BS in Sustainability Studies

Study environmental controversies and diverse stakeholders around the world.

Learn to research, collaborate, and help solve environmental problems.

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.


What Sustainability Studies students learn to do

  • 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 among diverse stakeholders.
  • Identify job niches, business opportunities, and research needs, and to have the skills necessary to assess evolving career landscapes.

Examples of student research in Sustainability Studies

  • Alternative systems of food production
  • Water rights in countries around the world
  • Factors shaping the global asthma epidemic
  • Policies that advance urban sustainability
  • Greening of public K-12 schools
  • Stakeholder perceptions of nuclear power


The B.S. in STS-Sustainability Studies (SUST) requires 40 credit hours of sustainability-focused STS courses including  a sustainability careers course and a 2-semester senior thesis sequence. The minor requires 16 credit hours.

Pursued as an independent major, the SUST degree requires 124 credit hours, including the standard Rensselaer 24-credit HASS core requirement and 24-credit core science requirement.  The degree also requires 16 credits in a technical area (the Technical Option). Dual majors do not have to fulfill the technical option, and SUST courses double-count toward their HASS core requirements.

See the Rensselaer Catalog for more details on the SUST major and the SUST minor.

See the STS department wiki for upcoming course offerings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are SUST classes like?

SUST classes are very interactive and often filled with deliberation and debate. Students are encouraged to learn about and respect diverse perspectives, while developing their own. They gain a lot of experience with different forms of communication, and excel as translators between different disciplines. They learn about the scientific, technical, and social dimensions of a range of contemporary issues -- learning to think in sophisticated ways about complex topics like the global food system, water pollution, and climate change to name just a few.

Is there a required sequence of courses?

All of our first-year students take a gateway course in their major, after which they proceed through degree plans that are structured yet still offer many choices.  Most students do independent research and projects at some point in their programs, and many study abroad, pursue internships and co-ops, and participate as student leaders in a range of campus activities.   

What kind of support would I get as a SUST major? 

Our students have a strong social network among themselves, which supports them both  at Rensselaer and as they advance in their careers. STS faculty are known for their commitment to teaching and advising, and enjoy getting to know students over many classes and years.

Is it a lot of extra work to pursue a dual major?

It does not require more coursework, just a clear focus in selecting your courses. One of the great advantages of Rensselaer is that you can combine dual majors in a relatively easy way. Your HASS core is 24 credits (22 credits for engineering students), and you can fulfil these credits with SUST requirements.

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The Arch

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