic references. Over time, human ecology´s students, professors and researchers, have developed several works, in different countries, contexts and sectors of activity. In our perspective, those efforts constitute key references to steer the (re) understanding of social-ecological interconnections and the crossing of social-ecological systems challenges with social innovation issues, empowering cutting-edge research and "see point 7".