Faculty Explore Success of BSU’s Unique People and the Environment Course

Dr. Laurie Desiderato, professor of psychology at Bemidji State University, and Erika Bailey-Johnson, BSU sustainability coordinator, are sharing their research into BSU’s unique People and the Environment courses as part of the university’s Honors Council Lecture Series.

Their presentation, “Through Their Eyes: Student Perspectives on the Innovative People and the Environment Course”, begins at 7 p.m. in Hagg-Sauer Hall 112. BSU’s Honor Council lectures are open to everyone free of charge.

During the lecture, Desiderato and Bailey-Johnson will examine how People and the Environment was developed and share the results of their study exploring what students take away from courses specific to their areas of study in 18 different disciplines including biology, education, health, environmental ethics, sociology and communication.

The pair also will share their recommendations for further strengthening these courses and encourage a discussion about the challenges and rewards of integrative teaching.

“We would really like to have the students gain a perspective of what’s happened in the course, but also to contribute,” Bailey-Johnson said. “We are really looking forward to hearing some ideas and thoughts from whoever is in the audience about what the research studies showed, and then also what can be done to have some positive impacts in the future.”

About Dr. Laurie Desiderato

Dr. Laurie Desiderato has been a faculty member in BSU’s Department of Psychology since 1993. Her current interests include examining the connection between psychology and environmental sustainability. In addition to being a team member of a People and the Environment course last fall, she teaches classes in Conservation Psychology. Desiderato led research laboratories with students that investigated the effectiveness of strategies designed to reduce waste in the dining halls, discourage students from parking on the lake, reduce excessive consumerism, and explore the cognitive and emotional impacts of spending time in nature. She is the director of BSU’s Center for Professional Development, a faculty-led group that enhances faculty development and fosters a creative climate of teaching and learning at the university.

About Erika Bailey-Johnson

Erika Bailey-Johnson is in her eighth year as the first Sustainability Director at Bemidji State University.  She works in the Ganawendakamigaawigamig (Office of Earth-Caretaking or Sustainability Office).  Over the past ten years, she has taught as an adjunct instructor for the People and the Environment course, and has recently been appointed the People and the Environment Coordinator. In 2015, she was named one of the top 40 under 40 professionals in the Midwest working to accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy by Midwest Energy News.  Erika is also currently a core member of the City of Bemidji Sustainability Committee.

About the Honors Council Lecture Series

The Honors Council Lecture Series is hosted by the Bemidji State University Honors Council. The council is the advisory group to the honors program composed of 12 faculty members representing each of the university’s colleges. Student representatives are also elected to the council by their cohorts for one-year terms.


  • Kari Caughey, BSU honors program; (218) 755-3984, kcaughey@bemidjistate.edu
  • Dr. Laurie Desiderato, professor of psychology; (218)755-2945,  ldesiderato@bemidjistate.edu
  • Erika Bailey-Johnson, sustainability coordinator; (218)755-2560, ebaileyjohnson@bemidjistate.edu

Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling nearly 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 11 graduate degrees encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multi-cultural understanding.

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