solar panels

Why the minor? 

Sustainability is living in a way that replenishes rather than diminishes resources, which includes: 

  • Addressing climate change 
  • adopting healthy lifestyles 
  • and becoming aware of our impacts on others and the planet. 

The minor in sustainability is an opportunity for students in any major to learn how to apply their expertise and interest toward addressing critical issues in climate change and sustainability. With this interdisciplinary program, students are required to explore concepts within and beyond their professional focus. The program is designed to accommodate this form of study through partnerships with the major programs on campus. The minor works to develop a holistic curriculum that engages students of all majors in the humanities and sciences alike. 

The Program of Study

1. Gateway Course: Sustainability: Principles and Practices

This interdisciplinary course explores the challenges of environmental sustainability through social, economic, scientific, and ethical lenses. Taught jointly by professors from the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, the course aims to instill broad, integrative and critical thinking about global environmental problems whose solutions will depend on multidisciplinary approaches. This gateway course to the Minor in Sustainability is open to all students interested in a deep exploration of these critical issues. Students considering the Minor in Sustainability are encouraged to take this course during their sophomore year.

2. 9 credits electives from 3 of 4 distributions 

Sustainable Design (SUS 1)

Explores engineering, architecture, and design thinking as solutions for environmental concerns.

Natural Systems (SUS 2)

Includes the science of environmental problems and the historical, narrative, and sociological implications.

Social Institutions (SUS 3)

Institutions affect environmental attitudes, students study sustainable solutions through business and economics, law, politics, sociology, and religion.

Individual Behaviors & Values (SUS 4)

Human ideologies affect environmental problems and sustainable solutions to those problems, including psychology, ethics, and religious values.

Caveats on Distributions and Double Counting

  • 6 credits of electives must be from outside of the major college. (For A&L only 3 credits outside the college are required.)
  • Up to 6 credits of electives may be from Study Abroad.
  • 50% or more of credits for the minor must be unique to the minor. In practice, this means that, following College of Science guidelines, two 3-credit elective courses may be double-counted with university or core requirements, or with college or primary major requirements, but not with both. Because other colleges/schools may have different double-counting rules, please check with your major advisor to be sure you are in compliance.

3. 1 credit experiential course or university seminar

This includes field-based courses, seminars, and immersion experiences. These courses can be found within the Minor in Sustainability, or an on-campus program offering opportunities that substantially intersect with sustainability, including programs with the Center for Social Concerns.

4. Senior Capstone Project 

Year-long senior projects provide students with direct experience in an area of sustainability of personal interest combined with expertise from their major field. These may be research projects, or fine arts or community service projects with a research base. The subject matters chosen span a wide range of topics within sustainability, including, for example, monitoring sensitive ecological systems, exploring architectural methods, influencing consumer behavior, or creating works of art and literature. Faculty from across the campus serve as subject advisors for the capstone projects.

Students may choose to carry out capstone projects in teams of two to four students from different majors. The complementary expertise from such arrangements allows students to address problems that are particularly complex and/or highly interdisciplinary in nature. 
The required course enrollments for completing the capstone project are:  
  • Juniors in their Spring semester will enroll in Capstone Independent Research Preparation (SUS 38002). In this course, students will conceptualize and design their project and submit a preliminary proposal that must be approved by the Director after review by the Advisory Board. This course is conducted asynchronously via CANVAS and therefore can accommodate students who are abroad during this semester. 
  • Seniors will enroll in Capstone Independent Research (SUS 48001 and SUS 48002) in the Fall and Spring semesters, respectively.

To read about previous projects, please visit our Capstone Projects page.