Sustainability Major Guide for 2012-2013

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability refers to the ability of a society to meet its needs without harming the quality of life for future generations. The actual practice of sustainability involves creating a society that reduces its impact on the natural environment and also creates a healthy economy and meets the social and emotional needs of its citizens. This is a very challenging task because, by all measures, our current society is not on a sustainable path. A major in sustainability requires a very broad training in the natural and social sciences and the humanities. There is also a minor in sustainability that often complements other majors.

Career Opportunities in Sustainability

Sustainability is a very new field but it is one of the most rapidly growing majors in the nation. Because of its very broad nature, graduates in this major have a wide range of options. Many organizations including major cities, corporations and universities (including UTK) now have a Sustainability Office that is managed by a sustainability director. This degree will provide the basic preparation for such a job. In addition, graduates of this major will be prepared for many new graduate programs that now offer Master’s and doctoral degrees in Sustainability and related areas such as environmental management.  Students will also be able to pursue careers and further training in public administration, policy, and business with this degree.

Salary Trends in Sustainability

This is a very new major and there are no reliable data that are as yet available on salary trends. However, most schools with this major have reported that their new graduates in good academic standing are typically finding entry-level jobs upon graduation, with starting salaries in the range of $25,000-$50,000.

High School Preparation

The best preparation for a college career in Sustainability is a broad background that includes the natural and social sciences. Of special note would be courses in ecology, economics, sociology, psychology and government.

How to Major in Sustainability

Contact Dr. Michael McKinney at 974-­6359 or e-mail:

Requirements for Sustainability

Prerequisites (17-18 hours)


  • ECON 201 – Introductory Economics: A Survey Course
  • GEOL 206 – Sustainability: Reducing our Impact on Planet Earth
  • GLBS 250 – Introduction to Global Studies

Select one course:

  • BIOL 250 – General Ecology
  • FWF 250 – Conservation

Select one course:

  • GEOL 103 – The Earth’s Environments
  • GEOG 131 – Geography of the Natural Environment I

Concentration Requirements

The concentration consists of 27 hours.

I. Social Science Core

Select two courses:

  • ANTH 415 – Environmental Anthropology
  • AREC 315 – Agricultural and Environmental Law
  • GEOG 345 – People and Environment
  • SOCI 360 – Environment and Resources

II. Natural Science Core

Select two courses:

  • CBE 481 – Green Engineering
  • EEB 484 – Conservation Biology
  • GEOG 436 – Water Resources
  • GEOL 455 – Environmental Geology

III. Economics and Sustainability

Select one course:

  • AREC 445 – Economics of Biomass for Renewable Energy
  • AREC 470 – Policy Analysis for Environmental and Natural Resource Management
  • ECON 362 – Environmental and Natural Resource Policy

IV. Resource Management

Select one course:

  • ANTH 461 – Archaeological Resource Management
  • FORS 422 – Forest and Wildland Resource Policy
  • FWF 320 – Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
  • FWF 420 – International Natural Resource Issues
  • SOCI 362 – Population

V. Ethics and Sustainability

Select one course:

  • PHIL 346 – Environmental Ethics
  • SOCI 342 – Globalization and Justice

VI. Climate Change

Select one course:

  • ESS 462 – Environmental Climatology
  • GEOG 333 – Climate Change and Human Response
  • GEOL 456 – Global Climate Change

VII. Capstone Experience


  • GEOL 493 – Independent Study


There is also a Sustainability Minor available to all majors:

Sustainability Minor Requirements

The minor consists of 15 hours.


  • GEOL 206 – Sustainability: Reducing our Impact on Planet Earth

Select two courses:

  • AREC 315 – Agricultural and Environmental Law
  • AREC 470 – Policy Analysis for Environmental and Natural Resource Management
  • AREC 472 – Natural Resource Economics
  • ECON 362 – Environmental and Natural Resource Policy
  • FWF 320 – Human Dimensions of Natural Resources

Select two courses:

  • CBE 481 – Green Engineering
  • FWF 250 – Conservation
  • GEOG 345 – People and Environment
  • SOCI 360 – Environment and Resources

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The Sustainability Major has a capstone experience (Geology 493) that is an integral part of the major. This requires the student to participate in a “real world” experience such as an internship with the UTK Sustainability office or the City of Knoxville Sustainability office. The specific internship will depend on the career goals of the student. For example, a business oriented student will be encouraged to intern with a company that has a sustainability officer or project.

Highlights of Sustainability

This is currently a small major at UT and therefore offers the student a chance for personal interaction with other majors and also with the program director and the Sustainability Office at our university. This is an exciting time for those interested in sustainability because it is a rapidly growing field as many people increasingly recognize the need for a more sustainable society. Perhaps most importantly, due to its interdisciplinary nature, students in this major will be exposed to many professors and courses in many major Departments. You will therefore get a chance to experience a much wider variety of ideas and skills than in a traditional major.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. Students in this major are strongly encouraged to do a semester abroad (in conjunction with the Study Abroad Office or by other venues). Many European nations, notably Germany, Holland, Spain, and Sweden, have emphasized sustainability in their public policies and infrastructure and have very good educational opportunities in their universities on the theory and practice of sustainability. Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Sample Curriculum

Following this four-year plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.  Milestone courses have been identified as the minimum courses that must be completed.

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English Composition 6
Foreign Language 6
Geography or Geology Natural Science Sequence 8
Quantitative Reasoning 6-8
Social Science 3
General Elective  0-1
Milestone courses: English 101 and one course from the Natural Science sequence
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Non U.S. History 6
Geology 206 3
Foreign Language or General Electives 6
Arts and Humanities 6
Econ 201 4
Global Studies 250 3
Sustainability (major) 3
Milestone courses: English 102, Geology 206 and Economics 201
Junior Year Credit Hours
Bio 250 or FWF 250 3-4
Arts and Humanities 3
Social Science 3
Sustainability (major) 15
Upper Level Elective 6
Senior Year Credit Hours
Upper Level Distribution 6
Communicating Orally 3
Geology 493 3
Communicating through Writing 3
Sustainability (major) 9
General Electives  4-6
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 120

For More Information

Contact Dr. Michael McKinney at 974-­6359 or e-mail:



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.