General Education Requirement for Sustainability

UVM's sustainability requirement is intended to provide undergraduate students with knowledge of social, ecological, and economic dimensions of complex problems; developing skills in rigorous and complex discussions about solutions; negotiating multiple values; and analyzing their own experiences and actions.  Beginning with the entering first-year class in fall 2015, all undergraduates must meet a General Education requirement in Sustainability.  To meet this requirement, students must complete a course, curriculum, or co-curricular module prior to graduation that has been approved by the Faculty Senate's Sustainability Curriculum Review Committee.

Sustainability Learning Outcomes


As stated in Our Common Ground, “The University of Vermont is an educationally purposeful community seeking to prepare students to live in a diverse and changing world.” In the context of the emerging challenges of the 21st Century, this preparation includes envisioning and planning for a sustainable society. In addition, Our Common Ground speaks to "the transforming power of education." Thus UVM's vision for sustainability embraces the goal of educating all of its students to understand and contribute to the sustainability of human society. That is, we recognize that the pursuit of ecological, social, and economic vitality must come with the understanding that the needs of the present be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Through its General Education Initiative, The University of Vermont will integrate its sustainability vision across curricular and co-curricular activities. Whatever their chosen discipline, each student will demonstrate their mastery of the defined learning outcomes in the knowledge, skills and values categories, as well as the personal domain.

Students who are prepared to address the challenges of creating a sustainable world have knowledge of current issues in sustainability and the social, ecological, and economic dimensions of these complex problems. With the knowledge gained through coursework from varied disciplines, students develop the skills to engage in rigorous and complex discussions around creating sustainable solutions. Coursework and experiences in sustainability are meant to widen social, historical, and cultural perspectives and strengthen students' ability to negotiate multiple values that routinely come into play when planning for sustainability at the local, regional or global scales. Students connect conceptual learning to challenges and opportunities in the world outside of the university classroom by critically analyzing their own experiences in order to make sustainability meaningful and guide their personal actions.

The Four Sustainability Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcome 1 Students can have an informed conversation about the multiple dimensions and complexity of sustainability. (knowledge category)
Learning Outcome 2 Students can evaluate sustainability using an evidence-based disciplinary approach and integrate economic, ecological, and social perspectives. (skills category)
Learning Outcome 3 Students think critically about sustainability across a diversity of cultural values and across multiple scales of relevance from local to global. (values category)
Learning Outcome 4 Students, as members of society, can recognize and assess how sustainability impacts their lives and how their actions impact sustainability. (personal domain)

Paths to Meeting the Sustainability Requirement

There are four paths to meeting the Sustainability requirement.

  1. courses with an SU designation,
  2. approved sustainability curriculum,
  3. transfer courses that have been reviewed and approved for SU designation,
  4. an approved sustainability experiential learning experience

Options for the sustainability experiential learning pathway

Option A:  Student-driven independent study pathway - individual students fill out a template explaining what they did to learn the sustainability learning outcomes and then demonstrate their learning. Students submit the completed Sustainability Learning Outcomes Experiential Path Application (pdf) to for consideration.

Option B:  Faculty-driven experiential learning pathway - a faculty member applies for their research project, internship, club, program, etc. to earn sustainability designation.  Faculty submit the proposal via the Courseleaf system.

Sustainability Course Submission Guidelines

Faculty are invited to submit proposals for courses proposed for inclusion in the Sustainability General Education curriculum.  All course proposals (new courses, and existing courses) seeking Sustainability Course status must be submitted via UVM's Courseleaf system.  Once the course proposal has been submitted electronically in Courseleaf, it will follow the workflow established for the specific college or school, ultimately making its way to the Sustainability Curriculum Review Committee.  Proposals are accepted at any time during the academic year, from all academic fields and disciplines.  The instructional faculty for sustainability courses must hold a UVM faculty appointment.  

Sustainability Course Proposal Guidelines

1. Submit a Course Action Form through the Courseleaf system

2. In the Sustainability Learning Outcomes section of Courseleaf, select "Yes" in the section "Are you seeking sustainability learning outcome (SLO) credit approval as part of this action?"

3.  Attach a course syllabus to the Courseleaf submission

4. Provide a brief history of the course/curriculum, general reasons why the course satisfies the SLO, and any other contextual information that can assist the committee in its review process.

5. Describe how your course meets each of the four sustainability learning outcomes. You will be prompted to answer the following for each of the four learning outcomes:

  • Level of exposure:  (Introduces/Reinforces/Mastery) It is expected that for three of the outcomes, the level of exposure will be at least "reinforces".
  • Activity title/type, lecture or activity content, topics taught, etc.
  • Description of the activity and how it addresses the SLO and any assessment methods used to demonstrate learning.

Sustainabilty Course Proposal Review

During the proposal review, the SCRC will look for the following:

  • Evidence in the syllabus that the course meets the four sustainability learing outcomes.
  • The level of exposure for three of the outcomes will be at least "reinforces". 

Sample Sustainability Course Proposals

Timeline for Sustainability Course Proposal Review

  • Once a proposal is entered into the Courseleaf system, it will follow the workflow established for the specific college or school. This may include the Chair, Dean, and Curricular Committee, and may take up to 30-days for each step in the workflow.  
  • The SCRC is notified of each Course Action Form awaiting action in Courseleaf.
  • Proposals reaching the SCRC for action at least one-week prior to each scheduled SCRC meeting will be considered by the committee. The SCRC meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month from 8:30 - 10:00 a.m.
  • Proposals approved by the SCRC return to the Courseleaf workflow.
  • The final steps in the workflow include
    • Provost
    • Public Comment (posted for 30-day period)
    • Registrar
    • Banner


All Course Action Forms are due in the Provost's Office by February 15 for inclusion in the next year's course list and catalogue.  Course proposals must reach the SCRC for consideration at their January meeting in order to meet the deadline for inclusion in the course catalogue.

Sustainability Course Policies

Special Topics Courses

Approval of Special Topics courses for Sustainability credit may occur under the following specific guidelines:

  1. Approval of a Sustainability course that carries a “special topics” number (095, 096, 195, 196, 295, 296) will be for the course taught by the instructor listed on the Course Action form only.
  2. Approval of a Sustainability course that carries a “special topics” number is for one academic year only.
  3. A request for another year of approval for the same course taught by the same faculty member requires only a letter from the instructor indicating the course has not changed from that originally approved by the SCRC.
  4. A “special topics” course approved for Sustainability credit will be approved for a maximum of three offerings in separate semesters (and/or winter or summer sessions). Two or more sections of the course in the same semester taught by the same faculty is equivalent to one offering.
  5. To continue to be offered to meet a Sustainability credit requirement following three offerings, a permanent number and position in the catalogue is required.
  6. When a “special topics” course approved for Sustainability credit is transitioned to a permanent number, a full SCRC review must be completed, as for any new course requesting to fulfill the requirement.

Section-level courses

University requirements for Sustainability will be designated only at the course level.  The only exception is a Special Topics course, as they are experimental in nature and can be offered a maximum of three times.  University requirements for Sustainability are offered at the course level rather than the section level for the following reasons:

  1. Unit planning - When there is a requirement at the University level, we need to be sure we have sufficient capacity to meet the need.  This is best accomplished at the course level.  It is not sustainable to rely on a particular faculty member or a particular syllabus.
  2. Clarity for students - If a student looks at a list of courses for a University requirement, the reasonable assumption is that any section of the course will suffice.  There is no need to place an additional burden on the student to look carefully at sections of the course to ensure the specific section will meet the requirement.

Waiver of the Sustainability requirement

There is absolutely no waiver of the Sustainability requirement. 

Undergraduate Catalogue Listing of Sustainability Courses & Degree Requirements