Sustainability Course Directory

Students listen to a presentation.

About the Directory

The Sustainability Course Directory is an inventory of the university’s curricular offerings based on their sustainability content. The initial evaluation of sustainability course content was made by the Office of Sustainability.

Purpose

The Office of Sustainability created and maintains the Directory as a means to periodically report on the number of courses with sustainability content, the number of students served by those courses and the number of faculty delivering the content. 

It is used to inform course development award efforts such as those managed by the Bridging Disciplines Program with funding from the Mitchell Foundation. It's also used to track subsets of courses with specific content relevant to student initiatives such courses teaching understanding of pollinator species and habitats as required to maintain our Bee Campus USA certification. 

The Directory is intended to serve the UT Austin campus community. We welcome any and all feedback. Contact us with questions and comments at sustainability@austin.utexas.edu

How does the Office of Sustainability determine the depth of sustainability content in a course?

The Directory is based on criteria in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), which is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. 

In STARS v2.0, a course can be classified as either "sustainability-focused" or "sustainability-inclusive." A focused course indicates a primary and explicit focus on sustainability. Inclusive courses have sustainability topics incorporated into the course content, but not as a primary focus. STARS v2.0 also includes criteria for “excluding” a course from the evaluation. 

The UT Austin Office of Sustainability expanded these criteria to more closely reflect and target the efforts of the UT Austin President’s Sustainability Steering Committee to promote growth of courses with sustainability content. Our categories are: 

Category 
Summary
Typical Course Content
Level
Learning Outcome

Inclusive

Course includes at least one sustainability topic or reading with discussion, but does not discuss or relate the topic to other topics (aligned with minimum STARS definition)

A single reading, a single discussion 

Typically first-year course, lower division

Concept is stated in syllabus 

Foundational

Course includes at least two sustainability topics and a basic discussion or module of how topics are related; or addresses sustainability overall as a topic. 

A major module/multiple readings or multiple weeks of discussion. Ideally entire course focus

Lower and upper division

Course includes at least one assessed learning outcome specific to sustainability

Applied

Course focuses on the application of sustainability within a specific discipline 

Extensive graded coursework or reflective evaluation of how an activity within the discipline can be practiced exemplifying sustainability principles typically applicable only within that discipline

Typically upper division, graduate, professional

Success in course is dependent on student demonstrating proficiency

None

Course does not include sustainability topics

 

 

 

 

More on STARS

STARS is run by the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Participants report achievements in five overall areas: 1) academics 2) engagement, 3) operations, 4) planning and administration, and 5) innovation and leadership. 

UT Austin celebrated achieving a Gold level certification in 2020 and 2022. The next submission is planned for 2024. UT Austin has participated in STARS since 2011 and received a STARS Silver level in 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Summary of STARS criteria for evaluating sustainability in curriculum and UT Austin data.

History

In 2011, the original Directory was funded by the Provost’s Office and managed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center through the encouragement of then Director Susan Rieff and staff (Alice Gerhart, Philip Hawkins).  The initial content was collected by voluntary submission from participating academic departments. Funding and technical support ended in 2012 and much of the content of the original Directory was lost. 

In 2016, the Office of Sustainability and the then Business Intelligence division (Vineet Gordhandas) of Technology Resources (TRecs) initiated a collaboration to recreate the Directory. In 2018, TRecs brought in Tableau expertise (Jenny Nedroscik) and the Office engaged the Registrar’s Office and Information Quest (Kelly McCollum, Leo Avila) to improve access to the base data. 

In 2023, the Office of Sustainability hired a Data Specialist (Rocky Baier) to update the Directory visualization and continue collaborations with TRecs (Jenny Nedroscik).

Going Forward

The Office of Sustainability staff are not experts in course design and pedagogy. We are interested in feedback from faculty, administrators, students and staff on all aspects of this Directory – categorization of a specific course, a family of courses, additional special subsets, etc. 

Please contact us with any questions, concerns or ideas at sustainability@austin.utexas.edu

Other important info
Sustainability Course Development Awards

The Sustainability Course Development Awards program launched in 2013 to encourage integration of sustainability into existing and new courses has supported 34 new or modified courses across 20 departments serving over 13,000 students as of the fall 2021 semester.

Sustainability Degrees & Certificates

The Sustainability and Environment Degrees website is a dashboard that showcases existing undergraduate sustainability and environment degree programs and certificate opportunities at UT Austin. Sustainability-related graduate degree programs can be found here.