Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability: SUS minor

What is the SUS minor?

Are you concerned about the state of the world – for example, the climate crisis? Threats to vulnerable human populations? Mass extinctions? Bad water or air quality?

Are you hopeful about the future – your ability to have your voice heard, enact change, protect and defend threatened people and other species, create the healthy and equitable world you want to live in with your families and friends?

Then the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability & Resilience is for you!Students building structure

This minor program draws from class options across the campus – all fields, majors, and departments – to address the environmental, humanitarian, and economic crises facing us through classroom and applied projects. The required classes give you foundational skills and then allow you to pull all of your knowledge together in practical, applied projects in a capstone course. This minor will give you the broad, interdisciplinary knowledge, leadership dispositions, and practical tools you will need to confront the complex problems of your futures.

To whom do I speak about this minor?

For more information: Director of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability, Dr. Cheryl Wanko, Department of English

What is required?

Two required classes

  • SUS100Introduction to Sustainability and Resilience. Core course, Interdisciplinary Gen Ed.
    In this course, students will identify and imagine solutions for unsustainable patterns in social, economic, and environmental systems and individual behavior, both on campus and in the broader world.
  • SUS400Sustainability Capstone: Application & Leadership. Capstone course, Writing Emphasis Gen Ed.
    In this course, students will apply prior sustainability knowledge in collaborative and individual projects to develop the interpersonal and managerial capacities necessary to be change leaders for sustainability.
  • Four electives
    • two must be upper level
    • one must be a sustainability-related course in your major (under advisement of the director)
    • choose from the approved list – other courses approved with advisement of the director


Other classes (upon Director's approval):

ARH 401. Contemporary Art. (permission req)

BIO 277. Vertebrate Ecology. (pre-req)

BIO 270. Ecology. (pre-req)

BIO 315. Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. (pre-req)

BIO 476. Freshwater Ecology. (pre-req)

BIO 470. Population Biology. (pre-req)

CRJ 318. Environmental Crime. (pre-req)

CRJ 325. Animal Cruelty. (pre-req)

ECO 385. Environmental & Resource Economics. (pre-req)

EXS 487. Physical Activity and the Environment. (pre-req)

ESS 127. Movies, Media, and Entertainment from an Earth and Space Science Perspective.

ESS 128. The Science of Natural Disasters.

ESS 336. Environmental Geology. (pre-req)

ENV 447. Environmental Regulations. (pre-req)

ENV 451. Environmental Toxicology. (pre-req)

ENV 462. Water Quality and Health. (pre-req)

MDC 420. Mass Media & Social Protest. (ethics, pre-reqs)

NTD 304. Global Nutrition.

NTD 305. Vegetarian Nutrition. (pre-req)

NTD 315. Food - Mind - Spirit. (pre-reqs)

NTD 415. Community Nutrition. (pre-req)

NTD 426. Farm to Table Food Product Development. (pre-req)

PAX 200. Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies. (I)

PAX 377. Community Organizing: Strategies and Practice. (pre-reqs)

PHY 125. Theology and Science: Enemies or Partners.

PLN 316. Planning for Resilient Communities and Natural Disasters.

PLN 336. Environmental Planning.

PSC 325. Campaigns and Elections.

PSC 351. Energy and the Political Process.

PSC 371. State and Local Government.

RUX 110. Introduction to Urban Community Change.

RUX 215. Liberation Psychology: Sustaining Community Change. (pre-req)

RUX 377. Community Organizing: Strategies and Practice. (pre-req)

WOS 260. Globalization and the Ethics of Sustainability. (D, E)

WOS 366. Gender, Labor and Globalization.

Who teaches in this minor?

Courses in the minor are taught by their respective faculty; however, in cooperation with University College, the minor is administered by the Teaching, Learning and Curriculum sub-committee of WCU’s Sustainability Council. You can speak to any of these faculty and staff for more information:Students Rafting

  • Stacy Esch - Department of English
  • Kimberley Johnson - Department of Nutrition
  • Michelle Kensey - Department of Nursing
  • Paul Morgan - Department of Educational Foundations & Policy Studies
  • Ian Morrison - Department of Physics & Engineering
  • Jea Oh - Department of Philosophy
  • Kelly Peltier - Pre-Business Advising Center
  • Justin Rademaekers - Department of English
  • Aliza Richman - Department of Anthropology & Sociology
  • Steven Sassaman - Campus Recreation
  • Cassie Striblen - Department of Philosophy
  • Cheryl Wanko - Department of English

What are some related student activities?

  • Sustainability general education pathway - a transcripted certificate program that allows students to focus on sustainability as they complete their gen eds.
  • Students for Sustainable Action - student-run organization designed to encourage all students to participate in campus-wide sustainability efforts by providing a student-centered environment for discussion and collaboration. By bringing different student organizations together to collaborate, divide, and conquer on projects, we can achieve the common goal of advancing sustainability at WCU. Email the Office of Sustainability to get in touch with current student leaders.
  • Office of Sustainability: Get Involved! - to find other student organizations and events.

What can I do with this minor?

Working with FabricNo industry or sector in the American economy remains untouched by the growing demand for sustainability. Regardless of whether you desire to work in education, business, non-profit or government sectors you will find organizations in need of sustainability leaders and sustainability-minded thinkers.

  • In education you will likely find institutions looking for educators who can teach about sustainability and also incorporate sustainability thinking into traditional academic subjects like art, history, language arts and foreign language, mathematics, and social science. In addition, you will find that educational institutions are often looking for educators to help lead schools in the adoption of more sustainable practices and to develop extracurricular sustainability programs for students. The sustainability minor is a great choice for B.S.Ed. students that want to bring sustainability thinking and programming to schools.
  • Businesses often see sustainability initiatives as advantageous it at least two ways: 1) implementing sustainability practices often reduces the cost of operation and production, thereby increasing profitability; and 2) sustainability initiatives help businesses show the public (including clients and investors) that the business cares about social responsibility and corporate citizenship. Some large companies have a sustainability director or manager whose sole job is to help the company become more sustainability and produce annual reports about those improvements. Other companies look for employees that can bring sustainability thinking to their general duties. Thus, the sustainability minor is a great choice for students that hope to work in business and want to demonstrate to potential employers that they will bring sustainability thinking into their work.
  • Non-profit organizations do a great deal of work in environmental stewardship and advocacy such as land preservation and conservation, environmental research, legal and political advocacy, and community-based agricultural and educational organizations. These organizations are often looking for employees that can bring to the organization both primary training in skills like writing, media production, marketing, education, and research both also secondary knowledge of sustainability and environmental science. The sustainability minor is an excellent choice for students who imagine themselves working with environmental organizations and want to demonstrate their knowledge of sustainability as a secondary area of study.
  • Local, county, state, and federal government departments are often compelled by legal mandates to identify opportunities for sustainable practices and where feasible to implement those practices. The City of Philadelphia, for example, has an Office of Sustainability that does this work. The Pennsylvania Department for Conservation of Natural Resources (DCNR) has a Sustainable Practices programs that looks to implement sustainability measures on state lands and buildings. At the national level, the Office of Federal Sustainability works to implement sustainable practices across all federal government operations. Each of these offices and programs have an ongoing need to hire sustainability-minded thinkers in a variety of jobs, and the sustainability minor is a great way to prepare for this kind of work.

What are the goals of this minor?

Goal 1: Envision and create positive futures

1A. Students will identify their role in the local and global community and reflect on their own values, perceptions, feelings, desires and actions as they relate to living sustainably

1B. Students will critique their thinking and to compare their ways of knowing in an effort to learn and to flourish over time in a diverse, interconnected world

1C. Students will imagine, create, and express their own positive visions for the future and for socio-environmental change (i.e. visions that promote improved quality of life and wellbeing for all; meeting the needs of present and future generations; justice and equity; and living within ecosystem limits)

1D. Students will anticipate and construct plausible futures, and implement actions in the service of their individual and collective visions.

Goal 2: Cultivate a sustainability perspective

2A. Students will develop a perspective that recognizes and integrates multiple dimensions of sustainability (e.g. social, economic, environmental, historical, cultural, aesthetic, etc.)

2B. Students will identify the ethical implications of their actions and assess the potential of ethical systems to guide humans to live sustainably

2C. Students will explain the value of multiple, diverse perspectives in creating shared visions and actions that contribute to a sustainable future locally and globally.

2D. Students will question norms, practices and opinions and formulate a position in the sustainability discourse.

Goal 3: Understand and employ systems thinking to solve problems

3A. Students will apply the tools and concepts of system dynamics and systems thinking to their present lives, and to choices that will affect our future.

3B. Students will plan and organize efforts to advance sustainability in their local and global communities

3C. Students will apply different problem-solving frameworks to complex sustainability problems and develop viable, inclusive and equitable solution options that promote sustainable development.

3D. Students will explore the link between the health of the biosphere and the health of the “ethnosphere” and will assess what to preserve and what to change in order for future generations of cultures and communities to thrive over time.

Goal 4: Understand the dynamics and limits of natural and social systems

4A. Students will explain the origins and meanings of sustainability and living sustainably

4B. Students will explain characteristics of sustainable and unsustainable social, economic, and political systems

4C. Students will describe the interrelationships among the social, economic, environmental, historical and other facets of our bioregion and contribute to its regeneration and health.

4D. Students will identify the laws and principles that govern life on Earth, and will describe their interdependence with other humans and their dependence on natural systems

4E. Students will develop projects that recognize and address these limits.

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