The upward mobility of the discipline of sustainability – and its ample amount of similar/creative names – within education is becoming evident. Since the Agenda 21 agreement in 1992, progress towards higher education in sustainability has been slower than expected. However, in my researching, more universities are establishing undergraduate and graduate programs that focus on integrative approaches to our environmental/economic problems (MSNBC recently did a piece on this. You can access the video here). The timing of this change within higher education correlates well with the Y generation, who is genuinely interested in carrying the green agenda and furthering the issues within sustainability.
Below, I spotlight interesting programs that you may want to research more. I also provide two websites at the bottom that have a more inclusive collection of graduate and undergraduate degrees you may find across the nation.
Undergraduate Programs in SustainabilityIt is harder to find undergraduate programs that have a major solely for “sustainability” or one of its other related names. Most programs are titled “Environmental Science” or “Environmental Studies.” Additionally, there are many minors available as well.
Sustainability, Arizona State University:
Arizona State University is the only school in the nation to have a whole school dedicated to sustainability. The School of Sustainability is in its 2nd year and is making strong strides.
The undergraduate programs will introduce students to the problems of sustainability taking a comparative approach. Students will learn about factors that determine the sustainability of human institutions, organizations, cultures, and technologies in different environments. -- schoolofsustainability.asu.eduEnvironmental Science and Policy, Duke University:
The A.B. degree is designed for students interested in the interdisciplinary study of environmental issues. The major permits students to combine studies in natural sciences and engineering with courses in social sciences and humanities to develop particular focus areas or themes relevant to students’ individual interests. -- duke.edu
Graduate Programs in Sustainability (Masters or PhD)Below I highlight a more specific side of sustainability. Just like a law degree (health law, patent law, criminal law, etc.), you have to have an idea of what aspect of sustainability you would like to focus on when you reach this level. I provide one premier university for each focus here.
Sustainability, Arizona State University:
The graduate programs train students for academic, research, and professional roles. Graduates will be able to understand the dynamics of coupled social and environmental systems and will be able to organize collaborative teams to conduct research and provide adaptive solutions to specific sustainability problems. -- schoolofsustainability.asu.eduEnvironmental Economics, UC Santa Barbara:
The EES Training Program is not a PhD program or department in and of itself. Students in the program are doctoral students in either the Department of Economics or the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and must satisfy the PhD requirements in their home unit. What the EES Training Program provides is a structure for students who wish to pursue a multidisciplinary program in environmental economics. This is achieved by supplementing their home unit's degree requirements in a well-defined manner. -- ees.ucsb.eduGreen Building, Carnegie Mellon:
The 12 month Master of Science in Sustainable Design degree program provides an integrated education that strives to prepare its graduates for careers that will reshape the built environment in a sustainable fashion. -- arc.cmu.eduEnergy/Renewables, Cal State Berkeley:
For thirty years, the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California, Berkeley has provided its outstanding graduate students and exceptional faculty the scholarly conditions in which to study the environmental sciences, analyze the social causes of our energy and environmental problems, undertake field research in a variety of ecosystems, engage in cross cultural learning, and devise technical and policy alternatives to unsustainable energy and resource use patterns. -- erg.berkeley.eduPublic Policy, Columbia University:
The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy combines Columbia University's hands on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. Graduates of the program are prepared for leadership positions in local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as in nonprofit organizations and the environmental divisions of private corporations. -- columbia.edu
International Development -- American University/University for Pace:
A dual degree in natural resources/sustainable development allows students to address sustainable development issues in the context of the northern and southern hemispheres. Students spend one year in Washington D.C., strengthening their skills in international relations, economics, and policy and spend one year in Costa Rica, applying their knowledge and skills in sustainable development projects. -- american.edu
Water Quality/Scarcity, Oregon State University:
The Water Resources Program at Oregon State University awards M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Students will draw from a set of existing OSU courses covering engineering approaches, watershed processes, and/or water resources management and policy. -- oregonstate.eduConservation Biology/Sustainable Development, University of Wisconsin:
“Understanding the complex interactions between natural ecosystems and human societies is essential for ecologically sustainable development, which meets the growing needs of humanity while protecting the integrity of nature.
The Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program promotes this kind of understanding. Its unique interdisciplinary curriculum combines studies of the nature and value of biological diversity with studies of the economic and social dimensions of development. -- nelson.wisc.edu
Websites to Further Research
- Visit ulsf.org to find undergraduate/graduate degrees with a sustainability slant. These include disciplines such as agriculture, architecture, business, economics, education, engineering, and law.
- Visit ac.wwu.edu for graduate programs. It hasn’t been updated for many years, so this was not the best
Additionally, confer your prep books such as Peterson’s and Kaplan and contact your school advisor to help with your search. Ask professors at your alma mater or college of interest as they undoubtedly have connections and knowledge of programs around the country. Please comment below with any other programs you have found or attended that would be of interest to our readers.