Students at GW come from around the world to connect to diverse ideas, cultures, and ways of life. The 18-credit minor in sustainability offers students a rigorous platform to examine critical sustainability issues and solutions. The program begins with Introduction to Sustainability, a team-taught course that equips students with a strong foundation in global sustainability principles and paradigms. Students build on this foundation by further investigating sustainability through the lenses of ecosystems, economies, communities, and practices. The capstone experience provides students with a structure for applying what they’ve learned through a semester-long research, service, and/or internship project. Students are empowered to consider the competing perspectives of stakeholders, the unintended consequences of decisions, and how interventions at different levels and scales affect systems and their component parts. Ultimately, students gain the tools necessary for creating healthy and thriving resource systems.

Minor program requirements

All students in the minor program are required to take SUST 1001 Introduction to Sustainability, at least one course in each of the four pillars (below), and at least 3 credits in experiential learning. At least 9 credits have to be unique to the minor (i.e. SUST 1001 Introduction to Sustainability, SUST 3096 Research in Sustainability or SUST 3097 Culminating Experience in Sustainability, and one pillar course). This means that 9 credits cannot be double-counted to fulfill the requirements of another major and/or minor program. At least 6 credits must be at the 2000-level or above (i.e. SUST 3096 or SUST 3097 and one pillar course).

The four pillars of the sustainability minor are:

  • Pillar I: Sustainable Ecosystems — Earth Sciences and Public Health
  • Pillar II: Sustainable Economies — Business, Markets, Technology, and Trade
  • Pillar III: Sustainable Communities — Culture, Politics, and Society
  • Pillar IV: Sustainable Practices — Leadership, Values, Norms, and Behaviors

The experiential learning experience is required as a capstone for the minor. Students may fulfill this requirement in their junior or senior year through directed research, fieldwork, an internship (paid or unpaid), or community service. Students may enroll in either SUST 3096 or SUST 3097 to fulfill the requirement. Successful completion of SUST 1001 and approval of the Program Director are required prior to enrollment in SUST 3096 or SUST 3097.

Each semester, GW departments and programs offer special topics courses that may fulfill the pillar requirement. Topics relevant to the concentration must be approved by the Program Director prior to enrollment. Consult the Schedule of Classes for topics offered.

With prior approval of the Program Director, courses taken in study abroad programs may be used to fulfill one of the pillar requirements.

Lead sustainability faculty: L. Benton-Short, K. Merrigan, R.Orttung, L. Paddock, D. Rain, M. Svoboda

In addition there are over 300 faculty involved in teaching sustainability related courses. Courses with sustainability content can be found by using the course attribute SUST in course search. 

The GW Sustainability Collaborative offers interdisciplinary team-taught courses on subjects related to sustainability. In addition there are over 350 courses at GW with sustainability related content. The “SUST” attribute has been applied to related courses from all of GW’s colleges and schools and most departments and programs. These courses can be found by searching for the course attribute “SUST.” 

Explanation of Course Numbers

  • Courses in the 1000s are primarily introductory undergraduate courses
  • Those in the 2000s to 4000s are upper-division undergraduate courses that can also be taken for graduate credit with permission and additional work
  • Those in the 6000s and 8000s are for master’s, doctoral, and professional-level students
  • The 6000s are open to advanced undergraduate students with approval of the instructor and the dean or advising office

SUST 1001. Introduction to Sustainability. 3 Credits.

The concept of sustainability is both broad and specific as it is applied to areas ranging from social systems to law, engineering, public health, and natural systems. The course considers goals, principles, and practical applications, with a multidisciplinary perspective on major environmental and social issues growing out of these concerns.

SUST 2002. The Sustainable City. 3 Credits.

This course explores the connection between cities and sustainability. We consider sustainability from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives and examine some of the most pressing and critical issues that must be addressed in order to create a sustainable city.

SUST 3002. Climate Change and Policy. 3 Credits.

Climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective. Mitigation, adaptation, and intervention from the perspectives of public policy, economics, psychology, and public health. Climate modeling, green infrastructure, carbon capture and storage, climate justice, and international and multilateral environmental agreements. Recommended background: SUST 1001.

SUST 3003. World on a Plate. 3 Credits.

How dietary choices affect not just health, but the environment and those involved in the production of food as well; interdisciplinary perspective on the impact of food on the future of the environment, the economy, and society. Recommended background: Prior completion of SUST 1001.

SUST 3096. Research in Sustainability. 1-3 Credits.

Directed research with a GW faculty member. The faculty member directing the research assigns work, such as papers and assigned reading, as appropriate.

SUST 3097. Culminating Experience in Sustainability. 1-3 Credits.

A paid or unpaid internship, fieldwork, directed research, or community service with an organization engaged in two or more of the three major goals of sustainability: economic development, social equality, or environmental protection. Students complete a series of reflection essays, career preparations, and other assignments throughout the semester. Some study abroad programs and some research or service courses at GW can be used to fulfill the outside work requirement for SUST 3097, but students may still be asked to register for 1 credit of SUST 3097 to complete the reflective essays, career preparations, and/or outreach assignments. These special arrangements must be approved in advance by the director of the minor. ​ Prerequisite: SUST 1001.