University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus



Sustainability Studies Degree Provides Unique Training for Addressing Environmental Issues

Students cleaning up the beach area on campus

Credit: Christopher Campbell

A new Sustainability Studies major to launch this fall at USF St. Petersburg will immerse students in hard science, social science and business to prepare them for careers discovering and implementing solutions that benefit the environment.

The Bachelor of Arts degree will give students the opportunity to study in a variety of fields related to sustainability, which has imbued everything from entrepreneurship to global conservation.

“Sustainability is finding a market in everything from corporate America to local government and cities,” said James Ivey, Instructor of Environmental Policy and Studies. “It is not only about being green and helping to save the planet, but being sustainable saves money and makes a profit.”

Demand for sustainability studies has grown at universities around the world, as students demonstrate heightened interest in and commitment to the health of the environment.

USFSP’s program stands out in the state of Florida for its multidisciplinary approach that combines the study of environmental science, implementation of that science via policy and development of skills associated with the business aspects of sustainability. The program is made possible through a partnership between the College of Arts & Sciences and the Kate Tiedemann College of Business.

“We need to create professionals who are translators across multiple fields,” said Susan Toler, Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Scientists have their own language and generate valuable information, but it may not get to social scientists and business leaders because each speaks their own technical language. We want to make our students fluent in all these languages and sectors.”

The Sustainability Studies program is designed to prepare students for careers as advisors to private companies, non-profits and government agencies. For example, graduates may land careers as sustainability planners or consultants at universities, travel resorts or international NGOs. Through courses like Sustainable Entrepreneurship, Climate Change and Practicing Sustainability, graduates will be equipped with tools and techniques to advise organizations on ways to create and maintain sustainable operations.

USFSP and Duke Energy signs for Net Zero Parking at the parking garage

Credit: Christopher Campbell

Sustainability jobs are expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. Employment in related fields is projected to increase 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), motivated in part by public interest in environmental issues and increased environmental demands due to population growth.

Younger generations are particularly driven by sustainability. In fact, the new degree program was initiated by USFSP students.

“The students actually started this whole thing and we as faculty helped push this idea,” said Leon Hardy, Professor of Physics at USFSP. “It was an idea that was around for years, and a partnership that was developed and evolved with the students. We are glad it finally got off the ground.”

The Sustainability Studies program is designed to allow enterprising students to double major in fields such as business, anthropology and environmental science and policy. Program coordinators are also in preliminary discussions with the Patel College of Global Sustainability at USF Tampa to allow students to acquire advanced knowledge starting in their fourth year, followed by the award of a master’s degree in the fifth year.

By fostering a learning environment that prioritizes sustainability, organizers believe the degree program will help generate greater awareness about environmental challenges and potential solutions.

“We asked students what sustainability is to them and everyone had a different answer, it depends who you ask,” said Hardy. “I hope this degree broadens perspective and that sustainability isn’t just one thing but encompasses so much.”

Faculty anticipate the concept of sustainability will become a broad interdisciplinary concept and that this degree program will expand what is understood to be ‘sustainability.’

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