Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars Program (USSP) Supplemental Studies Program in Sustainability

Not a concentration program

May be elected as an undergraduate supplemental studies program 

Effective Winter 2012

Students who are pursuing an academic minor in Sustainability  are excluded from receiving a Certificate in Sustainability on their transcripts.

The USSP accepts up to 30 high-performing sophomores each year to pursue an 11-credit course sequence and related co-curricular activities during their junior and senior years. The program uses a cohort model emphasizing leadership development and skill building for professional development and organizational change across traditional disciplinary boundaries. It provides a dimension in sustainability that can be added to majors and minors in any School or College. The USSP teaches leadership and social change skills to a small, high-performing group of students, providing professional development and mentorship opportunities to help launch their careers. The USSP's strong cohort model is designed to create engagement across majors and programs and develop a base of social support and a strong network for aspiring sustainability leaders.

The USSP is designed to prepare future leaders to help solve the "wicked" problems that comprise the grand challenge of sustainability. The major environmental and interrelated social sustainability challenges facing society are so complex that solutions will not result from traditional disciplinary approaches. The underlying premise is that solutions to global unsustainability require a new generation of leaders who embrace complexity, interconnectedness, uncertainty, and change. To develop these skills, the program features leadership training combined with organizational change theory and practice. The strong cohort model focuses on interdisciplinary thinking and action for sustainability. Scholars are challenged and encouraged to see issues from multiple perspectives through exploring natural, social, economic, political, and technological aspects of complex sustainability issues. Students apply the knowledge they gain to real-life sustainability challenges, harnessing advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills. In an interconnected world of rapidly increasing population, resource scarcity and massive information flows, addressing sustainability will require extraordinary new leadership that responds to the imperatives of declining natural and social capital with a rethinking of people and organizations. This rethinking will be based in systems, values, adaptation, resilience, collaboration and complexity. The USSP is designed specifically to provide training in this critical area.

Students must have a minimum G.P.A. of 3.3 at the time of application. To apply, students submit a personal statement (500 words or less), two references (at least one from a U-M instructor), a resume/c.v., and a transcript. An ad hoc committee formed with the advice of the Graham Institute Executive Committee reviews applicants based on their academic qualifications, previous experience related to sustainability, strength of their personal statement, and reference letters. Desire for diversity and interdisciplinary balance within the cohort is a significant consideration. The USSP accepts up to 30 students per year for the two year program.

Curriculum 

Scholars engage in a two-year, 11-credit series of interdisciplinary coursework, with an emphasis on both field-based and site-based interdisciplinary learning.

Requirements include: 

A. Core Courses

  1. Junior Seminar Preparation Course. UC 370: UC Special Topics (section titled "Sustainability Scholars Interdisciplinary Thinking Seminar" (1 credit).

    In the fall of their junior year, scholars are trained in interdisciplinary thinking and grounded in leadership theory and practice. Students undertake a systemic, interdisciplinary review of core environmental problems and solutions through the framework of sustainability. Special attention is paid to cohort building and team development.
  2. Place-Based Capstone Experience: ENVIRON 391/RCIDIV 391: Sustainability & the Campus (3 credits). All scholars must take this place-based course as a capstone experience, designed to integrate knowledge and hone professional skills using the campus as a living-learning laboratory through a team-based project. This interdisciplinary, capstone course explores environmental (and, to a lesser degree, social and economic) sustainability in higher education generally, and at U-M specifically. The course draws upon theory and practice in environmental management, organizational change, systems thinking and social advocacy. Students conduct a substantial, hands-on group project in conjunction with a university staff sponsor as the core component of the course. Through site visits, guest lectures, discussions, lectures and the project experience, this course aims to address the real life challenges of campus sustainability, using the U-M campus as a microcosm of larger society. This course focuses on active, participation-based learning, and students should leave the course with an understanding of the campus as a lever for environmental change and the complexities of management for sustainability, as well as with the personal tools to act as change agents.

B. Field-Based Sustainability Course: Scholars must take a Graham Institute-supported field-based sustainability course. These courses are offered in partnership with academic departments within schools and colleges across campus. These experiences are designed to expand the boundaries of the Scholars' thinking about sustainability, and to address sustainability-related issues in a context outside of the campus. The Scholars are funded for the direct costs of their participation (up to $3,000) while the Graham Institute also helps to offset costs for the field portion of these courses for all students. Current options include:

  • ARCH 409: Special Topics in Architecture (section titled "Toward a New Sustainable Environment in Light of the Changing Face of Rural (and Urban) China") (4)
  • CEE 490: Independent Study (section titled "Sustainability Challenges & Opportunities in East Africa") (3)
  • EARTH 344/ENVIRON 344:Sustainable and Fossil Energy: Options and Consequences (3)
  • ENVIRON 302: Topics in Environmental Social Science (section titled "Sustainable Neighborhoods: Experiential Learning & Active Engagement in Detroit")
  • ENVIRON 344/EARTH 344:Sustainable and Fossil Energy: Options and Consequences (3)
  • UP 403: Undergraduate Experimental Course (section titled "Sustainable Neighborhoods: Experiential Learning & Active Engagement in Detroit")

While the expectation is that Scholars will take advantage of at least one of the Graham-ssupported opportunities, Scholars can petition to substitute an alternative field-based course or experience for a Graham-funded option. Criteria for substitution include:

  1.  The course or experience must be worth 3 credits or the equivalent in terms of effort and hours spent
  2.  The course or experience must provide an opportunity to investigate natural, social, economic, political, and technological aspects of a sustainability problem in a site-specific context. International experience is preferred but not required
  3. The course or experience must engender an in-depth analysis of potential approaches to the resolution of the sustainability problem.

The process for petitioning for an alternative to the pre-approved courses and applying up to $3,000 of financial credit includes:

  1. A signed letter to the Graham Institute's Education Director citing the reasons for opting out of the approved options and outlining how the alternative meets the criteria outlined above
  2. A budget which details how the financial credit would be applied for direct expenses, with a clear indication of the need for Graham funding
  3. A syllabus or the equivalent information that provides the full details about the proposed course or experience
  4. Official approval (if required and appropriate) for entry into the course or experience, signed by the faculty member or appropriate authority.

Decisions about suitability of alternatives are made by the Graham Institute.

C. Interdisciplinary Sustainability Elective (3 credits minimum). Scholars must take at least one elective from the list below, which are selected based on their attention to sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective.

  • AAS 426: Urban Redevelopment and Social Justice
  • ANTHRCUL 256/ENVIRON 256: Culture, Adaptation & the Environment
  • ARCH 357/UP 357: Architecture, Sustainability and the City: Ideas, Forces and People Shaping the Built Environment
  • ARCH 503: Special Topics in Architectural History (section titled "Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture"), or
    UP 696: Graduate Experimental Course (section titled "Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture")
  • ARTDES 250: Art-Design Perspectives III: Tech/Environment
  • BIT 445/STRATEGY 445: Base of the Pyramid: Business Innovation for Solving Society's Problems
  • CEE 265: Environmental & Sustainable Engineering Principles
  • CEE 307/ENVIRON 407: Sustainable Cities
  • CMPLXSYS 250/PUBPOL 250: Social Systems, Energy, and Public Policy
  • EEB 318/ENVIRON 318/RCIDIV 318: Food, Land and Society
  • ENVIRON 256/ANTHRCUL 256: Culture, Adaptation & the Environment
  • ENVIRON 270: Our Common Future: Ecology, Economics & Ethics of Sustainable Development
  • ENVIRON 306: Global Water
  • ENVIRON 318/EEB 318/RCIDIV 318: Food, Land and Society
  • ENVIRON 345/SOC 380/POLSCI 331: Environmental Public Opinion Analysis
  • ENVIRON 367: Global Enterprise and Sustainable Development
  • ENVIRON 407/CEE 307: Sustainable Cities
  • ENVIRON 412: Environmental Values in Public Policy, or
    PUBPOL 475: Topics in Pubic Policy (section titled "Environmental Values in Public Policy")
  • NRE 574/RCSNCI 419/PUBPOL 519: Sustainable Energy Systems
  • PHYSICS 481/PUBPOL 481: Science, Technology and Public Policy
  • POLSCI 331/SOC 380/ENVIRON 345: Environmental Public Opinion Analysis
  • POLSCI 380/ENVIRON 312: Environmental Politics and Policy
  • PSYCH 384/ENVIRON 360: Behavior and Environment
  • PYSCH 385/ENVIRON 361: Psychology of Environmental Stewardship
  • PUBPOL 250/CMPLXSYS 250: Social Systems, Energy, and Public Policy
  • PUBPOL 475: Topics in Pubic Policy (section titled "Environmental Values in Public Policy"), or
    ENVIRON 412: Environmental Values in Public Policy
  • PUBPOL 481/PHYSICS 481: Science, Technology and Public Policy
  • PUBPOL 519/RCSNCI 419/NRE 574: Sustainable Energy Systems
  • RCIDIV 318/EEB 318/ENVIRON 318: Food, Land and Society
  • RCSNCI 419/PUBPOL 519/NRE 574: Sustainable Energy Systems
  • SEAS 455: Topics in Southeast Asian Studies (section titled "Culture and Consumption"), or
    SOC 415: Culture and Consumption
  • SOC 380/ENVIRON 345/POLSCI 331: Environmental Public Opinion Analysis
  • SOC 415: Culture and Consumption, or
    SEAS 455: Topics in Southeast Asian Studies (section titled "Culture and Consumption")
  • STRATEGY 411: The Corporation in Society
  • STRATEGY 445/BIT 445: Base of the Pyramid: Business Innovation for Solving Society's Problems
  • UP 357/ARCH 357: Architecture, Sustainability and the City: Ideas, Forces and People Shaping the Built Environment
  • UP 696: Graduate Experimental Course (section titled "Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture"), or
    ARCH 503: Special Topics in Architectural History (section titled "Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture")

D. Capstone Seminar on Sustainability Leadership.  UC 370: UC Special Topics (section titled "Sustainability Scholars Capstone Seminar on Sustainability Leadership"). Taken in the fall of the Scholars' senior year, this seminar, open only to seniors in the USSP, explores the concepts and application of sustainability leadership. Through reading seminal works in the field, exploring personal leadership styles and experiences, case studies, and interaction with practitioners, the course seeks to develop sustainability leadership skills and prepare Scholars for professional experiences.

Co-Curricular Activities. Beyond coursework, Scholars participate in complementary leadership and cohort-building activities to strengthen connections and foster broad-based learning. For example, Scholars (along with Graham Doctoral Sustainability Fellows) visit the U-M Challenge Program early in the academic year to build leadership and group process skills, and to begin developing a sense of community. During the Winter term, Scholars meet informally each month to discuss topics from a sustainability discussion guide. They also engage with speakers and others on campus in an informal setting at least once per  academic term. Each  academic term also features at least one social event organized by the Graham Institute specifically for the Scholars. The Scholars are also creating many other opportunities to engage and connect on their own. The Graham Institute is providing a forum (and, sometimes, funding) for these important interactions.

Advising.  Advising is provided by the Graham Institute.


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