U of M Permaculture Courses

Permaculture Related Courses at the University ofMichigan


Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture 

            This was the first ever permaculture course taught at the University of Michigan.  Madeline Dunn, an honors student within the College of Literature, Science, and Arts, taught this one credit Honors freshman seminar during the Fall semester of 2013.  This course serves as an example of how permaculture education  can be taught to University of Michigan students on Ann Arbors, campus.  Progress throughout the course was documented on a course WordPress blog Teaching Permaculture at U of M Ann Arbor.


Sustainability and The Campus Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 

Thus far, there has been permaculture research taking place in this course every semester it has been offered since Fall 2012.  The permaculture specific research has included permaculture integration at the University of Michigan and then a following continuation expanding on the feasibility of the pervious year’s final project deliverables.  There have been two research papers produced on permaculture integration at U of M since Fall 2013.

Fall 2013 Research Deliverable

 Permaculture Integration at the University of Michigan

Written By: Marco Campos, Madeline Dunn, Talia Kula, Ryan Morton, Tyler Petzak, Lexi Targan

Winter 2014 Research Deliverable

Teaching Nature: Opportunities for Permaculture at the University of Michigan.

Written By: Hannah Gingerich, Colleen Rathz, William Benjamin Rogers, Precious Smith, Rachel Voyt

(Please see this  letter to the editor written by Lexi Targan in the Fall 2012 semester of ENVIRON 391.)


Environmental Activism: Citizenship in a Republic

This, now annually taught, course gives students a platform to become activists while simultaneously learning about environmental activism: this is permaculture!  Virginia Murphy created and teaches this course Winter term of each academic year beginning in Winter 2013.  The first year, Madeline Dunn was a teaching assistant and facilitated the course blog ENVIRON 302- Environmental Activism Group Projects where students published progress on their end of semester projects.  A group of students in this course produced a documentary

Below are links to documentaries shot/edited by/produced by the students in the permaculture documentary film group of ENVIRON 390:

Nicholas Boyd <nickboyd@umich.edu>

Madeline Dunn <dunn.madeline@gmail.com>

Armani Hawes <ajhawes@umich.edu>

Abby Krumbein <alkrum@umich.edu>

James Morrison <jammo@umich.edu>

Abbey Roggenbuck <abbeyr@umich.edu>

Taylor Wizner <twizner@umich.edu>

Abbey Roggenbuck

Armani Hawes

Nicholas Boyd


Jazz 455

Explorations in Consciousness: Shamanism and Mysticism (click title for course syllabus)

“In this course we will explore two world views: “mysticism” & “shamanism.” within these world views, certain assumptions about the nature of consciousness are embedded. Both mysticism & shamanism share the perception that individual human consciousness is part of a larger consciousness in which the entire Universe participates.

The mystic, as represented for example by the poetry of Walt Whitman,experiences a mingling of his or her ‘small self/ego self’ with other beings and realities.So Whitman can write, “There was a child went forth; and the first thing he saw, that thing he became.” The shaman also experiences this mingling of selves and is a healer in the tribe.

Typically, the shaman is one who can move between worlds. S/he can cross from one reality to another and back again without ‘getting caught’ by either reality. The shamanic perspective often includes a perception that the individual consciousness can enter into larger consciousness & in some way affect or alter reality by so doing. Hence the chant in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, ‘The story you tell is the story that happens.'” -Martha W. Travers, Ph.D.Lecturer II, Contemplative Studies Jazz 450, 454, & 455 Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation Travers

E-mail Martha at mtravers@umich.edu to enroll.



Sustainable Food Systems Design 

This crosslisted, Art and Design and School of Natural Resources and Environment, course offers students the opportunity to explore design within food systems.  Intentional design can be a sustainable or even regenerative design when using permaculture principles.  Many of the projects that have been produced since the establishment of this course in fall 2013 including but not limited to the following: a food forest for the University of Michigan Campus Farm, a natural dye and fibers garden for the School of Art and Design, and a permaculture homestead and healing center for a client in Gobles, MI.


Residential College Courses

“I’ve been opened up to new things most LSA students don’t know,” Dunn said. “The teachers are more creative and expect more from you.” – Madeline Dunn Michigan Daily Published November 19, 2013
The residential college is home to some of the most creative and dedicated instructors at the University of Michigan. The classes are smaller, usually between 5 and 40 students, than the typical college course. This allows for a more intimate connection to take place between the learner and the learning. Many of the RC courses are experiential and interdisciplinary in nature.
“The Residential College is an undergraduate program within LSA. The college works to challenge students to be creative, think outside the box and take responsibility for their education.” –Madeline Dunn Article written by AMIA DAVIS, Michigan Daily Staff Reporter Published November 19, 2013
See this Michigan Daily article on RC courses.


Jazz and Contemplative Studies Courses

Martha Traverse and Edward Sarath are two professors that teach contemplative studies courses within the UM Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation. Both professors studies in the Andes Mountains with native peoples learning earth-based spirituality and wisdom first hand. Course topics range from beginning seated meditation to nature-based contemplative practice. Most of these courses are two credits, 400 level, and meet once a week. Jazz concentrators, Social Theory and Practice majors, and those creating their own concentration are able to write these courses directly into their major while others can take the courses as beneficial electives.

 Email Martha Travers at mtravers@umich.edu to enroll in a course

University of Michigan Biological Station and Camp Davis Courses

Taking spring/summer courses at either of these two field stations is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in environmental science. To apply, go to the above links and choose a course, fill out the application, and apply for financial aid. Many students take their prerequisites, such as ecology, over the summer while others take courses such as ethnobotany that are not offered at the Ann Arbor campus. Completing field-based research is a key and beneficial component to an undergraduate education and is even required in some concentrations here at the University of Michigan. You do not need to be a U of M student to take courses at either the Biological Station or Camp Davis.


Semester in Detroit

“Semester in Detroit (SID) courses are based in an urban studies pedagogical and curricular approach that helps students develop a more sophisticated understanding of Detroit in particular, and of American cities, more generally. By completing SID during the winter semester and taking one required class on Ann Arbor’s campus, students can earn the LSA Minor in Urban Studies.  (Note: students who participate in the spring version of Semester in Detroit need to take two additional classes on Ann Arbor’s campus to earn the minor.)” -Semester in Detroit Curriculum Page


Complex Systems Courses

Taking courses in the complex systems department fosters learning about system tracking technology, patter identification and recognition, and modeling. Permaculture is centered around this idea of thinking in systems and replicating nature’s patterns using bio-mimicry within intentional human design. Consider taking a course in complex systems to get a better understanding of how systems-thinking can be applied in all fields of design.


Program in The Environment Courses

ENVIRON courses range from the hard to the soft sciences, and everything in between.  Course topics include sociology, anthropology, biology, sustainable food systems, environmental justice, literature and more!  Anyone, not just Program in The Environment majors and minors, can take these courses.


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

EEB contains a great deal of courses, such as Woody Plants and Soil Ecology, that are directly beneficial to those interested in the agricultural or forestry aspects of permaculture. These courses will help prepare you for a career in environmental science research and teach many of the skills necessary to perform site analyses for your own or a friends home garden or homestead.