University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Sustainability Education

Student Communications Position at the Institute on the Environment


IonE is hiring a new Undergraduate Communications Assistant for its food policy work. So if you’d like a job in environmental studies, journalism, or science communication, apply to join the team!

Apply at the UMN Employment website. Requisition number: 195703

Required Qualifications:

Coursework and/or experience in environmental studies, journalism and science communication.

Preferred Qualifications:

Junior or senior at the University of Minnesota.

Typical Duties:

Support the development of web properties that translate research to a broad audience of environmental professionals. Tasks performed in this position are entry level in nature. Duties may include (but are not limited to) fact-checking content for a new web property for environmental communication; conducting background research for infographics and photo galleries; entry-level writing/editing/proofing, biogs and press releases; providing content for social media; and engaging stakeholders.


Temporary position, 1/15/14 – 5/15/14, 10–15 hours per week at $11/hr, with potential for continuing summer semester depending on funding and performance.


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New Course Opportunities



PA 4790 – Sustainable Infrastructure and Cities

This course is broadly inter-disciplinary and explores infrastructure and sustainable cities across the perspectives of – science and engineering, environmental studies, urban design, planning, public affairs and public health.

The course will cover:

  1. Sustainable urban systems thinking
  2. Sustainability measurements and analysis— for infrastructures and for cities
  3. Innovative case studies linking infrastructure design, urban design and public policy for sustainability, health and resilience

Systems based understanding of a city with built infrastructure, people and the natural environment as key interacting elements

How do key infrastructure sectors – water, energy, buildings, transportation-communication, sanitation/waste management, food supply and public spaces—affect environmental sustainability and risk in cities?

What are the various metrics to report on environmental sustainability, health and resilience?

How can we apply principles of systems design and innovation to built better cities of the future?

HCOL 3805H – Our Common Waters: The Science, History, Economics, and Societal Issues of the Great Lakes

Instructors: Deborah Swackhamer and Daniel Philippon
3 credits
Fulfills LE requirement: Environment

This honors class will explore “water” by focusing on the Great Lakes, using a liberal arts approach to emphasize the interdisciplinary aspects of water in nature and society. Students will learn about the chemical, ecological, and geological aspects and challenges of the Great Lakes. We will also examine the rich history, economic drivers, music, art, and cultural contributions, and the laws and policies that govern the Great Lakes and shape national and international policy. In addition, students will benefit from a mentored research experience that allows them to explore one of these areas in further depth.

Students not in the Honors Program are welcome; contact to be placed on the waiting list.

Registration & more info


GWSS 1006 – Skin, Sex, Genes

Thursdays 6:20-8:50
Professor Michelle Garvey
Meets Liberal Ed requirements for Social Sciences and Technology & Society

This course introduces students to feminist science studies. We will analyze how technology and science produce both liberatory and oppressive relations between and across genders, sexes, sexualities, races, species, abilities, classes, and environments. Our tools are interdisciplinary, and include critical histories, scientific data, cultural artifacts. We use these to embed science in its social, political, and environmental contexts.

Major Questions:

  • How is scientific knowledge created, circulated, and legitimated…and by whom?
  • How does “feminist objectivity” compare & contrast with scientific objectivity?
  • What do contemporary feminisms have to say about “nature/nurture” debates?
  • Environmental, food, & climate justice

Major Topics:

  • Democracy in science
  • Reproductive politics
  • Infections and biofears
  • “Old” eugenics, “new” eugenics
  • Gendered & racial minorities in STEM fields
  • The science of queer sex, gender, and sexualities
  • Posthumanisms & critical animal studies
  • Biocolonialism & biopiracy
  • The “reality” of race


GWSS 4003 – Science, Bodies, Technologies

Spring 2015 – Tuesday, 6:30-8:50
Professor Michelle Garvey

“Toxic Trespass”

This class examines the links among environmental movements, calls for environmental justice, and feminist analysis. Significant scientific data and activist movement testifies to the pervasive, damaging toxins in our lands, water, air, and bodies. The class studies human and nonhuman chemical body burdens and the complex relationships among science, industry, government, and ecology that determine these using feminist environmental theory, feminist science studies, and environmental justice theory, students will distinguish environmental concerns that can enhance socio-environmental health and resilience from those that exacerbate conceptions of historically marginalized races, classes, genders, and species as “toxic.” Tracing the material and ideological “traffic in toxins” can illuminate pathways toward more sustainable relations among humans and ecologies.


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Climate Policy 101

December 1, 2014Nathan MichielsonFeatured, GeneralComments Off

Guest blog written by Fossil Free MN member Kathleen Thurmes


For environmentalists everywhere, the results of the November elections were disappointing if not downright devastating. With a disturbing number of climate change deniers about to hold positions in legislative bodies at all levels of government, including the chair of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we are clearly facing an uphill battle toward meaningful policy aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It is no secret that the companies involved in the extraction, refinement, transportation, sale, and ultimate combustion of fossil fuels have used their power to tamper with policy at all levels: they have inserted themselves into the scientific process by funding climate change-denying research, spent hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase lobbying power, and gave an average of $699,000 to each individual climate denier in the senate. This is all while they present, through massive public relations campaigns, a veneer of social and economic responsibility.

The divestment movement seeks to create a culture change at the highest level in order to break down the industry’s good-guy façade and make political space for more forward-thinking climate-related policies. It calls on individuals and institutions to withdraw their material support of the corporations that are standing in the way of progress and to overtly call them out for their bad behavior.

Which brings us to the November 19th Climate Change Policy 101 event hosted by Fossil Free Minnesota and co-sponsored by Sustainability Education, MN350, and Students for Sustainability. With so much of the impetus for the divestment movement centered around the need to create a political space for more responsible policy regarding our planet’s future, it seemed necessary to start by developing a deeper understanding of the layout of the current playing field. With this in mind, it was natural to invite one of the top leaders in that space, Ellen Anderson, to help us develop that knowledge.

Ellen Anderson, an 18-year veteran of the Minnesota Senate and the current director of the Energy Transition Lab at the University of Minnesota, was the force behind the passing of some of our state’s strongest renewable energy legislation to date. Drawing on her experience teaching sustainability and policy classes at the U, she flawlessly condensed what seemed to be an entire semester’s worth of material down to an hour-long presentation.

Accompanied by yummy food and an engaging Q&A session, attendees of the event, who ranged from University students to community members to high school students, learned about significant legislation at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Senator Anderson also sprinkled her presentation with insights from her experience being in the role of policymaker.

Senator Anderson’s presentation reminded the audience of the successes the environmental movement has had in the past as well as the current gap between what is needed and what is politically possible. “the need to address climate change is more urgent than ever,” said Andy Pearson, University alum and organizer with MN350. “The divestment movement is about building the political will to act so that good climate policy and other solutions can be put into place.”

Pizza n Paige

Day at the Museum: Undergraduate Leaders’ Kickoff Inspires and Connects


Why was this thing being held in an art gallery?  Why did I say I’d do this anyway?  Now I’m stuck here for my whole Saturday.  Will I like the other people?  The whispers of doubt floated through a head or two, or fifteen, as a group of UMN undergraduate students representing five different colleges made their way up the stairs to the NASH Gallery at the Regis Center for Art.  They represented the students selected for the Institute on the Environment’s Undergraduate Leaders Program and it was the Kick Off on November 8th, 2014.  They shared in common an interest in sustainability, making a difference, and leadership.


In their hands, they brought a representation of sustainability and unsustainability to put on a timeline. (Well….and a few people had some cakes and cookies too).

Here’s what they said afterwards.

The Undergraduate Leaders’ Kick Off was….

“A new perspective on an old passion.”

“An incredible opportunity to meet fellow undergrads who are passionate about sustainability and social change.  We had the opportunity to collaborate on our ideas for what the next AASHE Conference in 2015 can look like, and, for me, it was valuable to continue the discussion of bringing a social justice lens into sustainability.  Best of all…we all like each other a lot!  I can’t wait for the next one. :)”

 “A breath of fresh air for my soul.”

“My first introduction to on-campus peers who are also passionate about sustainability and activism. I loved it!”

 “Inspiring. The connections and experiences at the Kick Off empowered me to take these messages out into the world and not be afraid to shake up Business as Usual”!


 “Inspiring! It was so cool to learn about other people’s views on sustainability. I’m super excited to grow with this team and learn about how we can make a difference!”

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 “Engaging and built social capital.”

 “A unique way of bringing multiple disciplines together to discuss sustainability issues.”


What happened in between?  A lot of team bonding and thought and practice about creative means of communication.  Centering around sustainability as equity and reciprocity, one of the major tools this year is to think about how to effectively communicate and represent sustainability in a way that facilitate it to be more inclusive and interdisciplinary.

Leaders were greeted by the thinking making living exhibit at the NASH.  The exhibit drew on a range of artists and mediums to create a public art platform that required participation and confronted us to “think making and make living.” Through art, it questioned how we are in the world today, how we relate to each other and interact with the ecological, political, and cultural issues that shape our lives.  It immersed the group within creative forms of expression on sustainability, equity, diversity.


They made their way to a project space located within the exhibit itself. It was not a museum that shushed people into a quiet observance, but one which encouraged engagement. That was good since a gurgle of talking and laughter starting flowing from the group almost immediately as they shared out on who they were, made goofy grunting noises while throwing around an imaginary ball, and did some team building.

“I appreciated having the time to get know each other,” Miah Ulysse, a student in Food Systems and Leadership.

Flash forward to Representation.  Question: How can we be creative communicators and represent a vision of sustainability that is inclusive and diverse?  Methodology: As one of our activities at Kick-Off, we will be creating a History of Unsustainability/Sustainability Timeline to help us contextualize sustainability as well as introduce each of us to each others’ views on sustainability.  Come with a “representation” of an event, invention, social change, person, power shift, etc. that you feel is important to both the history of unsustainability/sustainability and your vision of sustainability.

As each of the students explained their representations, everyone brought something a little different to the table.

“Is it good?  Or is it bad?  Sustainability is often not black and white.” John Thompson of HECUA said as he thought through his presentation on several inventions that have impacted our past, present, and future.

Exploration.  Take time explore the gallery to see how public artists are engaging sustainability.  Then translate that to your own art project and work.


“I was looking at Seitu Jones’s Self Portrait and Seed on Drawing and saw they were connected.  He was the seed and the seed was him.  It was like an ah ha. We are the seeds and they are us.  We’re connected.  Sustainability, I am in you.  Sustainability is us,” said Kyle Samejima, a student in environmental communication, as she thought about how to integrate some of the ideas on thinking making living into her own work.

Application.  Apply these creative thoughts to reality.  What do you think should be in the call for proposals for the 2015 AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference that will be hosted in Minneapolis should include.  Students thought outside the box to come with a wide range of ideas that will go to the conference planners.

 “Being surrounded by art and positive energy today was really refreshing,” commented Beth Mercer-Taylor, UMN Sustainability Studies Minor Advisor to sum things up.

Thanks for the great time.

If you have questions about the Undergraduate Leaders Program, contact Kate Flick at

ACARA Spring 2015 Courses

Acara guys

Do you care about a problem in the world? Do you want to travel? Do you want to make a positive impact in 2015?Getting started means joining an Acara course. Acara is the University of Minnesota’s impact entrepreneurship program, shaping leaders and ventures for global impact. Whether you are a grad student or an undergrad interested in solving problems related to environment, health, economy, infrastructure, or inequality, these classes are for you. Apply now for our Spring 2015 courses here.

Acara Spring 2015 Opportunities:CE 5570 – May-term India Discovery Course – May 2015
What: In this 3-week, 3-credit May-term study abroad course to Bangalore, India, we’ll explore solutions to societal and environmental challenges (e.g. waste, water, energy, agriculture, health and livelihoods) through entrepreneurs, local leaders, and communities.When: May 18-June 8, 2015

In the course you will:

  • Discover Bangalore
  • Interact with entrepreneurs
  • Enjoy India’s cuisine and diverse culture
  • Explore approaches to development challenges
  • Design your own venture solution

CE 5571 – Acara Global Venture Design: Grand Challenges – Spring 2015
What: The Acara Challenge course is an interdisciplinary, global, entrepreneurial, experiential, project-based 4-credit impact venture design course in which students create solutions to grand challenges in MN (e.g. water, energy, agriculture, health).

When: Spring 2015, Fridays 9am–noon

In the course you will:

  • Identify a grand challenge locally
  • Design an impact venture solution
  • Collaborate on an interdisciplinary project team
  • Be mentored by business professionals
  • Pitch your venture for funding

CE 5572 – Apply for Acara Social Venture Launchpad course in J-Term
What: The Acara Launchpad course is a 2-credit impact venture design course in which UMN students develop their existing ideas for venture solutions to social and environmental challenges.

When: January-Term 2015 (Jan 12-16).

In the course you will:

  • Refine your idea for an impact venture solution
  • Work with business professionals
  • Meet impact entrepreneurs and investors in MN
  • Pitch your venture for funding

NURS 5800: Sustainable Development in Africa: Entrepreneurial Solutions with Ugandan Communities 

What: This 3-credit course is an interdisciplinary, global, entrepreneurial, experiential, project-based course in which students create venture solutions to One Health challenges in Uganda with Ugandan students.

When: Spring 2015, day/time TBD

See or contact Brian Bell at for details.

Note: All courses are open to upper level undergrads and grad students from all majors. No prerequisites are required. See to apply. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are due by December 21, 2014. Acara is a series of courses and incubation actions to educate future leaders and develop impactful venture solutions focused on societal and environmental change in the U.S. and abroad.

The Sustainability Education website is administered by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

The University of Minnesota offers sustainability courses in most of its colleges and campuses around the state. These courses encompass biophysical sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, design, engineering, business, and health. The Sustainability Studies minor is one of several interdisciplinary programs through which such diverse courses come together.