Skip to Main Content

Sustainability Minor

The Sustainability Minor is a 22-credit interdisciplinary minor. The intent is for the minor to provide a new way of thinking about the world that can be applied to a student’s primary discipline or major. The minor is based on a cross-disciplinary philosophy of applying principles of sustainability to a variety of professions and fields and giving students the tools to apply those principles to real-world applications and contexts.

The short-term goal is to prepare students to help organizations change the way they design policies, processes, products, and services, and allocate resources by applying tools such as sustainable cost-benefit analyses and problem solving strategies. The long-term goal is to positively transform individuals, organizations, communities, fields, and systems in ways that seek to balance social, environmental, and economic needs and impacts.

The minor consists of a focused core curriculum (13 credits) comprising courses that cover basic sustainability-related theories, applications, tools, and models with an emphasis toward transforming the way organizations and communities work. The minor allows flexibility by incorporating an interdisciplinary curriculum of electives with a sustainability focus (9 credits) selected from a variety of disciplines.

Sustainability Minor: Proposed Learning Outcomes
Students will:

  1. Understand the foundational economic, environmental and societal frameworks upon which the principles of sustainability are built.
  2. Apply the principles, models, and mental frameworks of sustainability to enhance the pursuit of one’s current academic major by:
    1. Selecting sustainable goals.
    2. Evaluating ethical implications.
    3. Identifying the balance of financial, social and environmental impacts of a project in their primary field of study.
  3. Champion and advocate sustainable skills and principles so that students can become effective change agents in their organizations and communities.
  4. Identify the potential impacts of personal and organizational choices, behavior and activities using a balanced mix of social, environmental, and economic criteria.
  5. Give examples of ways in which the features and functions of multiple systems are interconnected, and explain how one system can be optimized (as opposed to maximized) without degrading other systems or depleting natural resources.

Sustainability Minor: Proposed Content Characteristics and/or Themes
Courses in the sustainability minor should explicitly include one or more of the following as part of the assessed learning objectives and goals. In order to be considered as an approved elective for the Sustainability Minor, a course will have to  tie its primary content into the larger context of social, environmental and financial sustainability in one or more of the following ways:

  • Propose and examine alternative mental models or paradigms to current academic content that offer ways to avoid, reduce, or reverse negative social or environmental impact while still providing for acceptable financial performance.
  • Encourage the discovery, creation, or use of alternative processes, procedures, tools, and/or products that offer ways to avoid, reduce or reverse adverse social or environmental impact while still providing for acceptable performance on conventional (often financial) performance dimensions. For instance, the course could include content on one or more of the following:
    • The creation and/or implementation of alternative sustainable energy sources
    • The creation and/or implementation of public policy that encourages sustainable community behavior
    • The development of non-harmful plant fertilizers
    • Techniques for the sequestration of carbon
    • The application of organic farming techniques
    • The design of landscaping using native species and xeriscaping
    • Public service projects, that strive to decrease local poverty or provide social services.
  • Examine and/or discuss the externalization of impacts and/or costs associated with current or established ways of doing things. Externalization is defined as the shifting of a current or future expense to a third party which is not part of the original “transaction.” For example:
    • The shifting of clean up costs for environmental damage caused by a business process to taxpayers, or
    • The shifting of social welfare costs to a community by an organizational policy to employ workers just below the threshold for benefits so that the community is forced to pay for the health care of those employees.
  • Examine alternative indicators of success for procedures, processes, and/or products that allow individuals and organizations to better measure their financial, social and environment impact/outcomes.
  • Examine and discuss the ethical implications of sustainable practice from an individual and/or collective perspective.