Interdisciplinary Sustainability Practicum

Steve Burian, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Utah


This is an interdisciplinary project-based course where students are divided into multi-disciplinary teams and select projects to complete working for real clients.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an upper level course with no pre-reqs. Typically the majority of students are from STEM fields with a small number coming from non-STEM fields.

Course Content:

This course provides students a chance to explore sustainability projects that require expertise from multiple disciplines to come together to solve problems. Students meet in a lecture for seminars, guest speakers, and team project work time. Students learn to communicate across disciplines and to solve interdisciplinary problems related to sustainability applying their skills in conjunction with skills from other majors.

Course Goals:

The course goals are general because each student team selects a different project. The goals of the project then read like learning objectives.

Course Features:

The course requires student teams to interact with clients in and out of class settings. Students are required to complete a semester project that results in a tangible outcome, which may be a report, a research paper, a design, a product, a program, etc. Final presentations are made to the client and stakeholder group.

Course Philosophy:

This course is designed to enhance interdisciplinary sustainability options for students at the upper level. The course is team taught by members from engineering, planning, biology, and geology with input from other disciplines and the Office of Sustainability. The project-based format of the course requires students to engage in independent learning. Project management is a guided effort by the faculty lead on the project.


The course outcomes are assessed in three ways. First, instructors assess student progress and project management through weekly progress reports. Second, the final deliverable from each team is graded. Third, the client and stakeholders provide reviews of the project deliverables according to a slightly different rubric than the instructors use to grade the project.


Course Announcement (Acrobat (PDF) 121kB Jul17 12)

Course Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 25kB Jul17 12)

References and Notes: