Sustainability Coursework Options

Learning in a classroom is one way to understand the science, socio economic and ethical implications of the environmental issues the world faces today. The University of Rochester has several academic opportunities for those who wish to pursue a sustainability related field of study. Undergraduate students can take advantage of the Rochester Open Curriculum to incorporate sustainability courses into their studies either as a major, minor, cluster or electives.

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers two majors in the environmental field: BS in Environmental Science and BA in Environmental Studies. The BS degree provides a more STEM focused approach to help students develop the skills necessary to solve problems related to Earth systems and resources. The BS degree is a good choice for those interested in pursuing a career in environmental consulting, government advising and research opportunities in various fields. The BA degree combines natural science and social science coursework to prepare students for careers such as law, teaching, policy and urban planning. There is also a BS in Environmental Health offered by the public health undergraduate program. This is an interdisciplinary program that allows students to understand environmental health exposures and strategies to resolve environmental health problems. Students can also create their own interdisciplinary major such as Environmental Policy or Global Sustainable Development.

Students can pursue a sustainability related minor to complement their major. The Chemical Engineering department offers a minor in Environmental Engineering. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers four minors: Climate Change Science, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Environmental Geology and Geological Sciences. For a more interdisciplinary approach, students can consider the Sustainability minor which allows students to take courses in anthropology, economics, environmental humanities, philosophy and political science as well as courses from the natural sciences.

As per the Rochester curriculum, every undergraduate student at the University must complete a major and a minor or a cluster in each of the three academic divisions: natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. A cluster is a set of approved related courses of at least 12 credits, and each falls within one of the three academic divisions. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers eight clusters related to sustainability and the environment. The Chemical Engineering department offers many sustainability courses such as CHE 150 Introduction to Sustainable Energy which is an introductory course involving a teamwork laboratory project on designing and building a solar hot water heater. Other sustainability related clusters are the Environmental Humanities cluster, Health, Environment and Sustainability cluster offered through the public health program. There are also three clusters, one in each academic division, offered through the sustainability program.

About one third of undergraduate students at the University take courses abroad. There are numerous study abroad programs that offer unique opportunities for students to explore sustainability topics more deeply. Examples include a program in Denmark, through which students may travel to Greenland to study climate science, or Germany, where students can explore sustainable urban planning and renewable energy. The Galapagos offers opportunities to explore ecological conservation, while Australia offers a range of courses on coastal processes and climate science.

Whether needed for an academic requirement or purely for personal interest, the University of Rochester has a growing number of sustainability related courses for students to take. Explore the different options on the University website or contact the program coordinator, Professor Karen Berger for more information.


Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022

Pictured Above: Karen Berger and students of EES 213 work with Grounds to plant UR’s first pollinator garden at the Witmer House



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