Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability


Solar panels

 The Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability will commence in the Summer semester of 2017.


The B.A. in Sustainability is an interdisciplinary degree program with the College of Arts and Sciences that examines interrelated environmental, political, economic, and social issues and problems facing our society at local, regional, and global scales. The goal of the degree is to prepare students to engage with these issues on multiple levels in the workplace and in their community so that collaborative solutions can be found.  The curriculum is designed to educate, train and prepare students for future careers in sustainability‐related endeavors that include: the environment, energy, climate change, public policy, transportation, and urban and regional planning.  This degree will also serve as a well‐rounded base to allow students to pursue graduate training in affiliated fields of study.  Quick facts on the BA in Sustainability program in this printable brochure.

B.A. in Sustainability graduates students will be able to successfully work in government, private, and non‐profit sectors.  In the future, these graduates of the program will be creators, developers, implementors of thoughtful policies that ensure sustainable economies and environmental quality in the state of Kentucky, the nation, and the world.

 Students graduating with the B.A. in Sustainability will be able to:

  • Understand, conceptualize and analyze sustainability problems and issues in a holistic way;
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the basic concepts in sustainability, and the disciplines that can assist with real‐world problem solving;
  • Evaluate the role of social institutions and the political, legal, and cultural frameworks for sustainability;
  • Acquire methods and techniques to explore and analyze issues that cross disciplinary boundaries;
  • Understand ethical perspectives for issues related to sustainability;
  • Obtain practical experience through a required sustainability‐related internship
  • Develop skills that will facilitate creative, innovative, and workable solutions to sustainability problems

This program includes multiple academic units on campus and is the result of an initiative of the University of Louisville’s Sustainability Council which seeks to integrate sustainability into everything that goes on at UofL.  Students in the program are encouraged to contribute to the Sustainability Council’s efforts to explore sustainable solutions for UofL and our community.  The UPA Horticulture Zone is a demonstration area to show students and citizens many examples of how we all can be more sustainable while living in the city.  More information about the UofL Sustainability Council can be found on their website at


Admission to the B.A. in Sustainability requires a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0.  The Application for Major form can be found on the A&S Advising Center web site:   Click here to apply.

Completion of this degree requires work to be submitted for the department’s Learning Outcomes Measurement. For details, contact the department.


B.A. in Sustainability students are required to complete at least 121 credit hours or overall coursework in order to graduate. All Sustainability majors must have completed or be completing general education requirements(GER). For more information on GER requirements for Arts & Sciences' majors, visit


Overall B.A. Degree Requirements

General Ed. Requirements34
A&S Program Requirements22
Sustainability Major Requirements36

Sustainability Major Requirements:

The Sustainability major requirements include: 18 hours of core courses (6 courses), 6 hours of required methods courses and 6 hours of specialization track-required courses. In addition, the students will be required to complete an internship class (constructed as a CUE course) and an independent study in sustainability course. Other elective courses in the Department of Urban and Public Affairs and other departments are available to supplement specific student interests in related topics.  All students must take two WR courses to fulfill the writing requirement.

Sustainability Core Courses
Required Methods Courses
Specialization Track Courses
Internship (CUE) and Independent Study

Sustainability Core Required Courses (18 Hours):

These core courses provide a foundation in key aspects of sustainability.

  • SUST 101: Introduction to Sustainability (3)
  • SUST 201: Environmental Management (3)
  • SUST 202: Behavioral Dimensions (Environmental Decision Making) (3)
  • SUST 301: Sustainable Built Environment (3)
  • SUST 302: Policy and Governance in Sustainability (3)
  • SUST 303: Sustainable Societal Systems (3)

 Core Sustainability Course Descriptions:

SUST 101: Introduction to Sustainability

This course introduces students to the theory, principles, and practices of sustainability from multiple disciplines, in preparation for the program. This course also helps students identify the main problems or questions that will drive their careers, explore concentrations in the natural environment, built environment, and social environment, and identify potential mentors in each of these areas.


SUST 201: Environmental Management

This course introduces students to major environmental problems (e.g., climate change, resource scarcity, pollution, land change) and examines their biophysical or ecological properties at local, regional, and global scales. The course will take particular interest in human-environment interactions, understanding the role different ecosystems and environmental processes play in human well-being, as well as how humans interact with and influence biodiversity, structure, and function of natural systems worldwide. Students will learn major principles and theoretical frameworks of environmental management, especially from the natural sciences.


SUST 202: Behavioral Dimensions (Environmental Decision Making)

This course will examine sustainability through a behavioral lens, exploring the psychological processes, primary research methods, and behavioral solutions involved in environmentally responsible behavior and sustainability. Students will be introduced to key principles of motivation, perception, and decision making to identify fundamental behavioral obstacles to sustainability. They will also learn about core social-psychological processes such as social norms, social movements, and political psychology that influence behavior, and impact sustainability, at larger scales.


 SUST 301: Sustainable Built Environment

This course will focus on identifying and implementing practices that lead to more sustainable man‐made modifications of natural environment for human purposes, especially in urban environments. The course will comprise of a discussion about impacts of built systems (e.g., energy networks, buildings, transportation), and their sustainable design, for sustainable sources of energy, water, air, materials for human habitat and its management.


SUST 302: Policy and Governance in Sustainability

The course will deal with policy making and governance, and explore the impacts of political economy on overall sustainability. The course will examine desired economic conditions, policies, and governance systems that may encourage adoption of best practices in sustainability, including city/county level policy making, state and federal level issues (e.g., EPA, renewable energy incentives), and grassroots political organizing. The course will focus primarily on the American experience but will cover relevant international topics and treaties, such as Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen convention, and others that have the potential to affect widespread policy making.


SUST 303: Sustainable Societal Systems

This course introduces students to the concept of sustainable societal systems. Students will be taught to examine problems in sustainability from a holistic systems perspective, which takes into account multiple actors, social systems (e.g., policies, economies, communities), and environmental processes to achieve sustainability. Students will learn principles of complex, adaptive systems and social-ecological sustainability, theoretical frameworks and methods to address complexity, and tradeoffs (or unintended consequences) of real-world environmental practices. They will also explore cultural and societal implications of resource allocations as it pertains to equity and social justice.

Required Methods Courses (6 Hours):

Students will be required to take two research and analysis methods‐based courses. One is a spatial analysis course (GIS), and the second is any qualifying disciplinary course that is focused on data collection, interpretation and analysis.

  • SUST 518/ PLAN 618: Urban Demography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  (3)
  • SOC 301 Introduction to Social Statistics(3) or SOC 303 Intro to Research Methods - WR (3) or any equivalent disciplinary course specializing in the collection and analysis of data and statistics (with approval from the director).


Specialization Tracks (6 Hours):

Students will choose one of the following specialization tracks (concentrations) for further training and focus, or construct their own (with approval from the director):

  1. Sustainable Societal and Urban Systems (SUS)
  2. Policy and Governance in Sustainability (PGS)
  3. Sustainable Societies (SS)

Sustainable Societal and Urban Systems (SUS)

This track will be focused on training students for careers in research, planning, and management of society’s social, built, and ecological systems. Students taking this track will view sustainability problems holistically, from a systems perspective, and learn to identify, implement, monitor, and evaluate sustainable processes and practices at the scale of neighborhoods, cities, and regions. This specialization will prepare students for careers in such areas a sustainable infrastructure (e.g., transportation, utilities, buildings); planning (e.g., communication, design, land use); and urban development/resource management. 

 SUS Required Track Course(s):

  • SUST 576/PLAN676: Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems
  •  SUS Required Elective: (Choose one of the following)

Students complete this in addition to complementary courses in other areas of concentration (e.g., economics, biology, psychology, engineering)

  • ANTH 352                            Food And Body Politic
  • ECON 360                           Environmental Economics
  • PHIL 328                              Environmental Ethics
  • POLS 363                            Politics of Oil
  • BIOL 401                              Adv. Ecology
  • CEE 460                              Transportation Systems Engineering
  • CEE 471                               Water Supply & Sewage
  • ARTH 593                            Sustainable Architecture
  • BIOL 501                              Study Of Ecological Conservation
  • CEE 561                               Env. Analysis Transportation Systems
  • GEOG 530                           Transportation Geography
  • GEOG561/PLAN501            Urban Environmental Quality
  • GEOS 590                            Global Climate Change
  • ME 570                                 Sustainable Energy Systems


Policy and Governance in Sustainability (PGS)

This track will be focused on training students for careers in sustainable development policy formulation and implementation, human governance (e.g., public administration), as well as community organizing and grassroots political leadership. Students completing this track will gain understanding of major issues in environmental governance, politics, policy, and decision making at multiple scales (i.e., local, state, regional, national, and international). They will also receive balanced trained in built and natural environments, with special emphasis on economic and social development in urban contexts.

 PGS Required Track Course (Choose one):

  • POLS 426: Environmental Policy, or
  • SUST 520/PLAN 620: Environmental Policy, or
  • SUST573/PLAN673: Behavioral Dimensions of Sustainability  

 PGS Required Elective: (Choose one of the following)

  • HIST 508                                     American Environmental History
  • SUST 540/ UPA 640                   Economic Development
  • SUST 523/PLAN 623                  Envir Policy & Nat Hazard
  • SUST505/PLAN 605/LAW 904    Land Use & Planning Law


Sustainable Societies (SS)

This track will be focused on training students for careers in community engagement and direct urban management. This track will provide skills for interaction and helping citizens at an individual and community level to ensure a sustainable urban environment.

 SS Required Track Course (Choose One):

  • SUST 570/ PLAN 670: Sustainable Development and Planning; or
  • SUST 574/PLAN674: Sustainable Urbanism

 SS Required Elective (Choose one of the following):

  • ANTH 352                                     Food And Body Politic
  • ECON 360                                    Environmental Economics
  • PHIL 328                                       Environmental Ethics
  • POLS 363                                     Politics Of Oil
  • GEOS 590                                    Global Climate Change
  • SUST 501/ PLAN 501                   Planning History & Theory
  • ANTH 332                                     Ecology, Politics, & Culture
  • ECON 312                                    Urban Economics
  • GEOG 300                                    Globalization & Diversity ‐CD2
  • GEOG 361                                    Human Soc & Environ‐WR
  • HIST 313                                       Comparative Environmental History
  • SOC 305                                       Urban Sociology
  • SOC 307                                        Rural Sociology
  • POLS 426                                      Environmental Policy
  • BIOL563                                        Pop And Comm Ecol
  • GEOG 500                                    Globalization Seminar
  • HIST 508                                       American Environmental History
  • SUST523/PLAN 623                     Envir Policy & Nat Hazard
  • SUST505/PLAN605/LAW 904       Land Use & Planning Law
  • ARTH 593                                     Sustainable Architecture
  • BIOL 501                                       Study Of Ecological Conservation
  • GEOG 561                                    Urban Environmental Quality
  • GEOG 362                                     Disease & Ecology: Afr‐Wr
  • SOC 453                                        Social Change
  • JA 523                                           Race & Gender In Criminal Justice
  • SUST520/PLAN 620                      Environmental Policy

Internship (CUE) and Independent Study (6 Hours):

SUST 404: Internship (3 hours)

A mandatory internship work that includes a component of sustainability and is intended to provide students hands-on the training in the field. The internship is a CUE (Culminating Undergraduate Experience) for students to develop critical thinking skills, synthesize lessons learned from the B.A. in Sustainability curriculum, and apply that knowledge to real-world projects or activities in sustainability. Typical internship sites and clients will include: local government agencies, community‐based organizations, business organizations, and university committees or partnerships. The type of employer or work would be the student’s choice; however, the internship is intended for seniors and advanced juniors, and would need to be approved by the student advisor to ascertain its relevance to the course of study. The internship is recommended to students to be undertaken during or after their junior year.
Sustainability Internship Guidelines
Sustainability Internship Handbook


SUST 401: Independent Study in Sustainability (3 hours)

By making arrangements with a faculty member, students will register for three hours of credit in SUST 401 (Independent Study in Sustainability) to participate in research relevant to sustainability science or practice. This is arranged independently and individually by the student, who should contact faculty members by email or in person to discuss opportunities in the faculty's research center. The faculty and student will agree on responsibilities and means of evaluation and jointly sign an Independent Study Form (available in the Department of Urban and Public Affairs main Office). After approval by the department chair and the Dean's Office, the student will be allowed to add SUST 401 to their registration. Students typically help with data collection, research design/implementation; preparing posters, presentations, and portfolios; attending regularly weekly research meetings.


Contact Details

David M. Simpson, Ph.D., AICP, Program Director
Phone: (502) 852-8019


B.A. in Sustainability Program
Department of Urban and Public Affairs
University of Louisville
426 W. Bloom Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208

Phone: (502) 852-7906
Fax: (502) 852-4558



Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education