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.

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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

Program News

Exciting news! During the 2017-2018 academic year, UNM Sustainability Studies is celebrating its 10 year anniversary of academic success. To learn more about our academic program, find the syllabi and class descriptions for each of our courses on our website. Our program enrolls over 100 students each semester, and supports ongoing student projects that focus on various areas of the environment, social justice, innovation, and more. In 2017, students in the introductory course collectively reduced their ecological footprints - through small behavioral shifts in consumption and waste generation - by over 50 hectares, equivalent to erasing the annual impact of 6 average Americans!

To donate and support student project-based learning, please go to the UNM Foundation website and learn how to give to the Sustainability Studies Program.

Our program's amazing lecturer, Eileen Shaughnessy was awarded an Equal Justice Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute for 2017/2018. The residency will focus on answering the following question: "How can art be used to engage systems of power and foster social and racial equity?" As a musician and educator, Eileen will explore music as a tool for social change with a focus on environmental justice in the Southwest. 

In early 2017 we had the honor of selecting four recipients of the inaugural La Montañita Co-op Marshall Kovitz Memorial ScholarshipThe scholarship is named for La Montañita founding owner and board member Marshall Kovitz, a proponent of strong local economies and equitable food systems. Through a generous 25-year partnership with the Co-op, the Sustainability Studies Program will offer annual scholarships to our students whose academic focus is on food systems. Congratulations to Keith Knutila and Coleen Geraghty, winners of the 2017-2018 La Montanita Co-op Marshall Kovitz Memorial Scholarship! 

Over the summer of 2017, our program hosted a group of 25 young African leaders from 21 sub-Sarahan African countries as a part of the highly competitive State Department funded Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This 6-week intensive Institute focused on social business and entrepreneurship, and included academic content, site visits, networking events, service opportunities, and cultural activities for the Fellows. The Albuquerque Journal put together a story about the Institute.

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

Sustainability Studies

 Photo-Claudia Denton 2016

Claudia Denton earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Design with a minor in Sustainability Studies from UNM in Spring 2014. She moved to Eugene, Oregon to pursue a Leadership in Sustainability graduate program and participate in an AmeriCorps program. She now works as a Contracting Equity Analyst for the City of Eugene to promote social equity in city contracting.


Annie Swift

Annie Swift currently lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where she is pursuing a second undergraduate degree in Tourism at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. She intends to work with Haitian refugees in the local job market. Her experience in the Sustainability Studies program at UNM has served her in surprising ways. The Tourism department at UFMG focuses primarily on urban planning, social justice and environmental conservation. 


Kara Williard

Kara Williard is a graduate of the UNM BLA program where she focused on Sustainable Community Development, with a minor in Sustainability Studies. She currently lives and works at 8,500 feet in the Mora River Valley at Los Vallecitos Ranch, where she raises cattle, sheep, and chickens.