Sustainability Studies Minor

About the Minor

The field of sustainability studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to what may be the defining challenge of the twenty-first century: how to transform human societies to meet everyone's needs while preserving the natural environment upon which we all rely. While environmental studies has always recognized the major role that social and economic factors play in environmental problems and solutions, sustainability studies brings a new emphasis to the complex interconnections between ecological health, economic welfare, and social justice, understanding that problems in one area cannot be solved without attention to the other two. 

Sustainability studies is also profoundly future-oriented, always returning to the touchstone of how to move towards a world where both human and natural systems are not only healthy but also can be maintained that way indefinitely. The minor in sustainability studies provides students with an understanding of the complex, interconnected systems that affect ecological health, economic welfare, and social justice; the ability to recognize and analyze challenges to human and environmental health and well-being; and the skills to help transform local and global communities into sustainable ones.

Sustainability Studies Minor Learning Outcomes

Students who earn the minor in sustainability studies will be able to:

  • Explain and analyze the complex local and global systems that provide the foundation for environmental and human health and well-being.
  • Integrate knowledge of ecological, economic, and social systems in order to frame challenges to sustainability and produce potential solutions.
  • Communicate to explain and influence how individual and collective actions affect the environmental and social sustainability of interrelated systems.
  • Evaluate policies, practices, and belief systems for their environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
  • Apply principles of sustainability to transform their own lives, workplaces, and local and global communities.

Learn More About The Sustainability Studies Minor


Fall 2014 Sustainability Studies Courses

 For Research and Communication Requirement

JOUR 3750 Environmental Journalism and Communications (3 credits)
MWF 11:00-11:50
Instructor: Don Corrigan

In this course students learn how journalists, advocacy group spokespersons, and public relations officials communicate on environmental issues. The course provides future environmental reporters with a sensitivity to the language of hazard and risk, as well as technical and quantitative knowledge about environmental issues. For future public information professionals involved with environmental issues, the course will provide insight on how the media reports on the environment. This is a writing course, and students can be expected to research and write on an array of local and national environmental concerns. Prerequisites: JOUR 1030, sophomore standing, SCIN 1520, OR permission of instructor (contact him at


For Social Science and Sustainability Requirement

EDUC 4250 Economics and Geography for Global Sustainability (4 credits)
W 5:30-9:30 (full semester)
Instructor: Thomas Zinselmeyer

This course is designed to provide elementary, middle and secondary educators the information they need to understand and be able to teach the fundamentals of economics, geography and global sustainability. Economic content includes: economic systems, concepts, and institutions; economic change over time; modern global economics; and the relationship between producers, consumers, and the government. Geography content includes: Physical geography skills (apply and use geographic representations, tools, and resources such as maps, atlases, aerial photographs, globes, etc.), and concepts; locales, regions, nations, and the world relative to location, size, climate, and geology; and how individuals and groups are affected by events on an international and global scale. Sustainability concepts and skills will be integrated throughout the course with emphasis on current environmental and social equity issues as well as systems thinking. Students will explore the interconnectedness of people, profit and planet.


For Science and Sustainability Requirement

SCIN 1010 Topics in Science: When Rivers Run Wild (3 credits)
M 5:30 - 9:30 Fall 1

Instructor: David A. Wilson

Can a Hurricane Katrina–type of event happen in St. Louis? Missouri & Mississippi River floods, & flash floods on local streams—are they natural disasters or the result of human actions? What is water pollution & what can society do about it? Students will learn about water & watersheds, storms, rivers, floods, sewers, storm drains and rain gardens & our social values. Students will use natural sciences to understand urban ecology & sustainability & how science and public policy impact local political decision-making. Students will learn how to communicate science concepts, & explore challenges in developing sustainable communities.


SCIN 2530 Global Ecologies and Sustainable Living (3 credits)
Online Fall 2
Instructor: Alix Henry

The course focuses on how different societies around the planet interact with their local and global ecosystems:  how those natural systems enable and constrain specific cultures and their ways of life; how various cultures impact their natural environments; how humans meet basic needs such as food, energy, water, shelter, and transportation in different locales; and to what degree the ways they meet them are sustainable.  Examples of zones for focused study include Temperate, Arid, Tropical, Mountainous, and Mediterranean rural and urban regions of the world. Fulfills Global Citizenship requirements for Physical and Natural World and Critical Thinking.


For Arts and Humanities and Sustainability Requirement

RELG 2431: Religion and the Environment: Ecology & Spirituality (3 credits)
Instructor: Keith Welsh

This course provides frameworks for examining, understanding, and clarifying personal experience and values, including the students' own experience and values, to introduce the connections between religious teachings and personal living and decision making.


Related Courses 

NOTE: Contact Sustainability Studies Chair Karla Armbruster at to ask about substituting these courses into the minor 

Fall 2014:

BIOL 1020 Biology of Animals (3 credits)
TR 12:00-1:20
BIOL 1021 Biology of Animals: Lab (1 credit)
F 1:30-4:20
Instructor: Jeff DePew

Introduces the fascinating world of animals, from the tiny water flea to the elephant. Examines the challenges in their lives and the ways they meet them, including the search for food sources and shelter, reproduction, and internal stability. Laboratory required. BIOL 1020 and BIOL1021 must be taken concurrently. Intended for non-majors.

BIOL 3200 Ecology (3 credits)
MW 8:00am-9:20
BIOL 3201 Ecology: Lab (1 credit)
R 2:00pm-4:50
Instructor: Jeff DePew

Defines ecosystems, examines how they function, and how human intervention changes that function. Emphasizes world ecosystems. Laboratory required. BIOL 3200 and BIOL 3201 must be taken concurrently. Prerequisites: BIOL 1550 and BIOL 1560, or permission of the instructor. 


ENGL 3500 Contexts: Environmental Literature
MWF 10:00
Instructor: Karla Armbruster

Every work of literature contains assumptions about human relationships to nature, but in environmental literature, questions about how humans can, do, and should interact with their natural environments take center stage. In this course, we will read a range of such works, including not only classics from the American tradition of nonfiction nature writing (Henry Thoreau's Walden, Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek ) but also novels that capture other American experiences of nature (Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony ), poetry by writers like Gary Snyder and Mary Oliver, and works that provide an international perspective (Amitav Ghosh'sThe Hungry Tide and Karen Tei Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rainforest ). In our quest to analyze the environmental assumptions and implications of these works, we will also study their cultural/historical contexts and explore the ways they participate in and work against specific literary traditions. Our larger purpose will be to engage in a conversation about the role that literature can and should play in addressing global environmental challenges. 


SCIN 1800 W1 Living In Vs. Off the Grid (3 credits)
Instructor: Julia Griffey

This hybrid travel course investigates on-grid vs. off-the-grid living toward complete sustainability. We will examine how on-grid systems within traditional homes supply water, process waste, generate power and maintain thermal comfort and compare these to alternative sustainable systems (black water, grey water, solar power, thermal mass, catch water, etc...) in off-grid homes. Students will complete the majority of their course work in a self-sustainable community over spring or fall break where they will receive instruction, participate in discussions, execute hands-on experiments, and learn alternative building methods in an off-the-grid home independent of public utilities. Throughout the week, students will travel to various sites to see exemplifications of concepts discussed in class. This course will have lectures, assignments, discussions and an exam on-line prior to the travel portion. Upon their return, students will take another exam and complete an assignment based on their travel experience. The travel portion of this course will be to Taos, New Mexico during fall break 2014.