The Certificate in Sustainability at the University of Iowa is designed for students who wish to gain an understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interaction between them.  This topic is especially relevant in the modern social and economic climate, in which businesses, governments, and individuals are growing increasingly aware of the challenges of managing the world’s resources. The certificate itself is suited to a diverse array of academic disciplines, and it encompasses three areas of “breadth electives": Dynamics of Natural Systems, Dynamics of Human Systems, and Communications, Ethics and Interpretation. Students seeking the certificate must also gain experience analyzing real-life problems inside and outside of the classroom and will learn to work collaboratively to solve such problems.

Given the multidisciplinary necessities and breadth of this field, study abroad is a natural partner. Studying abroad allows students to integrate the learning they have done and will continue to do in the United States with international experience and new perspectives. This is highly consistent with the demands and rewards of the Certificate in Sustainability, which gives students “the knowledge and skills to contribute to developing sustainable systems." See the certificate's web page for a more detailed overview of the certificate and its requirements.

This Major Advising Page is designed to help UI students who are currently seeking the certificate (or those who are considering doing so) and who wish to include study abroad coursework.

Very few students study abroad during their first year at the UI. The second year of a four-year degree, however, can be an excellent time to go abroad, especially enrolling in General Education courses and pursuing language study.

The third year may be an ideal time for certificate-seeking students to go abroad. Students completing upper-level coursework for their major may also find that it contributes to Sustainability and that they can work on both while studying abroad. The fourth year can work for the same reasons, though at that point students must take care to maintain a clear path to graduation. There are also special considerations for students of Sustainability with regards to coursework and timing, which will be covered later in this guide.

The Certificate in Sustainability requires 24 s.h. of coursework, which include three introductory or “Core” course choices.  Students also complete a course in each of the three breadth elective areas mentioned earlier in this guide. Finally, students complete some type of project course.  Options for completing this requirement might include an independent study course devised by the student working with a faculty member or a classroom course where students research or work in teams synthesizing their previous sustainability knowledge.

Many courses that count for Sustainability can also count for another major or minor. However, no more than three certificate courses may be taken from a single department; this encourages students to broaden their course selection and internalize the interdisciplinary spirit of the certificate. This also opens doors to a huge variety of breadth electives and creates opportunities for such coursework to be completed abroad.

While certificate seekers are encouraged to study abroad, there are issues to be aware of when planning such an experience. For instance, no more than 6 s.h. of approved transfer credit may be counted toward the certificate. This may limit the amount of certificate coursework that can be done abroad–however, many study abroad programs are sponsored by the University of Iowa, meaning that UI students who participate in them earn resident credit, which would not count against the certificate’s 6 s.h. limit.

In order for a study abroad course to count for the certificate, it must be approved by the Sustainability Advisory Committee. Students petition the committee for course approvals on a case-by-case basis. The Committee is open to considering such requests, and they will carefully scrutinize the academic rigor of any course for which approval is sought. Guidelines for submitting such requests can be found on the website of the Certificate in Sustainability. Students with questions about this or any other topic relating to the certificate are encouraged to contact Jenni Stacy-Adams at the Academic Advising Center.

At present, the programs with the most possibilities for Sustainability-related courses are exchange programs, which allow students to access a vast range of coursework at foreign universities. The UI sponsors a number of exchanges around the world, notably in the UK, Australia, and Northern Europe.

USAC programs in the Caribbean offer a variety of courses related to the environment that may be of interest to students of sustainability. USAC course offerings are subject to yearly change.

CIEE has a specialized program in Sustainability and the Environment in Monteverde, Costa Rica. This program is designed for students interested in learning and studying about tropical conservation and sustainable development to ensure future biodiversity and human welfare. Students study the intersection of humans and their impact on natural systems and how environmental issues influence economics and society. This is done through coursework and an internship in the Monteverde region, as well as visits to national parks throughout Costa Rica. It includes specially designed CIEE courses on environment, sustainability, and conservation, as well as visits to businesses, NGOs, and grassroots projects that practice sustainability and effective conservation.

The India Winterim program includes several courses taught by UI faculty over Winter Break on a variety of topics, including sustainability. Please see the program page for a description of the current courses offered.

The Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland has course offerings in the fields of Environmental Science and Environmental Studies which may be of interest to students of sustainability.

Likewise, the Iowa Regents Semester in Wales offers coursework in Pure & Applied Ecology, Biochemistry, Biology, and Marine Biology.

The University of Iowa proudly participates in a number of exchange programs with universities in the United Kingdom. The Lancaster University Exchange has course offerings in Environmental Science, Biological Sciences, and Ecology.

SIT World Learning Semesters: Programs involving field study. SIT Study Abroad programs in sustainable development examine current concepts and debates in international development and consider how a host of factors—both internal and global—contribute to economic and social development patterns in the host country. Students are challenged to consider the interrelated issues that determine the sustainability of development efforts aimed at different sectors and groups. With programs in multiple regions, SIT participants study a wide array of subjects in diverse locations. These include energy policies and diversification efforts in the Gulf, shifts in public policy to achieve alternative development paradigms in Chile, emerging patterns of social entrepreneurship in Nepal, social change and social justice in India, and localized agricultural and artist cooperatives in Uganda.