Department of Geography and the Environment

Sustainability Studies

The Sustainability Studies B.A. in Liberal Arts is designed to provide a rigorous and focused study of sustainability methods and content and simultaneously allow a student to complete all degree requirements within four years. The program is housed within the Department of Geography and the Environment, but is comprised of classes from across the university. Academic advising for the major takes place in CLA 1.216. To make an appointment, please call 512-232-6344. 

Degree Requirements

In addition to all university core and liberal arts requirements, the major curriculum is 39 hours in the areas listed below. A minor is not required for this major. Courses for these requirements will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, therefore course options will change each semester. For an up-to-date list for each requirement, please see the "Master Course List" link on this page and/or visit the academic advisor in CLA 1.216. 

Gateway Course (3 hours)

The Gateway experience course serves as a students entry into interdisciplinary learning with hands-on research, teamwork, and practical application. 

Humanities and Social Science (3 hours)

The Humanities and Social Science course will introduce students to the idea that environmental, economic, technological and social systems co-evolve. The course will develop students understanding of the relationship between science and society, prepare students to recognize the sources of inequality and equity, and provide students with an understanding of how different disciplines offer specific expertise and evelop inquiry about sustainability topics. 

Environment and Earth Sciences (3 hours)

The Environment and Earth Sciences course provides students a scientific perspective on sustainability. The course introduces topics of complexity, scientific uncertainty, resilience and distributions in space and time across natural systems. 

Economics and Development (3 hours)

The Economics and Development course lays a foundation from which students can build a deeper understanding of the economic components of sustainability studies, including concepts of the common good and public goods, social equity, market failure and environmental externalities, and valuation. 

Research Design (3 hours)

This course will present a survey of competing and complementary research paradigms for scholarship and practice. Students will learn to identify research paradigms and strategic methods. Students will also learn what constitutes a research question and who has the authority to frame the question.

Communications (3 hours)

This course will introduce students to concepts that shape the interactions among stakeholders as they grapple with sustainability issues. Courses that meet this requirement may integrate various social scientific approaches to the study of communication theory and practice. The communications requirement is intended to give students a critical perspective on aspects of communication that will impact their future work.

Politics and Policy (3 hours)

This course will examine the role of politics, policy, leadership, and governance in the social construction of sustainable futures.

Experiential Learning (3 hours)

This career prep course combines students "hands-on" internship or volunteer experience with an organization working on sustainability issues with an in-class career prep course that helps students prepare for the job market. The course will focus on the students’ individual development and will provide opportunities for reflection.

Capstone Experience (3 hours)

This senior seminar course or study abroad experience will offer students experience working cooperatively in groups of students, faculty, and clients on real-world sustainability issues.

Thematic Concentration (12 hours)

Students will choose one of the three following concentrations.

Trajectories to Sustainability:

These courses engage in the study of the changing relationships of human societies and cultures with their environment over the broad expanse of human time. They address social, cultural, demographic, economic, and environmental challenges from historical and cultural perspectives, at local and international scales. Courses within this track will speak to the history, culture and philosophy of sustainability in the context of economic development, social justice, food production, rural society and urbanism, among other topics.

Sustainable Choice in a Diverse World:

These courses address social, economic, and environmental challenges with equity and respect for diversity, including awareness of issues of class, gender and power. The study of leadership and policy making is informed by ideas from environmental philosophy and ethics. Courses within this track will speak to the nature of environmental ethics and leadership, in the context of sustainable economic development, social justice, rural society and urbanism, among other topics.

Natural Resource Management:

These courses are for students interested in studying issues of sustainable management and use of natural resources such as water, air, plants, and animals and associated industries such as agriculture, energy, mining, fisheries, and forestry. Courses will focus on the human side of resource management and will prepare students for work or further study in policy, land management, and resource conservation. 


Program Director

Gregory Knapp

Associate Director

Molly Polk

Undergraduate Advisor

Craig Gilden

Administrative Associate

Tiffany Swonke

Related Links

Office of Sustainability

Campus Environmental Center


Master Course Lists

Spring 18 List

2016-18 Degree Plan


  • Department of Geography and the Environment

    The University of Texas at Austin
    305 E. 23rd Street
    CLA building, main office- CLA 3.306
    Austin, TX 78712
    512-471-5116