Initial Publication Date: August 1, 2012

Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability at ASU

Information for this profile was provided by David Feary, School of Sustainability and School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The School of Sustainability takes a transdisciplinary approach to addressing a broad spectrum of global challenges, including energy, materials, and technology; water quality and scarcity; international development; ecosystems; social transformations; food and food systems; and policy and governance.


The recognition of the need to develop future leaders and scientists with transdisciplinary perspectives who can identify practical solutions to some of the most pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban areas.

Program Goals

The emphasis is heavily on transdisciplinary and problem-oriented learning, to think in a holistic way about sustainability problems and to understand the concepts of sustainability, the issues involved, and the disciplines needed to address real-world problems.

Alumni Careers

Our program is designed to prepare graduates for these career paths:
The range of career paths are extremely broad, including environmental economics, sociology, anthropology, environmental politics, ethics, design, and human geography, ecology, environmental biology, hydrology, environmental chemistry, engineering, earth-systems management, etc.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

Core courses for both BA and BS majors are 'Sustainable World' and 'Sustainable Cities.'


Students can pursue the following tracks (requires satisfactory competencies in Pre-Calculus, Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences, and a Second Language at the 202-level):

Society and Sustainability:

  • Explores the human, social, and cultural aspects and perspectives on sustainability challenges and related problem-solving approaches.
  • Analyzes the ideas and techniques which address sustainability's societal dimensions.
  • Determines human contribution to environmental problems, along with the tradeoffs and solutions for community and economic health and welfare.
  • Addresses vulnerability and adaptation to risks, environmental justice and intergenerational equity, sustainability values and normative views, collaborative decision-making, and social structures and governmental institutions.
Policy and Governance in Sustainable Systems:
  • Explores the theoretical and empirical literature on governance, learning how international, national, state, and local policies affect sustainability, as well as how citizens, the private sector and communities influence the policy and governance processes.
  • Examines institutions, policies, programs and outcomes through real world learning opportunities.
  • Expands knowledge in governance theory, policy analysis methods, ethics and policy, and the societal and ecological impacts of sustainability policy.
International Development and Sustainability:
  • Recognizes the interconnectedness between the social and natural systems.
  • Confronts the assumption of infinite, linear economic growth in early development theories and considers the joint economy-ecology-social system in proposing new strategies.
  • Combines core courses in sustainability, where concepts of normative and anticipatory thinking across time and spatial scales are introduced, with courses in a wide range of related subjects which can include history, philosophy, gender, race and ethnic studies, economics, justice, and international finance, politics and policy.
Sustainable Urban Dynamics:
  • Focuses on global sustainability's dependence on the efficient planning, design, construction, management, and governance of urban regions.
  • Analyzes the issues regarding the adequacy of infrastructure, governance structures, and resources to cope with urbanization pressures.
  • Discusses different approaches to urban planning, urban governance, and environmental management that fundamentally change the way cities have been designed and managed.
  • Addresses the connections between land, environment, human behavior, and human settlements.

Core courses

Students must complete five 'challenge area' courses for a total of fifteen hours:
  • Society and Sustainability
  • Policy and Governance in Sustainable Systems
  • International Development and Sustainability
  • Sustainable Urban Dynamics/Smart Growth & New Urbanism
  • Sustainable Energy, Materials, and Technology
  • The Economics of Sustainability
  • Sustainable Ecosystems
  • Sustainable Food and Farms
  • Sustainability and Enterprise


All students must complete at least six hours of approved electives that relate to the main track they are studying. A minimum of three of these six hours must be upper-division.

Electives include:

  • Equity, Justice, and Sustainability
  • Future Thinking and Strategies
  • Practical Skills for Sustainability Problem Solving
  • Systems Thinking
  • Careers in Sustainability


All students are required to successfully complete a three-hour pre-approved applied/capstone experience. Applied/Capstone experience options include internships, workshops, research experience, or service learning.