Sustainability Minor


The undergraduate Minor in Sustainability allows students to explore the challenges of sustainability and to think about how to develop solutions to pressing issues at the local, regional, and global scale. It introduces students to the concepts, principles, and issues that inform the sustainability paradigm and also integrates classroom and community-based learning and research in a program that prepares students to apply the sustainability perspective to their future endeavors.

This pan-university Sustainability Minor includes several innovative features such as team-taught courses including SUST 1001: Introduction to Sustainability and SUST 3003: The Sustainable Plate. These interdisciplinary courses are taught by faculty and experts from several schools and disciplines. Additionally, all sustainability minors complete a Culminating Experience in their junior or senior year in the form of service, internship, research, or study abroad.

a minor with a major impact



SUST 1001: Intro to Sustainability

The concept of sustainability is both broad and specific as it is applied to areas ranging from social systems to law, engineering, public health, and natural systems. The course considers goals, principles, and practical applications, with a multidisciplinary perspective on major environmental and social issues growing out of these concerns. SUST 1001 is a requirement for the minor. This course is offered is in both the spring and fall semesters.

SUST 2002: The Sustainable City

This course explores the connection between cities and sustainability.  We consider sustainability from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives and examine some of the most pressing and critical issues that must be addressed in order to create a sustainable city. Central to this course is a focus on Washington, D.C.  Ultimately, this course is concerned with how the future of cities and the quality of life for those who live there can be improved through sustainable urban development projects and policy. This course is offered in the spring semester.

SUST 3096: Research in Sustainability

This course provides students with an opportunity to take a deeper dive into sustainability through a structured course. The topics and content of the course can change from semester to semester depending on the faculty teaching it.  

SUST 3097: Culminating Experience in Sustainability

A key piece of GW’s Sustainability Minor is the Culminating Experience, which is based in experiential learning. The Culminating Experience provides students with an opportunity to apply what they learned through their sustainability-related coursework. The culminating experience is reserved for juniors and seniors in the Sustainability Minor. Study abroad in junior or senior year may count towards the Culminating Experience but MUST be pre-approved before leaving for the study abroad semester.

SUST 3097 Culminating Experience requirements are as follows:

  • Letter or email from the student’s supervisor/faculty mentor at the organization/company/government department where the student is working for the internship/service/research. The letter needs to contain confirmation of the offer for the semester.
  • Students will attend five practitioner forums throughout the semester they are enrolled.
  • Students will write a series of reflection essays on their experience throughout the semester. Sustainability Minor Program Manager Max Gelber will provide prompts at the beginning of the semester.
  • Students will submit a story to Planet Forward as part of their final project. 

Students wishing to register for SUST 3097 will need fill out and submit the following:

Sustainability Minor Tracks

Students can tailor their experience in the program to their specific interests by following one of three tracks.

Declaring the Minor

To declare a minor in sustainability, students must fill out a minor declaration form from their school. Forms must be signed by Sustainability Minor Program Manager Max Gelber and then submitted to the student’s school advising office. Forms can be found here:

Before You Declare

Before declaring a minor in sustainability, please read the following important information:

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is the balance of environmental resources, social equity and economic prosperity across the globe and across generations. The GW Sustainability Minor also uses the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations to address issues related to sustainability.

What is the minor in sustainability?

The Undergraduate Minor in Sustainability prepares students to take on the challenges of developing solutions to pressing environmental, economic, and social justice problems at the local, regional, and global scale. It introduces students to the concepts, principles, and issues that inform the sustainability paradigm. The minor integrates classroom and community-based learning and research in a program that enables students to integrate the the sustainability perspective in their future endeavors.

What will I learn from this minor?

Students who complete the requirements for a minor in sustainability will be able to do the following:

  • Apply the concepts of sustainability to issues of human welfare and social equity, the environment, and the economy
  • Adapt and apply knowledge, theories, and methods learned to analyze sustainability issues and/or practices
  • Connect and extend basic sustainability concept(s) to a critical problem facing society, using student’s involvement in the issue as the basis for analyzing the challenges and developing and solutions to the problem

What is a sustainability-related course?

GW has over 150 undergraduate courses that address one or more of the three main concerns of sustainability: the environment, economic development, and equity or social justice. Each sustainability-related course fulfills one of the three tracks of the minor. To obtain a sustainability-related designation, a course must meet one or more of the following six criteria:

  • Content related to sustainable development: creating healthy and thriving resource systems for all
  • Content related to environmental issues
  • Content related to social issues that can be applied to sustainable development such as human welfare, social equity issues or social / organizational / behavioral change
  • Content related to economic issues that can be applied to sustainable development
  • Discourse focused on the interconnection of world resources and the human condition from a long-term perspective
  • Content related to policy and communications issues that can be applied to sustainable development

Is the Sustainability minor limited to students in one college or school at GW?

No! The minor is interdisciplinary and open to any undergraduate student from any school across the university. In fact, the minor encourages students to take classes beyond their own school in order to fulfill the minor.

Do I have to have an environment related major to apply for the minor?

No. We encourage students from all schools and majors to apply for the minor.  GW strongly believes that understanding sustainability will benefit all students, regardless of their majors.  At GW we also believe that all academic disciplines, including the humanities, have roles to play in achieving the goals of sustainable development. A sustainability minor can be applied to a variety of careers, including many in business, nonprofits and government jobs.  Finally, we also believe that the minor promotes citizenship and engagement on many of the world’s most critical issues, including biodiversity, human rights, poverty, climate change, and social justice.

Are there any required courses?

There are two required courses for the minor: 

  • Introduction to Sustainability (SUST 1001)
  • The Culminating Experience in Sustainability (SUST3097) or Research in Sustainability (SUST3096)

How many credits do I need to complete the minor?

The minor is 18 credits:

  • Intro to Sustainability SUST1001 (3 credits);
  • Track A: Environment and Earth Systems (3 credits);
  • Track B: Society and Sustainability (3 credits);
  • Track C: Policy, Organization and Leadership (3 credits);
  • One elective from Tracks A,B, or C (3 credits), and;
  • Experiential Learning (3 credits)
    • The Culminating Experience in Sustainability SUST3097, or; 
    • Research in Sustainability (SUST3096)

What are the three tracks?

In order to give students a well-rounded experience in sustainability, the minor requires work in three different dimensions-- or tracks-- of sustainability. Track A is Environment and Earth Systems; Track B is Society and Sustainability; and Track C is Policy, Organization and Leadership. Students must take at least 3 credits in each track. The three credits required for the elective can be fulfilled by a course from any track.

What is the Culminating Experience in Sustainability?

Students are required to complete a hands-on learning experience, preferably in their senior year. This could be sustainability-related field work, directed research, independent study, an internship, or community service. In addition, students must complete a series of reflective exercises and essays in SUST 3097, the course under which students receive academic credit for their culminating experience. Students must work with the Sustainability Minor Program Manager to create their culminating experience, and this must be approved before the end of the add-drop period in the semester they register for SUST 3097.

Who can I contact if I have further questions?

Please contact the Program Manager of the Sustainability Minor, Max Gelber at [email protected] or 202-994-0905. The Director of the Sustainability Minor, Dr. Tara Scully, can be reached at [email protected] or 202-994-7195.

Where is the office located?

Max Gelber’s Office is in Lisner Hall Room 336

Dr. Scully's Office is in Bell Hall Room 311

Can I double count courses?

Individual departments place restrictions on double counting courses towards minors. Please consult your major department's advisor to go over these restrictions.

The Director of the Sustainability Minor will work with each student individually to design the best possible selection of courses for the Sustainability Minor. The number of courses “double-counted” towards the minor will vary, depending on the student’s major, interests in sustainability, and course of study. Generally speaking, however, the fewer courses double-counted for the minor, the more value the minor will add to the student's education and record. Students are encouraged to follow a separate course plan for the minor to add value to their education.

I am a junior or a senior. Can I still apply for the minor?

Yes! We can work with students of any class and help them design the best possible plan for the Sustainability Minor. We currently have minors declaring from all years. Whether this will work for you will depend on the flexibility of your schedule and whether you are able to find and complete an internship, directed research, or community service in your remaining semesters.

Is there a minimum GPA requirement to declare the minor?


What is the application process?

Schedule an appointment with the Director to discuss your plan of study. Make sure to bring your school’s minor/secondary field form as well as your tentative course plan for the Sustainability minor. After getting the approval and a signature from us, take the form back to your school’s advising office to declare the minor.

Where can I look for internships for my culminating experience?

Students can use several different GW resources to find internships. Opportunities are highlighted in the weekly newsletter sent out to the Sustainability Minor listserv. If you are not receiving the emails, please email [email protected] to request to be added to the email list. You can also check Handshake (previously GWork) for internships offered on campus as well as off campus.  In addition, the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service can assist in finding an appropriate service organization to work with. If the right opportunity is available, it is also possible to do your culminating experience abroad; however, this must be pre-approved by the Sustainability Minor Program Manager before you go abroad.

Can I apply study abroad credits to the minor?

Yes. This may include the following process:

  • You first need to get the course syllabus from your study abroad program approved by the GW department that offers the closest equivalent of that course. (For example, if you were to take a “History of Environmentalism in Australia” course, you would probably need to get this approved by GW's History Department.) Second, once a GW department has approved the course, see the Sustainability Minor Program Manager before going abroad to confirm that this will be counted towards the Sustainability Minor.
  • In the event that the course you are seeking to transfer is a sustainability fieldwork or research course, you can skip Step 1 and take the syllabus directly to the Sustainability Minor Program Manager for approval.

I am working on a faculty-directed research project related to sustainability. Can I apply it to the minor?

Yes. You can apply this towards your culminating experience, if it meets the approval of the Sustainability Minor Program Manager.

How can I identify a sustainability-related course the Schedule of Classes?

When you are looking up a class in the Schedule of Classes click on "Course Attributes." If it is a sustainability-related course, you will see "SUST: Sustainability Courses." There will also be another attribute, either SMTA, SMTB, or SMTC that tells you if the course fulfills Track A, B, or C, respectively, for the sustainability minor.

I am taking a course that I think is related to sustainability but it's not listed in the guide and it doesn't have a course attribute in the Schedule of Classes. Can I still apply it towards the minor?

Send an email with the course syllabus to the Sustainability Minor Program Manager and we will follow up directly with the professor and let you know. Our list of sustainability-related courses is updated frequently. However, this requires the approval of the faculty member teaching the course as well as the approval of the Sustainability Minor Program Director.