Sustainability Studies Minor Program Enters Second Year at IUP

Posted on 12/6/2016 1:34:48 PM

IUP students interested in making the planet a healthier, more harmonious place are signing up for IUP’s newest minor program of study, Sustainability Studies. Started just over a year ago, partially in response to rapidly growing job opportunities in this field, the program already boasts 19 minors.

The Guardian newspaper reported that “sustainability will be written into every job description of the future.” As career pathways like corporate sustainability officers and directors of sustainability at nonprofit organizations become more established, students are discovering that a minor in sustainability studies is a way to market their major while studying something they are passionate about.

The popularity of IUP Sustainability Studies was borne out in the fall 2016 semester when attendance at sustainability programming was standing-room only. Some of the speakers included IUP’s own Erin Conlin, History Department, who spoke on her research on pesticide exposure among African American farmworkers in Florida’s agricultural fields. Also featured was Melissa Troutman, journalist and documentary filmmaker, who gave a presentation on her upcoming new documentary film, Invisible Hand, which deals with the ongoing battle by Grant Township residents to reject a fracking injection well there. Sustainability Studies was especially proud to bring the director of the program in Health, Medicine, and Society from Lehigh University, Kelly Austin, to talk about women and climate-related disasters in Bududa, Uganda.

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, sustainability studies equips students to tackle environmental problems as interconnected with social issues. In addition to coursework selected from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, all students take a foundational course in sustainability and must complete a capstone experience to give them an opportunity to synthesize the knowledge and skills gained from their coursework.

One student who recently completed the minor, for example, did a capstone project on his field study in the Brazilian Amazon concerning the challenges faced by Kayapó people as they experience deforestation and dams in their homeland.       

Partnerships with the community are at the heart of the Sustainability Studies program, as it works to create civic engagement opportunities for students and faculty. The program has collaborated, for example, with the Indiana Community Garden, and has screened educational documentaries with the Center for Community Growth. Sustainability Studies also begun to work with Evergreen Conservancy and the League of Women Voters to explore sustainable development options in our regional water, energy, and food systems. 

With all of these accomplishments in hand, IUP Sustainability Studies is looking ahead to 2017 as another year for making more connections and experiences that will be valuable for our students and the Indiana community.

For information about the SUST minor, please contact the SUST co-directors: