Mission & Objectives

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Mission

Train students at the University of Notre Dame with the personal and professional skills to:

  • Comprehend, appreciate, integrate, and contribute to diverse fields of knowledge to solve present and looming national and international problems requiring the responsible and equitable use of natural resources;
  • Converse and collaborate effectively on sustainability with others from widely different backgrounds and perspectives; and
  • Provide local, national, and international leadership that incorporates sustainability thinking when addressing wide-ranging global problems of the 21st century.

Sustainability Learning Objectives

  • Examine the theories, principles, and practices of sustainability.

For example, a core principle of sustainability is systems thinking, wherein traditional narrow, disciplinary, short-term solutions to environmental, economic, and societal problems are supplanted by interconnected whole systems solutions that demand new ways to collect and analyze data, teach and converse, and intervene.

  • Develop an ability to be critically aware of one's own perspective and appreciative of different points of view on what sustainability means and requires so as to engage in constructive dialogue.

For example, how does one group that considers the consumption of 100 gallons of water per day normal converse with another for which three gallons a day is the norm? How can these two groups reconcile their differences and arrive at an equitable solution to resource allocation? Challenges such as these require ethical, religious, economic, and other frameworks to inform decision-making and dictate fair and effective action.

  • Examine how human activities affect sustainability through case studies, including measurements of impacts.

For example, to what extent do environmental factors (e.g., water, air and ground pollution) affect ecosystem health, climate stability, the preservation of life on Earth, and the quality of human life?

  • Learn technical and social approaches to sustainability and learn to integrate these approaches across disciplines.

For example, while technical solutions to specific sustainability problems (e.g., energy production) may be available, they are ineffective unless embraced by society. What psychological and sociological factors determine the degree to which change is embraced by a group of individuals? What extra- and intra-group forces are in play that stifle or impede change, and how can they be surmounted?

  • Develop skills for quantitative problem-solving through independent research and/or interdisciplinary teamwork that addresses an specific aspect of sustainability. This objective will be realized through the pursuit of specific capstone research or action projects involving faculty and students associated with the minor.

For example, capstone areas may range from studies of the impact of religious beliefs and social mores on resource use and allocation, to the development of greener chemical methods to improve agriculture and food production. The research may or may not be laboratory-based, and tangible end-products may include a scholarly thesis developed from in-depth library research, a scientific research paper addressing a specific technical problem (e.g., managed relocation, geoengineering), or the design of new campus or community initiatives.