BS in Sustainability Studies

Sustainability Studies responds to national and global developments that have made sustainability a key public concern.  It also responds to vocal demand by students at Rensselaer for sustainability curricula, paralleling the growth of sustainability-oriented student clubs and initiatives on campus. 

Sustainability Studies prepares graduates for careers in environmental policy, management, and research—in industry, in government, or in non-profit organizations. Rigorous and creative teaching of social science methods is a signature aspect of the program, providing a strong base from which students launch their careers or advance into graduate programs.

Sustainability Studies students:

  • Identify the issues, debates, and forms of expertise associated with environmental sustainability.
  • Analyze the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts of environmental problems and sustainability opportunities.
  • Analyze the required infrastrcture and future implications of diverse sustainability pathways.
  • Analyze and formulate ethical ideas and policy positions to support environmental sustainability.
  • Carry out sustainability-focused research using methods appropriate to the social sciences and humanities and in collaboration with researchers from other disciplines.
  • Understand, communicate with, and provide leadership amongst diverse stakeholders.
  • Identify job niches, business opportunities, and research needs, and to have the skills necessary to assess evolving career landscapes.

Sustainability Studies students research:

  • Alternative systems of food production and distribution
  • Causes and consequences of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster
  • Factors shaping the global asthma epidemic
  • Water rights in countries around the world
  • Evaluation and regulation of toxic chemical at the US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Causes and consequences of the global bee colony collapse
  • The future of nuclear energy production in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Dual Major in STS Sustainability Studies

The STS Sustainability Studies major is designed so that it works as a stand-alone major with enough flexibility for students to pursue areas of interest beyond the sustainability studies core. It is also designed to accommodate dual-major combinations with related degree programs across the Institute.

The major requires 124 credit hours, including 40 STS Sustainability Studies credit hours (10 courses), and the standard Rensselaer 24-credit hour humanities and social sciences core and 24-credit hour math and science core. The major also requires a 16-credit-hour "technical option," which is the equivalent of a minor in a related area of study. Dual majors automatically fulfill the H&SS core and the technical option requirements.

major and dual major requirements  124 credits (requirements below assume 4-credit hour courses)

  • One 1000-level SUST course*
  • Two 2000-level SUST courses*
  • Seven 4000-level SUST courses* (must include careers seminar and two-course thesis sequence)
  • Four courses for Technical Option (usually a minor in another area; two courses at 4000 level; dual majors automatically satisfy this requirement)
  • Six courses for HASS Core (minimum two humanities and two social science courses; dual majors count STS courses toward HASS Core)
  • Six courses for Science Core (dual majors count courses for other major toward Science Core)
  • Five courses as free electives

* SUST courses must include four communication-intensive and three methods-intensive courses

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Sustainability Studies students have diverse course offerings:

Sustainability Debates

Environment and Society

Oil Politics

A Century of Environmental Thought

Food, Farms and Famine

Sciences of Sustainability

Globalization and Development

Consumer Culture

Environment and Law Sustainability Research

Sustainability Careers