Endowment creates new opportunities for Sustainability Minor

Author: Deanna Csomo McCool

Mc 4

Course and research options within the Minor in Sustainability Studies will expand, thanks to a recent endowment established to support the program.

The Otterbeck Family Endowment for Excellence in Undergraduate Sustainability Studies was established in March through the generosity of Jim Otterbeck and Suzie Otterbeck.


“The Otterbecks’ incredible generosity has been a game changer for the Sustainability minor,” said Rachel Novick, director of the minor. “We have been able to set a number of ambitious new goals in areas including curriculum enhancement, student research support, alumni mentoring, and career guidance.”

The first program supported by the endowment was a course development grant in spring ‘18, which was awarded to six faculty members to support the creation of new sustainability courses. “We got so many exciting applications from departments ranging from political science to psychology to German,” said Novick. “The proposals exemplified our vision for including all disciplines in a dynamic conversation that contributes to addressing today’s global challenges.”

Rising senior Maria Sasso said she’s excited the program has been endowed, because the minor has been her favorite part of academic life at Notre Dame. The neuroscience major said the interdisciplinary aspect of the program has allowed her to take classes in other colleges that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to take. “From business ethics classes to a class taught in the Galapagos, my sustainability classes have been some of the most interesting, applicable, and exciting classes I’ve taken,” Sasso said.

About 70 students have graduated with a minor in Sustainability Studies since 2013. Graduates have gone on to careers in environmental consulting, water conservation, and energy policy while others have pursued graduate study in ecology, sustainable urban development, and environmental law.