Carnegie Mellon University

Environmental and Sustainability Studies Undergraduate Program

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies program takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying environment and sustainability. The additional major and minor build upon existing schools and institutes across Carnegie Mellon University.

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Minor in Environmental & Sustainability Studies

The minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies is designed to be accessible for every undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, regardless of their college or major.

Students explore interdisciplinary perspectives of environmental and sustainability issues in their core courses and continue to expand their knowledge of environment and sustainability beyond their primary discipline in elective courses.

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor was introduced in 2018 and replaced the minors in Environmental Science (Mellon College of Science), Environmental Studies (Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences), and Environmental Engineering & Sustainability (College of Engineering).

66 Total Units for students with Primary majors in CFA, Dietrich, Tepper

69 Total Units for students with Primary majors in MCS, Engineering, SCS
Core Courses
  • 18 Units (CFA, Dietrich, Tepper)
  • 21 Units (MCS, Engineering, SCS)
24-291 Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (9 Units)
  • Plus corequisite (MCS; Engineering; SCS only) (3 units)
79-336 Introduction to Environmental Ideas (9 Units)
Global Course (3 Units) 99-xxx (3 Units)
Statistics & Data Science (9 Units) 36-200 OR equivalent course (9 Units)
Electives (36 Units) External electives (27 Units)
Free electives (9 Units)

Requirements for the Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor include 30 units (33 units for students with primary majors in the Mellon College of Science, College of Engineering, and School of Computer Science) of core and specific courses, and 36 units of electives. This means students are able to design their own curriculum and personalize the minor toward what they are interested in, with approximately half the required courses being electives.

Core courses for the minor include Introduction to Environmental Ideas (79-336) and Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-291/09-291). If the student’s primary major is in the Mellon College of Science, College of Engineering, or School of Computer Science, they must also take a 3-unit corequisite with Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-381/09-381).

Introduction to Environmental Ideas (79-336) presents key methods and approaches for interdisciplinary inquiry within a framework of Environmental Humanities. The course prioritizes students who have already declared the minor or additional major with program advisors and fills up quickly, so students are encouraged to declare the minor sooner rather than later.

Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-291/09-291 + 24-381/09-381) is an introductory course about the Earth Systems which regulate our climate and ecosystems, providing the resources required to sustain all life, including human societies.

Beyond core courses, students pursuing the Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor must also take two other required courses. One is a 3-unit Global Course. The course is one weekend only and is held in partnership with University of Pittsburgh’s Global Studies Center. The course’s topic changes every semester but always relates to a global theme.

Students must take 9 units within the Department of Statistics and Data Science as well, whether this is the introductory course Reasoning with Data (36-200) or any other 9 units in the Department with course number 36-xxx. (The AP exam is not accepted for the Minor or Additional Major, though an AP score may give you access to higher-numbered courses.)

The importance of interdisciplinarity within this program is further emphasized in the electives students must take: 27 of the 36 units should be “external electives,” or come from outside the college of the student’s primary major. The other 9 units are “free electives,” or can come from any college or school within Carnegie Mellon University. Students should check on pre-approved electives, or speak with the program director or program advisor before assuming a course will satisfy an elective requirement.

Though there is no application process for the minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, students must declare the minor by contacting one of the program advisors of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program.

Students are encouraged to reach out to one of the program advisors as soon as possible to ensure priority registration for core courses required for the minor. To declare the minor or additional major, students must first declare a major during their first or second year of college. Ongoing communication will be required to ensure all course requirements are fulfilled before graduation.

Additional Major in Environmental & Sustainability Studies

The additional major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies is designed to allow students from any college at Carnegie Mellon University to complement the depth of their primary major and address the breadth of intrinsically interdisciplinary issues associated with the environment and sustainability.

Students explore and analyze environmental and sustainability issues in their core courses and expand their understanding of environment and sustainability beyond their primary discipline in elective courses. The additional major is completed with a Environmental and Sustainability Studies Senior Capstone, where students formulate a research question, identify discipline-specific methods for exploring or answering the questions posed, and use the chosen methods to gather and analyze evidence.

The additional major was introduced in 2021 and is jointly offered by the Mellon College of Science and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

102 Total Units for students with Primary majors in CFA, Dietrich, Tepper

105 Total Units for students with Primary majors in MCS, Engineering, SCS
Core Courses
  • 27 Units (CFA, Dietrich, Tepper)
  • 30 Units (MCS, Engineering, SCS)
24-291 Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (9 Units)
  • Plus corequisite (MCS; Engineering; SCS only) (3 units)
79-336 Introduction to Environmental Ideas (9 Units)
66-506 Senior Capstone (9 Units)
Earth and Environmental Science (9 Units) Complete any one (9 Units)
Global Course (3 Units) 99-xxx (3 Units)
Statistics & Data Science (9 Units) 36-200 OR equivalent course (9 Units)
Political Economy (9 Units) Complete any one (9 Units)
Electives (45 Units) External electives (36 Units)
Free electives (9 Units)

Requirements for the Environmental and Sustainability Studies additional major include 48 units (51 units for students with primary majors in the Mellon College of Science, College of Engineering, and School of Computer Science) of core and specific courses, 45 units of electives, and 9 units for a senior capstone. This means students are able to design their own curriculum and customize the additional major toward what they are interested in, with approximately half the required courses being electives with an additional personalizable senior capstone.

Core courses for the additional major include Senior Capstone (66-506), Introduction to Environmental Ideas (79-336), and Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-291/09-291). If the student’s primary major is in the Mellon College of Science, College of Engineering, or School of Computer Science, they must also take a 3-unit corequisite with Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-381/09-381).

The Interdisciplinary Senior Capstone (66-506) is a semester-long independent research and/or creative project which examines something related to environmental and sustainability studies. The student-proposed project is approved and supported by the capstone instructor.

Introduction to Environmental Ideas (79-336) presents key methods and approaches for interdisciplinary inquiry within a framework of environmental humanities. The course prioritizes students who have already declared the minor or additional major with program advisors and fills up quickly, so students are encouraged to declare the additional major sooner rather than later.

Environmental Systems on a Changing Planet (24-291/09-291 + 24-381/09-381) is an introductory course about the Earth Systems that regulate our climate and ecosystems, providing the resources required to sustain all life, including human societies.

Beyond core courses, students pursuing the Environmental and Sustainability Studies additional major must also take four other required courses.

One is a 3-unit Global Course. The course is one weekend only and is held in partnership with University of Pittsburgh’s Global Studies Center. The course’s topic changes every semester, but always relates to a global theme.

Students must take 9 units within the Department of Statistics and Data Science as well, whether this is the introductory course Reasoning with Data (36-200) or any other 9 units in the Department with course number 36-xxx. (The AP exam is not accepted for the Minor or Additional Major, though an AP score may give you access to higher-numbered courses.)

Another 9 units must complete the Earth and Environmental Science requirement, and a final 9 units must complete the Political Economy requirement.

All courses which meet these requirements can be found on the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Course Catalog.

The importance of interdisciplinarity within this program is further emphasized in the electives students must take: 36 of the 45 units should be “external electives,” or come from outside the college of the student’s primary major. The other 9 units are “free electives,” or can come from any college or school within Carnegie Mellon University. Students should check on pre-approved electives, or speak with the program director or program advisor before assuming a course will satisfy an elective requirement.

Though there is no application process for the additional major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, students must declare the additional major by contacting one of the program advisors of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program.

Students are encouraged to reach out to one of the program advisors as soon as possible to ensure priority registration for core courses required for the additional major. Communication will also be required to ensure all course requirements are fulfilled before graduation.