What is the Sustainability Studies Program?

Sustainability at UNM

The UNM Sustainability Studies Program offers an undergraduate minor degree to students in any department or college on campus. We provide interdisciplinary, hands-on, community-engaged learning that informs students' academic work, future careers, and personal lives.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, UNM Sustainability Studies will be supporting the Lobo Reading Experience with a series of events highlighting various topics from Edward Humes' book, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. Check out the awesome stop motion film about waste that this semester's SUST-334 students produced, entitled What if Our Trash Followed Us? You can also read about various UNM students' experiences collecting their trash for three days in the blog What Does Your Waste Say About You?

The Lobo Gardens are in full production mode, thanks to Dr. Warner Orozco and his hard-working students. Visit the garden at 2811 Campus Dr NE.

There are so many ways to get involved in sustainable initiatives at UNM. Check out Dr. Bruce Milne's recent presentation - The Odyssey of Creating a Sustainable Campus at UNM: Assets, Barriers, and Strategies - from the 2012 American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment Southwest Regional Collaborative Symposium. Sustainability is a core value of UNM, and it shows!

SSP Staff
Meet our team! From left to right: Eileen, Michael, Terry, Bruce, Warner & Jessica

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability, as defined by the Brundtland Commission, is a way of life that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It is the capacity to endure. Sustainability encompasses the three pillars of environmental health, economic vitality and social equity.

Sustainability is a nationally and internationally recognized interdisciplinary field that seeks creative solutions to promote environmental health and restoration, social equity, and economic vitality. The goal is to meet the needs of the present (such as health, energy, food, shelter, and transportation) while ensuring the satisfaction of those same needs for future generations. In light of unprecedented environmental degradation, social instability, and economic uncertainties in today’s world, the sustainability minor cultivates the complex knowledge and skills needed to secure a healthy future for all.

Sustainability is linked to rapidly growing career opportunities in business, education, government, and the non-profit sector. The Sustainability Studies minor provides students from all disciplines the opportunity to acquire pertinent knowledge and skills that complement their major, thereby preparing them for the challenges and opportunities ahead.


The Sustainability Studies Program utilizes experiential learning, research, and service activities to implement practical solutions for a sustainable future on the UNM campus, in the state of New Mexico, and for the Earth as a whole. Sustainability Studies integrates knowledge and methodologies from the Sciences, Humanities, and Arts to provide a roadmap for students that can be applied to the design, selection, and implementation of sustainable policies, practices, technologies, and strategies. Sustainability Studies provides a dynamic feedback loop of information and practice.

Sustainability Studies Strategic Plan

Sustainability Studies Outcomes Assessment

Sustainability Studies Minor Degree Plan

Sustainability Studies

 Jake Wellman Photo

As of September 2014, Jake Wellman just finished a year in DC working on environmental policy at the Department of Transportation and enjoyed some time back in New Mexico before heading off on his next adventure to the UK.

Jake received a Marshall Scholarship to study at the London School of Economics for a Masters of Science in Environmental Economics and Climate Change. He is looking forward to applying his Economics and Sustainability Studies courses in graduate school and hopes to work with the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment to study the impacts of potential policies on climate change effects around the world. The British government awards the Marshall Scholarship to students in the United States exhibiting academic excellence, leadership, and ambassadorial potential. It aims to strengthen the special relationship between the US and the United Kingdom.

 Maria Elwan

Maria Elwan is a senior at the University of New Mexico. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2014 with a B.A. in English - Professional Writing Concentration and a minor in Sustainability Studies. She was selected as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and was part of the 2012-13 Cohort that took part in an intensive graduate school prep program.

In addition to her studies, Maria is actively involved in researching sustainable living and is combining her passions for sustainability and documentary film production. As part of her UNM coursework she wrote, directed and produced a mini documentary posted on You Tube about "Living Off The Grid." To further her commitment to community empowerment, she was part of the initial planning committee to launch the ABQ Hours Exchange, a time banking exchange in Albuquerque, whose members exchange services for time instead of money.

After graduation, Maria plans to continue researching and writing about sustainable living and refining her documentary making skills. She plans to apply to interdisciplinary graduate programs that combine her interests in film and communication.

New Mexico favorite -  Red or Green: Green, of course!

Stephen Bontly

Stephen Bontly received his Bachelors of Art in Architecture (Cum Laude) with a minor in Sustainabilty Studies in May 2014.  He currently resides in Berlin, Germany pursuing his passions in interactive design, parametric development and arduino. His latest project involves projection mapping and the study of how visuals affect human interaction. "Through my education I have learned one thing; people are stubborn. We have so much pride for who we are, what we can do and limit ourselves to stay safe. Most importantly, people do not want to change. They feel comfortable doing what they already know. Studies about perspective, perception, point of view, and scale have given me hope that this barrier can be broken down. The human mind is designed to think logically. It sees, translates and sends messages that react to the knowledge we have through our education, experiences, family, and friends. But what about what isn’t logical? Optical illusions, multi-sensory transitions, real time interaction between objects that begin to take a life of their own, aromas that are unpredictable, immediate change in space. The human mind can be tricked, our 5 basic senses deceived. This is what I want to unlock. The secret of how design can change someone is a path worth pursuing. Understanding how people feel, smell, see, hear, or move through a space gives the designer the opportunity to impact choices, inspire change, or even create emotions. These experiences of physical manipulation are the starting point to creating open minded individuals. Potentially, people who are looking for that source of inspiration will change. Ultimately, I plan on using my skills to control the physical environment, by taking inputs in our already existing world and changing them into outputs, something almost metaphysical, giving creativity back to the people."