Initial Publication Date: September 3, 2012

Foundations of Sustainability minor, University of Arkansas

Information for this profile was provided by Stephen K. Boss, Geosciences, University of Arkansas Main Campus. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a Bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


Students will acquire foundational understanding of sustainability as a legitimate area of knowledge that is strongly interdisciplinary. Philosophical principles of sustainability will be taught alongside interdisciplinary methods and techniques. The result will be a well-rounded overview providing both theoretical and practical experiences in the emerging field of sustainability.


The primary objective of the undergraduate minor in Foundations of Sustainability is to introduce students to fundamental knowledge forming the basis of the emerging discipline of Sustainability. This foundational knowledge includes an interdisciplinary approach to complex problem solving using appropriate analytical techniques. During the last decade, emerging knowledge confirmed widespread degradation of global environmental quality and habitats consequent to activities necessary to accommodate burgeoning human population on Earth. In response to growing concerns regarding the ability of humanity to perpetuate civilization over the long-term, many members of the academy increased efforts to bring various global crises to public attention. The result was a resurgence in thought regarding 'sustainability' and emergence of a widespread movement among academicians to raise awareness of the tenuous environmental situation for the general public as well as constituents at their academic institutions. Recent events surrounding the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico dramatically illustrate the "Tragedy of the Commons" and the interdependence of human societies and economies on ecological services and natural resources. Thus, it is time to enhance the educational experience of undergraduate students through focused study on Foundations of Sustainability. Of particular importance in this regard is the development of student understanding of the importance of measurement to track progress toward or retreat from sustainability. Measurement of sustainability trends and trajectories is an emerging discipline of critical importance ecologically, economically, and socially.

Program Goals

Students who complete the minor in Foundations of Sustainability are expected to:

  1. articulate commonly accepted definitions of sustainability and discuss various nuances among those definitions;
  2. have an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability issues, particularly as they pertain to the thematic areas of knowledge addressed by the minor (sustainability of natural systems, sustainability of managed systems, sustainability of built systems, and sustainability of human social systems);
  3. be conversant regarding acquisition and analysis of data pertinent to sustainability issues;
  4. communicate orally, and in writing organized thoughts defining sustainability issues;
  5. identify appropriate potential strategies to address sustainability issues using data and provide results of rudimentary analyses of data using novel metrics or statistics;
  6. make recommendations, based on data analysis and interpretation, to advance sustainability of individuals or institutions.

Courses and Sequencing

Students must earn a grade of 'C' or better for all courses used to fulfill requirements of the Foundations of Sustainability Minor.

Core courses

  • (3 hrs) Fundamentals of Sustainability
  • (3 hrs) Applications of Sustainability


Students are required to take 9 elective hours. At least 6 of those hours must be Tier 1 (dominantly sustainability content or fundamental principles related to understanding sustainability) and the rest can be up to 3 hours of Tier 2 electives (subordinate sustainability content or associated principles):

Sustainability of Natural Systems

Sustainability of Managed Systems

Sustainability of Built Systems

Sustainability of Social Systems


All students participating in the Foundations of Sustainability minor must complete a capstone experience focused on service learning, research learning, or internship in sustainability. Student engagement in community service, research, or relevant work on sustainability through a summer internship provides opportunities for students to apply sustainability theories and principles learned from prior coursework toward advancing sustainability across society.

Students may formally petition the University of Arkansas Sustainability Curriculum Steering Committee (UA SCSC) to substitute sustainability‐oriented senior design projects, Honors College research projects, other service learning courses, or equivalent internship experiences to satisfy the capstone element of Foundations in Sustainability minor.