Sustainability Advising

The minor consists of a required gateway course called Sustainability: Principles and Practices (3 credits), electives selected from an approved list (totaling 10 credits), and a two-semester independent study (2 credits). Individualized advising helps each student to craft a combination of course that suits his or her interests and goals. We also support students who are seeking opportunities to study sustainability abroad, summer internships, career guidance, and research experiences.

Sustainability: Principles and Practices

This team-taught, interdisciplinary course is typically offered every semester. It introduces students to the breadth and complexity of sustainability studies and includes components from the natural sciences, social sciences, and liberal arts. Students in the minor are required to take this course before their final year and are encouraged to take it sophomore year.

Elective Courses

Students select from a list of approved electives totaling at least ten (10) credits. The Sustainability Minor offers several one credit classes and a number of one credit classes offered by other departments count as sustainability electives as well.

Electives fall into four groupings (see below). Students are generally required to take electives in three different categories, but can petition for an exception provided their electives are in substantially different disciplines.

Students must take two out their electives outside of their college with the exception of Arts and Letters students, who only need one outside their college. Students may take up to 6 credits of their electives while studying abroad.

Course Groupings

i) Sustainable design, including engineering, architecture, and other solutions to environmental problems

ii) Impact assessment, including the science of environmental problems and historical, narrative, and sociological descriptions of those impacts

iii) Social institutions that affect environmental problems and sustainable solutions to those problems, including business and economics, law, politics, sociology, and religion

iv) Individual behavior and values that affect environmental problems and sustainable solutions to those problems, including psychology, ethics, and religious values

Capstone Experience

The capstone project can include work done during any academic year or during a summer research or study program. The following are general guidelines intended to help students in developing a capstone proposal. Students with a specific project in mind are encouraged to consult with the director of the minor.

  • The project must represent independent work directed by the student.
  • The project must be academically rigorous, incorporating thorough analysis of the current state of the field in question and creating new knowledge that adds substantively to that field.
  • Interdisciplinary content is encouraged, meaning that the project engages scholarly work outside of the student’s primary discipline.
  • The project must include an impact plan that will maximize the dissemination and/or practical application of the project’s results. For example, this could be a publication, a guest lecture, a conference presentation, or a community education program.
  • Students may use research they have done for a class or independent study as a starting point, but they will need to build on such work to develop a project that is truly additional.  
  • Students are encouraged to work on the capstone project in pairs, but in order to gain approval such a project must have a rationale for requiring two people and be appropriate in scope for a two-person team. The two students must also be in different majors.

Capstone Timeline:

  • Students must meet with the director of the minor in sustainability to discuss their capstone project during the spring semester of their junior year (4th year for architects), but they are encouraged to set up an initial meeting sooner if possible, especially if they are going abroad in the spring.
  • Students are required to submit a brief description of their project proposal at the end of their junior year (4th year for architects) and identify a faculty member who has agreed to serve as their advisor.
  • Students will receive feedback on their proposals and may be required to resubmit their proposals with modifications to gain approval. Students wishing to start their project earlier (for example, the summer before their junior year) should submit their project proposal before they begin their research.
  • During the fall of their final year, students will enroll in SUS 48001. In this one credit independent study, students pursue their capstone projects under the guidance of their advisors. Deadlines in the fall semester include an expanded proposal (September) and a Literature Review (November).
  • During the spring of their final year, students will enroll in one credit of independent study (SUS 48002) and complete their capstone project. Spring deadlines include a complete draft (March) and final capstone submission (April).

Capstone Advising:

  • Students are encouraged to have mentors outside of Notre Dame if appropriate but all students are required to have a Notre Dame faculty member as an advisor. 
  • Students seeking advice on identifying potential advisors are encouraged to look at the advisors on related topics among previous capstone projects and to consult with Professor Novick.
  • Students are encouraged to meet with their advisors every other week (some students prefer to meet weekly) and to seek feedback on their research and writing on a regular basis.

Visit the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) for a list of funding entities on campus that can provide research support.