Washington University in St. Louis offers degrees and programs that allow students to learn about sustainability and prepare for the practice of addressing global challenges.
Academic opportunities related to sustainability cross schools and disciplines, providing our students many paths into studies of sustainability.
The Department of Energy, Environment and Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at WashU was the first of its kind in the country when it was created in 2006. The department brings together faculty involved in interdisciplinary environment engineering science and chemical engineering to focus on contributing to solutions for the energy and environmental challenges around the world. It continues to build upon cooperation among many different facets of the university to bring a truly interdisciplinary approach to advancing basic science. With integrated and multidisciplinary programs of scientific education as well as a tradition of lifelong learning, the department plays an integral role in WashU’s initiatives to address global challenges.
The Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts offers a program that leads to a professional Master of Landscape Architecture degree. The program focuses on the subjects of design, ecology and urbanism. Ecology informs design practice to address a multiplicity of scales and natural systems within the environment while urbanism serves as a terrain of contemporary landscape practice.
The Master of Urban Design post-professional program addresses the multiplicity of urbanizing environments occurring in local, national and global cities from the viewpoint of the metropolitan landscape. The intention of the program is to promote the development of healthy and sustainable environments and communities. Students learn social, political, economic and environmentally responsible principles of development and the history and theory of contemporary urbanism.
The systems that shape the Earth’s environment are dynamic and highly interactive. In the Environmental Studies program, we work to understand these systems and how they influence the planet’s diverse ecosystems, natural resources, the communities we live in, and local and global political systems.
Washington University offers undergraduate students a variety of opportunities to study the environment. In the Environmental Studies program, we offer a major in Environmental Analysis with a broad grounding in environmental coursework to prepare students to tackle real-world environmental problems by providing training in analysis, problem-solving, communication, and community engagement. We offer a corresponding Interdisciplinary Environmental Analysis minor. In addition, our Environmental Studies minor is a flexible option that allows students to explore disciplines that complement their major. We also offer various courses integral to environment-related majors in the Earth and planetary sciences, biology, political science, anthropology, and international and area studies. Many of our students also pursue interests in business, law, and landscape architecture.
In addition to coursework, we encourage students to engage in independent research by working closely with experienced faculty mentors in the field and in the lab. We also offer a variety of interdisciplinary project-based, community-engaged learning experiences.
University College in Arts & Sciences, the adult, evening and continuing education division, has developed a Bachelor of Science in sustainability. This program provides an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and resolving today’s most pressing and complex environmental, economic and social challenges.
The Global Health & Environment track is a major/minor emphasis within Anthropology that is unique among peer institutions. It addresses the interests of undergraduate students whose interests lie primarily within this area, builds on existing strengths and resources in the Department of Anthropology, and enriches the quality and scope of student training for professional careers.
Programs and Experiential Courses
The Pathfinder Fellows Program is a four-year, cohort-based undergraduate program providing the academic rigor and field experience needed to deeply understand, respect and respond to a place and its people in light of environmental challenges. Integrated around the rich themes of environmental studies, including environmental science, policy, humanities and sustainability, the program welcomes students from all four undergraduate schools to create a yearly cohort of 12 to 16 students.
The program provides students with expertise in sustainable and critical thinking at scales from individual sites to neighborhoods, landscapes, nations, and the globe. Program activities consist of shared coursework, field trips, community-engagement opportunities such as internships and research, and experiences in urban and rural environments. Taken together, these components provide interdisciplinary training for our students to emerge as leaders in their respective fields.
The International Experience in Energy and the Environment program seeks to enhance and enrich the experience of undergraduate students and provide a focused international experience. The program is guided by faculty from the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering. Each group of students visits a city in which a partner school of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy is located in order to engage in a project that enhances teamwork and knowledge of the field of energy, environment and chemical engineering.
Through the Washington University School of Law, the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic provides pro bono legal and technical services to environmental and community organizations in the greater St. Louis area while simultaneously offering an educational experience for students from across the university. The interdisciplinary structure of the clinic is unique among environmental law clinics. Student attorneys (second- and third-year law students) and student consultants (graduate students and upper-level undergraduates in engineering, environmental studies, medicine, social work and business) work in interdisciplinary teams under faculty supervision. They offer legal and technical assistance on environmental and community health problems to individuals and organizations unable to pay for such services. Teams work on issues relating to air and water quality, lead poisoning, environmental justice, habitat destruction and wetlands.
The Sam Fox School, College of Arts & Sciences, and School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University launched the Sustainability Exchange in 2015. It is a unique course bringing together students from across campus to work in interdisciplinary teams to tackle real-world challenges in energy, the environment, and sustainability.
Using the campus and community as a living laboratory, the course was created by an interdisciplinary team of deans and faculty to create an upperclassman experience.
Students participate in significant projects with clients and partners at the university and in the community. The projects are developed with, and guided by, faculty advisers with the intention of delivering applicable end products for community problems requiring innovative methods and solutions.
For more information, contact Liz Kramer, assistant director of community-based design & sustainability, at email@example.com.
Students interested in research experiences at the Tyson Research Center can receive course credit and are encouraged to contact Washington University researchers. Summer fellowships are available for undergraduate students interested in environmental research, including ecology, evolutionary biology and related environmental sciences.
Certificates in Sustainability
University College offers certificates in sustainability-related studies designed primarily for professionals in architecture, planning, law, government and development. Visit the University College website to find out more about their certificates in sustainable communities and development, sustainable environment and science, and sustainable management organizations.
Courses Related to Sustainability
The Washington University course catalog includes hundreds of courses that are either sustainability-focused or sustainability-related. Our partners in the Climate Change Program publish an annual curricular guide to courses related to climate change.