Sustainability Minor

For a list of approved Fall 2014 courses click here.  For access to the Approved Courses Master List, click here.

I. What is sustainability?

Sustainability refers to a process in which human societies adapt to live within the earth's finite limits in ways that:

  • restore healthy ecosystems and reduce harm to water, air, soils, and biodiversity;

  • support secure livelihoods and vibrant local economies and redress poverty and inequality;

  • create resilient cultural, social and natural systems and empowered communities;

  • and meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Curricula focused on sustainability foster creativity and an expanded imagination of a thriving social, economic, and environmental world for ourselves and future generations. Students and faculty involved in the Minor recognize that the process of moving toward sustainability involves trade-offs, tensions, and difficult choices. Students apply analytical systems thinking to contemporary global and local problems, practice participatory strategies to resolve those problems, and demonstrate an ethical compass that guides their assessments of alternative solutions. Many kinds of courses from many perspectives help students prepare for the difficult sustainability challenges we face now and in the years to come.

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For a list of approved for the current semester click here. Existing courses approved for the Sustainability Minor are listed below; students can petition for other courses to count towards the Minor.

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The prevailing theoretical model of sustainability defines it as the intersection of the social, the environmental, and the economic. Sustainability thus implies a radical interdisciplinarity of the kind generally hailed as the academic model of the future. The Minor in Sustainability acknowledges the issue of sustainability as one of the most theoretically and practically complex questions of our times. Involving far more than simply turning off lights or recycling bottles and paper, sustainability has implications for how we eat and drink; how we treat the land, sea, air, and atmosphere; how we approach health and well-being on an interspecies level; how we produce and consume goods; how we distribute the benefits and costs of that production and consumption; how we derive the energy to maintain both those economic enterprises and our everyday lifestyles; and how we assess and rethink the proper balance between profit, politics, wealth, and the common good. The challenge of sustainability is its profoundly crosscutting nature; none of these questions may be answered without consideration of the others.

II. The Structure and Requirements of the Sustainability Minor

The Minor in Sustainability requires six courses: two core courses and four elective courses. The core courses include IDS 206: an introductory team-taught course and a two-hour Capstone Seminar. Students minoring in Sustainability will be required to demonstrate their developing body of knowledge and the integration of that knowledge across fields with an electronic portfolio that will be reviewed by a faculty steering committee.

1. Twenty-two hours required, including the IDS 206 Foundations team-taught course (see description below) and the 2-credit Capstone Seminar.  Thus, normally, 4 courses plus the Foundations and Capstone.

2. Students must take at least one approved course in each of the three divisions of the university (natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities) and can count no more than two from their major. (See the Approved Courses Master List, click here)

3. Students will create an integrative e-portfolio over the course of the Minor (see full description below), articulating the interdisciplinary engagements of each course with broad topics of sustainability.  Guided by questions prepared by the Steering committee, each course will be followed by an essay that will build a portfolio of reflection on major issues and themes from their individualized experiences.

4. A capstone exercise will deepen student engagement with the issues and perspectives through research, internship, campus project, or other practicum experience.  A capstone essay will complete the portfolio.  Capstone experiences can be supervised by any appropriate faculty member or study abroad faculty member and may be carried out in a course or non-course experience.  Registration in the capstone seminar will provide a community of fellow minors and allow final development of the portfolio.

5. A rotating Steering Committee will provide guidance and supervision throughout the student's progress through the Minor and will meet with students twice during the semester of their capstone experience.

Introductory Foundations Course (IDS206)

The minor will benefit from an annual integrative Foundations course, offered through the ILA.  A rotating team of faculty will offer a series of readings, discussions, and lectures around key themes.  This course builds on the highly successful one-credit Oxford course, CHEM 299R: Fossil Fuels and Sustainability, that used the topic of fossil fuels to bring together a broad group of faculty around sustainability issues.

Portfolio Requirement

Every student will create a personal portfolio. The portfolio will synthesize the collection of courses and projects that, in combination, illustrate a body of knowledge and analysis related to sustainability. Students will employ the Emory e-portfolio
tool to manage the process and present their work to the campus community and beyond. The portfolios will serve an as evaluation tool for the integration of coursework and for internal evaluation of the program.  The portfolio will also demonstrate skills to prospective employers and graduate programs.

The e-portfolio is an electronic repository for student assignments, essays, field work, personal statements and research related to the sustainability minor.  Preparation of the e-portfolio involves three stages:  development, reflection and presentation. 

  • development: The student will record coursework and projects that are connected to learner outcomes. Representative assignments will be posted from each course to demonstrate growth and understanding in the field of sustainability. 

  • reflection:  The student will respond to guided questions in an essay for each course, exploring how it has impacted the student's personal and academic development and his/her vision of sustainability.

  • presentation: The e-portfolio will showcase the final capstone experiential/research outcome of the student's educational efforts.  This may include results from an internship, research project, honors thesis or other publication.  A final reflection essay in the e-portfolio will be the culmination of the entire course of study for the Minor. 

An interdisciplinary Steering Committee and the graduate fellow in sustainability will utilize the e-portfolio to monitor student progression.  They will look for the integration of diverse forms of knowledge, sustainability- related technical understanding, and demonstration of workplace/ research experience or collective action.

In addition to presenting the final project, the e-portfolio will include a reflection essay.  Each student will be ask to specifically explain how the minor has influenced his/her understanding of sustainability: the problems, challenges and potential solutions. 

Click here for e-portfolio assisgnments and guiding questions.

Capstone Experience

The Minor in Sustainability culminates in a capstone experience, which completes the student's intellectual journey that started with the interdisciplinary Foundations course and the specialized electives relating to sustainability. Many kinds of experiential learning are possible to fulfill the capstone requirement and some will already include course credit that will count towards the Minor, some will not.  A maximum of six credits can be obtained for the capstone experience, four for an appropriate course and two for the required capstone seminar.

  • Honors project within the major: it is expected that a sustainability-related chapter may be added to a project that is designed only within one discipline.  Some projects will already be interdisciplinary and appropriate.  Four credits of an 8-credit honors sequence can count towards the minor.

  • Laboratory, field research or an on-campus project within the major or across fields, as long as it is related to sustainability.

  • OUCP summer Community Change fellowship projects in Atlanta, if it has a sufficient sustainability component.

  • Internships at corporations or non-profit organizations.

  • Study abroad research projects: see Appendix C

  • Volunteer work at a community organization that is expanded into a paper or research project during the Capstone seminar.

  • On-campus project in which an additional sustainability research or reflection component may be added to gain approval for the Minor.

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