GES Courses

The School is home to a range of interdisciplinary courses focused on various aspects of sustainability. A GES course will approach the subject material from multiple viewpoints, with social, economic and environmental consideration.

Fall/Spring, 3 credits, On campus and Online

GES101 introduces the student to the complex and broad nature of sustainability. The course begins to develop skills in analyzing problems and solutions with respect to sustainability.  Topics covered include ecology, food and agriculture, energy, the built environment, metrics of sustainability, art and sustainability, poverty, and public health. Students work on a group project and can earn extra credit by volunteering in community-based sustainability initiatives.

Fall only, 3 credits, On campus

GES120 is a multi-disciplinary course that introduces students to the issues surrounding the biggest challenges to the sustainability of life in the West. The course examines the role water plays in supporting human populations, agriculture, and wildlife, along with the history of water development and the processes that govern water allocation including the infrastructure that allows it to be moved and used. By the end of the course, students will understand the challenges to the sustainability of water resources including population growth, climate change, and impacts on water quality. Students from all disciplines are welcome. Learn more at

Fall only, 1 credit, On campus

Introduction to sustainability engagement via experiential learning.

Registration requirements: Written consent of instructor. Enrolled in Eco-leaders Peer Education Program.

Summer only, 3 credits, On campus

Engaging with communities on real projects, teams of students develop workable solutions to problems related to food security, green infrastructure, urban wildlife conservation, and other sustainability topics. This course will be fully integrated with a writing course providing a complementary emphasis on values, ethics, meaning, critical thinking, writing, and speaking.

Fall only, 3 credits, On campus

This course combines an overview of energy-related science with the societal, economic, and environmental aspects of energy. The science portion of the course will cover fossil fuels, alternative fuels, extraction, generation, distribution, and storage. The societal context of energy will focus on human behavior, political constraints, and geographic considerations.  The course will also cover the environmental impacts of energy production and use, as well as the economics of energy.  The concepts of sustainability will be introduced as a unifying theme for considering our energy future.

Spring only, 2-3 credits, On campus

Engages students in real-world sustainability applications and empowers them to design and execute their own research project or program. A) Project. B) Service Learning.

Prerequisite: GES 130.

Registration requirements: Enrolled in Eco-Leaders Peer Education Program. Credit not allowed for both GES 330A and 330B.

Fall only, 3 credits, On campus

GES 380A2 is an experimental course designed to equip students with foundational capacity in systems thinking in a world characterized by global, accelerating human and environmental change. The course will focus on three core competencies:

  1. Providing baseline ability in Systems Thinking and analysis;
  2. Familiarity with the notion of the Anthropocene and its debates; and
  3. Applying Systems Thinking tools to Anthropocene case studies including issues related to climate change, water security, Anthropocene risks, and environmental justice challenges.

Prerequisites include completion of AUCC categories 1A and 1B. It is preferred if students have had at least one category 3A class.

Spring only, 3 credits, Online

GES 440 is an upper-division interdisciplinary course exploring Sea Level Rise and a Sustainable Future across multiple disciplines. The course is centered around three modules: 1) scientific basis of sea level rise and foundations of policy, 2) case studies exploring details of geography, culture, environmental justice, and economics; and 3) developing capacity in futures thinking and how to apply that to understanding sea level rise in the future. This course is targeted at students from a variety of backgrounds, and requires synthetic thinking rather than specific capabilities. Prerequisites include completion of AUCC categories 1A and 1B.

Spring only, 3 credits, On campus

Energy as a critical resource and its connection to climate change, food production, and water resources. This course examines methods of evaluating sustainable energy technologies, including life cycle assessment, energy return on investment, technoeconomic analysis, and political ecology.

Prerequisite: GES141

Registration requirement: Sophomore standing

Fall only, 3 credits, On campus and online

GES465 is a trans-disciplinary course that explores the life-cycle of electronic devices from extraction of resources to end-of-life disposal and recycling. Globally, 40-50 million metric tonnes of e-waste (computers, laptops, mobile phones, actually, anything that runs on electricity) are generated every year. E-waste is unique because of its toxicity and the value of some of the components (gold, silver, etc.). E-waste cannot simply be thrown into the landfill. The problem is international in scope because much e-waste is exported from developed nations to majority world nations where it is informally recycled using cheap labor and methods that put the environment and human health at risk. The course examines politics, social justice, ethics, economics, business strategies, chemistry, materials science, and toxicology. It concludes with an interdisciplinary group project on an e-waste problem and potential solutions.

Registration requirements: Junior standing. Credit only allows for one of the following: GES465 or MSE465

Fall/Spring, 3 credits, On campus and online

This course will integrate and apply the foundations of environmental sustainability (the environmental, social, and economic dimensions) to achieve a holistic understanding of environmental issues, practices and problem solving. These three dimensions will serve as the sustainability foundations for the course.  Students will learn and apply tools for assessing environmental issues and best practices for working in interdisciplinary teams.  Case studies demonstrating sustainability principles will be evaluated through discussion and writing, and students will conduct a team project that addresses and dissects an important issue related to global environmental sustainability.  Finally, students will assess their personal academic program (Interdisciplinary Minor) in sustainability, and set goals for their future sustainability endeavors.

Prerequisite: GES101

Registration requirement: Must have completed 12 credits of GES interdisciplinary minor; junior or senior standing. Required field trips.

Fall/Spring/Summer, 1-3 credits

Prerequisite: GES101

Registration Information: Written consent of instructor.

Fall/Spring, 3 credits, On campus and online

GES520 is a graduate level course open to all graduate students across campus. Like GES470, this course covers a range of topics in sustainability. While similar to GES101 in overall format, the course accepts a much smaller class size and delves more deeply into a smaller set of topics. Graduate students read from a range of primary literature as a basis for class discussions and lectures. The students develop an understanding of the complexity of problems in sustainability and how to place these issues in a context that structures solutions in economic and social frameworks.

Registration requirements: Graduate standing or Seniors

Fall/Spring, 3 credits, Online only

GES 542 is a comprehensive survey of many topics related to biofuels, bioenergy, and biochemicals. It spans technical topics from field to fuel while also discussing sustainability, socioeconomic, and policy issues related to implementation of technology. Each week covers a different topic and students receive practice reading, analyzing, and discuss current research findings.

Registration requirements: Junior standing. Required field trips. Credit allowed for only one of the following: AGRI601, ENGR601, or GES542

Offered on campus

This new course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students from all backgrounds to explore current issues in sustainability and how they relate to individual, public and global health. Students will participate in didactic lectures, group discussions and mini projects that will both educate and empower them to understand the relationship between sustainability and health.

Offered on campus

This course is an introduction to the domestic and international laws that influence and interact with the implementation of sustainability in the U.S. and abroad.