Certificate Coursework

Back of student raising hand in classroom.

Students pursuing the Sustainability Certificate must complete one* course from each of the three categories below: Foundations, Physical Systems, and Human Systems. Classes need not be taken in that order.

Important Notes about Qualifying Courses:

  • Course substitutions — The list below is of identified qualifying courses. You are not limited to the choices here. Course substitutions are possible; however, substitution options for the Foundations requirement are very limited. Find out what to look for in a course substitute.
  • Courses overlapping with your major — Only one of these courses (or the 2-part Global Environment series) may be from or cross-list with your major or minor department.
  • Environmental Studies students — If you are counting the Global Environment series as your foundational course, your Physical and Human Systems classes must come from outside your major/minor department. This includes cross-listed courses.
  • Geography students — ATMO is a program of the Geography department. If you are counting the Global Environment series as your foundational course, you must choose a course other than ATMO from the Physical Systems classes.

Foundations for Sustainability

NOTE: Students can choose to take UBPL 200 or the 2-part Global Environment series to fulfill this category requirement.

Foundations of Sustainability Option 1
UBPL 200:Sustainability and SocietyFall


Foundations of Sustainability Option 2
EVRN/HIST/GEOG 140:Global Environment I: The Discovery of Environmental ChangeFall
EVRN/HIST/GEOG 142:Global Environment II: The Ecology of Human CivilizationSpring

Physical Systems

Physical Systems Courses
GEOL 171:Earthquakes & Natural DisastersSpring, Fall
ATMO 220:Unusual WeatherSpring, Summer, Fall
BIOL 225:Evolution and the History of LifeFall
GEOL 302:OceanographySpring, Summer, Fall
ATMO/GEOG 321:Climate and Climate ChangeFall
GEOL 351:Environmental GeologySpring, Fall
BIOL 477:Ecology and Global ChangeSpring
GEOL 543:Environmental Ethics: A View from the Natural Parks 
GEOL 555:Climate ScienceSpring

Human Systems

Human Systems Courses
SOC 160:Social Problems and American ValuesSpring, Summer, Fall
ENGL 177:Topic: Storytelling for a Better World (must have been taken with Marta Caminero-Santangelo)Fall
UBPL 300:Planning and the American CitySpring
HIST/EVRN 336:Ethics, Ideas, and NatureSpring, Fall
ENGL 318: Topic: Lit of Social Justice (must have been taken with Marta Caminero-Santangelo) 
ENGL 341:Literature of Social JusticeSpring
HIST/EVRN 347:Environmental History of North AmericaSpring
ANTH 350:Human AdaptationSpring
GEOG/EVRN 371:Environmental GeopoliticsFall
SOC/EVRN 385:Environmental SociologySpring, Summer, Fall
ENTR 490:Social Entrepreneurship Spring, Fall

Course Substitutions

Not sure if a particular course is a candidate for substitution? Each of the course categories should cover:


An appropriate foundations course will explicitly cover the concept of sustainability and how to apply it to modern society. It will introduce students to approaches to systems thinking and problem solving in environmental, social, and economic systems.

Physical Systems

An appropriate substitution for the physical systems requirement will deal with humans’ use of natural resources, how we manipulate the environment to meet our needs and/or the impact that our interdependence on its resources has to the surrounding natural world.

Human Systems

An appropriate substitution for the human systems requirement will explore a specific, or variety of, construct(s) that humans have developed to achieve our goals and meet our needs. It should include how these constructs depend on, utilize, and/or impact natural resources and/or examine the equity of access for all people to the resources (natural or social) essential for health and success in those systems.

Have you taken or plan to take a course that fits one of these requirements? Request a course substitution by emailing sustaincert@ku.edu. Include the course name, description, and explanation of how it fits the criteria listed above for the category you are requesting.