Innovative Sustainability Courses Break New Ground

Author: Carly Hubers

Four new courses being offered this Spring highlight the breadth and innovative nature of Sustainability Studies at Notre Dame.  From the English department to Biological Sciences and from the Arctic to American cities adapting to climate change, these courses expand the breadth of topics being offered as well as the disciplinary perspectives being brought to bear on current global challenges.


  • “As the Sustainability Minor and general interest in sustainability continue to grow among students, we’re very excited to see faculty in diverse disciplines continue to expand course offerings, particularly in ways that engage students with current research and applications in this fast-moving field,” says Professor Rachel Novick, Director of the Sustainability Minor. Students interested in these and other sustainability courses can explore the Sustainability Studies course page or reach out to the Minor in Sustainability team via email for more information.Literature: Nature: Now, taught by Professor John Sitter, explores our misconception of "Nature" as unchanging. This course explores environmental fiction and non-fiction of the last five years to understand how our natural world is changing—in fact and in imagination—and how some of our best writers perceive the meaning of those changes.  "When I started my career teaching 18th-century literature," Sitter comments, “I had no idea that one of my last courses would be on literature of the last five years. But ours is a critical moment, factually and imaginatively, and good contemporary writing can help us grasp both its challenges and opportunities. I can’t wait to begin discussing current ‘cli-fi’ and other environmental works with interested readers and future decision-makers.”

  • Practicum in Urban Climate Adaptation is a unique new course taught by Dr. Pat Regan, Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies and Associate Director of ND-GAIN. Regan says, “This practicum course will introduce students to the ideas behind urban climate adaptation, measurements of climate vulnerability, and the use of an analytical tool that can help city level community leaders think about how best to use their resources to reduce their vulnerability to potential climate hazards.”  This course allows students the opportunity to learn how to help their own communities “go green” and students will be given the opportunity to put these skills into practice over Spring Break. Travel assistance to go home for Spring Break is available.

  • History Professor Darren Dochuk is teaching Energy in Modern American Life for the first time this spring. This course will offer students a rigorous and lively encounter with multiple energy sources and their manifold effects on American society, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. “It is difficult to grasp the complexities and entanglements of modern life in its entirety without first coming to terms with the ways humans demand, consume, and interact with energy,” says Dochuk, “and in turn, the ways it shapes and reshapes our social structures, realigns our lived and material infrastructures, and even dictates cultural values and trends.”

  • Salvatore Curasi is teaching a new course titled Arctic Environmental Change. Arctic ecosystems are experiencing some of the highest regional rates of climate change. These changes have implications at a number of scale including socio-cultural impacts on indigenous peoples, regional economic impacts, and global political and environment impacts. This course will build the background necessary to discuss climate change in the context of Arctic ecosystems, and then examine evidence of climate driven changes in Arctic ecosystems and the implications of these changes across scales. Curasi is a doctoral student in Biological Sciences pursuing a certificate in environment and society through the GLOBES program at the Reilly Center. Says Curasi, “I’m excited that the GLOBES program has given me the opportunity to teach this course.  It’s an interesting opportunity to explore the impacts of environmental change on the arctic ecosystem and the implications of those changes for people at local, regional and global scales.”

Originally published by Carly Hubers at sustainabilitystudies.nd.edu on November 05, 2018.