Integration of sustainability in higher education: Three case studies of curricular implementation

David Gosselin, Rod Parnell, Nicholas J. Smith-Sebasto, Shirley Vincent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The integration of sustainability into higher education academic programs is occurring at an accelerated pace in response to international and national imperatives to rethink the way it serves the needs of society. Three case studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northern Arizona University, and Kean University (NJ) outlines the academic structure, program, resources, the motivation and mechanisms for curricular change, key sustainability-learning outcomes and program goals, curricular changes, and assessment strategies these institutions used to integrate sustainability into their undergraduate curriculum. These three case studies exhibit several commonalities. They emphasize systems thinking and explicitly link human behavior and ecological processes by including opportunities for students to learn about behavioral sciences, life sciences, Earth and atmospheric sciences, social sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, and information sciences. Another shared attribute is that students are involved in inquiry along with the application of knowledge to real-world problems. All three programs provide opportunities for students to explore technologies, systems of economic production, cultural systems, laws and politics, and ideas and ideologies they currently employ for living with the rest of nature. Each program also provides opportunities for students to reflect and act on viable alternatives and to ask the critical questions to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and professional training to make a real difference in the world. Future program assessment processes will need to develop to address the issue of how differing levels and types of sustainability integration into undergraduate programs facilitate the achievement of sustainability-learning outcome goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-330
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Case studies
  • Curriculum change
  • Higher education
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainability Science
  • Undergraduate programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Integration of sustainability in higher education: Three case studies of curricular implementation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this