Global Sustainability Minor

Program Structure

The interdisciplinary Minor in Global Sustainability benefits students of all majors who want to understand the many facets of sustainability and learn how to apply this knowledge to their daily lives. The Minor empowers students across the University in common efforts to accomplish real change through community engagement with sustainable projects in their communities and beyond. The Minor also establishes connections between different disciplines and prepares students to incorporate sustainable practices into their varied future careers.

The Minor is housed in the School of Architecture and guided by a Governing Board of representatives from the six partner academic units, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and a sustainability student group. In establishing the Minor we aim to shape students both into individual leaders ready to create and tackle projects on their own, and into creative collaborators who understand how to engage the material and human resources of their community to accomplish their goals. A Minor in Global Sustainability is comprised of 5 courses: a required Foundation Course, Global Sustainability; three electives from a pre-approved list with one course selected from each of three categories: equity, environment, and economy; and a final Capstone course selected from an approved list of sustainability-focused, upper-level courses in several disciplines. No more than two of the four elective courses may be taken within a student’s own department, in order that each student add breadth to their major course of study. A current list of classes that satisfy Minor elective requirements is available here for each spring and fall semester. Students are able to customize their course of study to fit their sustainability interests and may petition the governing board to include courses not listed.

How the Global Sustainability Minor Defines Sustainability in the Curriculum

The University of Virginia Global Sustainability Minor Governing Board identifies sustainability and sustainability focused courses as those that incorporate the three E’s: Environment, Economy + Policy, and Equity. The Governing Board defines sustainability as meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. There are many important components of sustainability courses at the University of Virginia including:

Systems Thinking: The courses that are most reflective of sustainability principles include assignments that require students to use a systems thinking approach. “Systems thinking” can be defined as the process of examining how things relate and affect other parts of the system. Student should understand that problems relating to sustainability are complex and will require a way of thinking that is comprehensive.

Engaged Citizenship: Sustainability courses should allow students to apply their foundational knowledge to work with communities to address sustainability issues. Students should learn how to engage effectively with a community to formulate goals and develop solutions.

Innovation: While a sustainability course should provide a foundational knowledge of sustainability challenges and approaches, it should also prompt students to apply and integrate that knowledge, to think creatively and allow opportunities for innovation to emerge.

Research: Each sustainability course should have a strong research component that teaches students the skills necessary to develop research questions and collect and analyze data in order to make sound conclusions.

Interdisciplinary: Sustainability courses should emphasize the importance of the interconnectedness of global sustainability challenges. Students should understand that many approaches (scientific, behavioral, economic, technical, aesthetic, social, etc) are needed to address issues related to sustainability. Students should also acquire some skills from each discipline and learn how to communicate and work with peers from other concentrations.

How To Apply

There are two application deadlines. The first deadline is November 15 and the second deadline is April 15. Information on how to apply and the current semester course listing are available on the School of Architecture site.

The Global Sustainability Foundation Course

The Global Sustainability course is the foundation course for the minor. During the semester, the course explores topics such as food, water, architecture, health, and commerce as related to sustainability. Students hear from experts about these issues while completing readings about the topics and completing the Think Global/Act Local project. For more information about the foundation requirement for the Minor, visit the course webpage.