Master of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability

Men and women standing in garden area with rakes



The large-scale goal of the Master of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability Degree program is to prepare students to address complex regional, state, national and global challenges posed by the intersection of human exponential growth and increasingly limited resources that support society. The exponentially rising demands that human populations make on natural resources and ecological systems that supply us with energy, food, water and many other ecosystem services will be further threatened by climate change and the pollution of air, soil and water. Continued reliance on a “business as usual” approach to the economic production and consumption of goods and services, often characterized by the stresses it places on The Commons and by a disregard for environmental and social justice, now threatens the ability of the natural world to absorb our collective impact, erodes our collective security, and polarizes our societies.  Substantial changes in social contracts, economic systems, as well as individual and institutional behaviors will be needed to provide more sustainable, healthy and secure societies. National, regional and local experimentation is needed to find solutions to societal challenges.  Quick facts brochure on the Master of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability.

This Master of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability program is an interdisciplinary program that include 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 can be more sustainable while living in the city.  More information about the UofL Sustainability Council can be found on their website at


Applicants must have a bachelor's degree (any major is acceptable), and provide a completed application form, a transcript of all undergraduate course work, scores for the Graduate Record Examination, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. Admission is competitive and generally requires a minimum GRE score of 153 in Verbal and 144 in Quantatative and a GPA of 3.00.  The GRE code for the University of Louisville is 1838.

Those applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold a degree from a university where the language of instruction is English, must complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of at least 79 on the internet-based test or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a minimum score of 6.5.

Application Deadlines

The Department of Urban and Public Affairs maintains a rolling admissions policy.  The deadlines include:

Fall semester: July 15

Spring semester: November 15

Summer semester: April 15


After applying and submitting the application fee online, please be sure to send all application materials (transcripts, GRE scores, personal statement of interest, and three letters of recommendation) directly to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies University of Louisville, 105 Houchens Bldg.  Louisville, KY 40292 and/or

The minimum requirements for unconditional admission is the baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution, an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and scores in the 60th percentile on all subtests of the Graduate Record Exam.

The committee for reviewing student applications will consist of faculty currently serving on the Sustainability Council's Education Committee.

Financial Aid

The Department of Urban and Public Affairs administers a limited number of Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs).  Apply for GRA here.

GRAs carry a monthly stipend and are granted tuition remission. In return students are required to carry at least nine hours of courses per semester and assist a faculty member (in their preferred core area and correlating department of concentration/ specialization) for 20 hours per week over a 10-month period. GRAs are required to carry at least 9 hours of courses per semester. Students interested in a GRA should consult the program director.

There are four different types of GRAs available to students within the Department of Urban and Public Affairs.  They all include full tuition remission, a monthly stipend, and health insurance and are all highly competitive.  The first is departmental funding awarded primarily based on merit, thus the higher the GRE score and GPA, the better the chances of the student receiving funding.  There are typically 1-2 available positions per academic year and thus are highly competitive and students can apply here at Graduate Research Assistantship/Fellowship Application.  The second type is offered via grant or contracts obtained by our various research centers within the department: State Data Center, Center for Hazards Research and Policy Development, etc.  These funds are awarded based on the student’s skills and experience with similar projects.  The third type of funding is awarded through departments outside of Urban and Public Affairs.  In the past, some students were able to secure funding through positions in the International Center, Cultural Center, Athletics, and Alumni Center and the REACH campus tutoring service.  These funds are awarded based upon the student’s skills and experience related to the position.  Contact information for these departments is available on the A-Z website.  The fourth type of funding is available to qualified Ethnic Minority Students through the graduate school and is awarded through a competitive nomination process.

The deadline for application for the departmental GRA application is March 1st.

Please fill out and submit the application below to be considered for the GRA.

Master of Arts/Science in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability Graduate Research Assistantship Application

For more information on general student financial aid (loans, grants, and work study) contact the UofL Financial Aid Office.


Students are required to complete 33 credit hours of courses.  These include 3 credit hours of an Introduction to Sustainability course (SUST 600) taken by all students, 3 credit hours per course in each of three Core Areas (total of 9 credit hours), 3 credit hours in either research methods or statistics needed to conduct research in their focus area, 6 credit hours in either Thesis work or Portfolio, and the remaining 12 credit hours as electives in their area of concentration.  A thesis is required to complete the MS option. The electives will be approved by the student's thesis committee and it is strongly suggested that at least one elective be in a core area that is not in the student's home department. The thesis or portfolio options will be determined by the student's career focus and goals and by the advisory committee's recommendation. Thesis and portfolios must involve work in at least two of the Core Areas listed below in order to be considered interdisciplinary.

There will be a minimum of 12 hours apportioned as follows: All students are required to take a 3 credit Introduction to Sustainability course (SUST 600). All students must also take one course from the listings in each of the three Core Areas, for a minimum of 9 credit hours. These Core Areas are The Built Environment, The Natural Environment and The Social Environment.  These core courses will have been accepted as providing a broad scope and foundation for all students and do not specify pre-requisites. After reviewing the syllabi of environmentally-related courses in many departments at the university for their potential to fulfill this objective, the committee reached a consensus on the courses below for these Core Areas.  Additional courses meeting the above criteria may have to be developed to provide more offerings each semester, since some of the courses below are not offered every semester.  Some elective courses are currently not offered at the 600-level, but could be by requiring additional graduate level work. These courses should also be co-listedas SUST courses.

Upon entry, all students will take an Introduction to Sustainability course (SUST 600) to ensure, regardless of their subsequent focus, shared exposure to and basic interdisciplinary knowledge of three Core Areas of Sustainability. This cross-cutting introductory course will be offered each semester and its content will require development.

Garden with vegetables almost ready to harvest

Degree Plan


Required Course: (Mandatory for all students)

PLAN 675-  Introduction to Sustainability.


Core Courses: (Students are required to take one course in each area)


Sustainability and the Built Environment Core Courses:

PLAN 670  Sustainable Development and Planning (Frank Goetzke)

UPA 679    Environmental Policy (John Gilderbloom)


Sustainability and the Natural Environment Core Courses:

BIOL 644 Advanced Global Change Ecology (Margaret Carreiro)

GEOS 663 Climate and Environmental Change  (Keith Mountain)


Sustainability and the Social Environment Core Courses:

HIST 611  Advanced Environmental History  (Randall Dills)

SOC 601  Environmental Sustainability and Social Change (Lauren Heberle)


Students will be entered into the program within one of the three Core Areas: Built Environment, Natural Environment, and Social Environment.

3 credit hours will be in a research methods or statistics course related to the student's concentration. 6 credit hours will be devoted to the thesis or portfolio 12 credit hours in Elective Courses.

We strongly recommend that student committees distribute Elective Courses such that at least 3 or 4 credit hours are in a Core area other than that of the student's home department.


Students will take 12 credit hours in guided electives.  The Sustainability Education Committee obtained 47 syllabi from instructors willing to have their courses considered for this Master's Program.  Other courses are acceptable with director's approval.

Please note that it is recommended that all students form their thesis committee with their faculty advisor by the end of the first semester of study.  For more information on all requirements for completion of the thesis please click here.


CEE 660           Transportation, Planning and Urban Development

CEE 661           Environmental Analysis of Transportation Systems  (Hybrid web-based class)

CEE 681           Green Engineering and Sustainable Design

GEOG 536        Sustainable Transportation

LAW 902          Land Use and Planning Law

PLAN 670        Sustainable Development and Planning

PLAN 607        Land-Use Planning

PLAN 622        Urban Design

PLAN 623        Environmental Policy and Natural Hazards

PLAN 625        Historic Preservation/ Sustainability Practice

PLAN 636        Site Planning

PLAN 650        Capstone Studio

UPA 618           Urban Demography

UPA 648           Housing and Community Development

UPA 672           Planning and Sustainability

UPA 679           Environmental Policy

UPA 680           Special Topics, The Ideal City



ANTH 528        Animals and Humans

ANTH 531        The Anthropology of Water

ANTH 652        Topics in Nutritional Anthropology

BIOL 567          Conservation Biology

BIOL 644          Advanced Global Change Ecology

BIOL 660          Ecology of Urban and Suburban Landscapes

BIOL 663          Population and Community Ecology

BIOL 667          Advanced Conservation Biology

GEOS 663        Climate and Environmental Change

LAW 903          Land and Ecosystem Conservation



ANTH 530        Human Impacts on Past Environments

ANTH 540        Health and Civilization

ANTH 626        Food Justice

ART 692           Art, Thinking and Social Change

GEOG 500        Globalization Seminar

HIST 610          Historic Preservation

HIST 611          Advanced Environmental History

HSS 675           Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Individual Level

HSS 676           Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Social Level

HSS 697           Eating Well and Cooking Healthy

LAW 931          Environmental Law

LAW 939          Water Resources Law and Policy

PHEH 620        Global Issues in Environmental and Occupational Health

PHEH 651        Advanced Environmental Health Sciences

PHPB 612        Health Communication Campaigns: Theory and Practice

PHPB 722        Health Risk Communication

PLAN 673        Behavioral Dimensions of Urban Sustainability

PLAN 674        Sustainable Urbanism

PLAN 676        Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems

POLS 639         International Relations Seminar

SOC 610           Environmental Sustainability and Social Change


Students will work with their academic advisors to select the core and elective courses needed.  Tools courses in each of the three blocks, such as Geographic Information Systems, are accepted for credit toward the degree.

For example, if a student were interested in Sustainability and the Built Environment, a sample curriculum may consist of the following progression of courses:



Course #

Course Title



1st year Fall

SUST 600

Introduction to Sustainability




CEE 680

Green Engineering and Sustainable Design




UPA 679

Environmental Policy



1st year Spring

PLAN 680

Sustainabile Development and Planning




GEOS 663

Climate and Environmental Change




UPA 606

Research Methods



2nd year Fall

SOC 610

Environmental Sustainability and Social Change




PLAN 623

Environmental Policy and Natural Hazards




LAW 902

Land Use and Planning Law



2nd year Spring

CEE 697

CEE 680

Thesis in Civil Engineering -OR- CEE Capstone Design

























In the future, disciplines such as Economics, Business, Political Science, Philosophy, and Ethics will be included in the  MA/MS in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability Degree Program.  We intend to work with the relevant departments to develop graduate classes that are Sustainability Related and Focused.

A total of three hours will be required in research methods in the student's focus area. Research methods are offered by many of the departments in the core areas (see Table below).  Which research methods course a student will take shall be determined by the academic advisory committee and the student.



Course Title

Course #


Research Design Anthropology

ANTH 609 & 611



Advanced Experimental Design     and Analysis

BIOL 648


Qualitative Communication Research

COMM 616


Research Design

GEOG 641

Health and Sports Science

Research Methods

HSS 604


Research Methods

HIST 605

Political Science

Methods of Political Research

POLS 671

Public Health

Statistical Foundations for Epidemiology

PHEP 621


Seminar in Research Methods

SOC 615

Urban and Public Affairs

Research Methods

UPA 606










There are no free electives.  All electives will be guided by the student committee.

Contact Details

Tamara Sluss, Ph.D.
Director of MA MS Interdisciplinary Studies Concentration in Sustainability


Master of Urban Planning 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