Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability (MA/MS)

Master of Arts/Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentration in Sustainability (IS MA SUS/IS MS SUS)
Unit: School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (GI)
Department: Urban and Public Affairs
Program Webpage

Program Information

The large-scale goal of the Master of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainability Degree programs (both MA and MS degree programs are available) is to prepare students to address complex regional, state, national and global challenges posed by the intersection of human exponential growth and increasingly limited resources that support society.

The exponentially rising demands that human populations make on natural resources and ecological systems that supply us with energy, food, water, and many other ecosystem services will be further threatened by climate change and the pollution of air, soil, and water. Continued reliance on a “business as usual” approach to the economic production and consumption of goods and services, often characterized by the stresses it places on The Commons and by a disregard for environmental and social justice, now threatens the ability of the natural world to absorb our collective impact, erodes our collective security, and polarizes our societies.  Substantial changes in social contracts, economic systems, as well as individual and institutional behaviors will be needed to provide more sustainable, healthy and secure societies. National, regional and local experimentation is needed to find solutions to societal challenges.

This Master of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sustainability program is an initiative of the University of Louisville’s Sustainability Council which seeks to integrate sustainability into everything that goes on at UofL.  Students in the program are encouraged to contribute to the Sustainability Council’s efforts to explore sustainable solutions for UofL and our community.  More information about the UofL Sustainability Council can be found on their website at

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree (any major is acceptable), and provide a completed application form, a transcript of all undergraduate course work, scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. The GRE code for the University of Louisville is 1838.

Admission is competitive. The minimum requirements for unconditional admission are the baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution, an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and competitive scores on all sub-tests of the Graduate Record Exam.

Those applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold a degree from a university where the language of instruction is English, must complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of at least 79 on the internet-based test or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), with a minimum score of 6.5.

Application Deadlines

The program maintains a rolling admissions policy.  The deadlines include:

Fall semester: July 15

Spring semester: November 15

Summer semester: April 15

Application Materials

The following materials must be submitted to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies at

  1. Application Form
  2. Application Fee
  3. Transcript(s): Transcripts of your college records from all of the schools you have attended must be submitted to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies, Graduate Admissions. Students must have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.*
  4. Graduate Record Exam (GRE): The GRE is required for an application to the PhD program to be reviewed. The Program requires only the general sections of the GRE (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing). Scores should be directly reported to the university using the University of Louisville institution code of 1838. Those for whom English is not their native language must also submit TOEFL scores.*
  5. Three Recommendation Letters: Three letters of recommendation from academic sources are required and must be submitted online to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies,  Graduate Admissions.

The committee for reviewing student applications will consist of faculty currently serving on the Sustainability Council's Education Committee.

For answers to commonly asked questions by applicants, please review the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Graduate School website.

*There are additional requirements for international students. These requirements are listed at

Program Requirements

Required Course3
Introduction to Sustainability
Core Courses
Students are required to take one course in each Core Area:
Sustainability and the Built Environment3
Sustainable Development and Planning
Environmental Policy
Sustainability and the Natural Environment3
Global Change Ecology
Climate and Environmental Change
Sustainability and the Social Environment3
Studies in American History
Research Methods or Statistics course in the student's selected Core Area3
Thesis or Portfolio6
Guided Electives within Core Areas (see below)12
Minimum Total Hours33

Students will work with their academic committees to select the core and elective courses needed. It is strongly recommended that a student's committee distribute elective courses such that at least 3 or 4 credit hours are in an area other than that of the student's home department. Other courses may be acceptable with the program director's approval. 

Twelve hours of Guided Electives must be taken in one of the following Core Areas:

Built Environment

CEE 660Transportation Planning and Urban Development3
CEE 661Environmental Analysis of Transportation Systems3
CEE 681Green Engineering & Sustainable Design3
GEOG 536Sustainable Transportation3
LAW 902Real Estate Transactions2-3
PLAN 670Sustainable Development and Planning3
PLAN 607Land Use Planning3
PLAN 622Urban Design3
PLAN 623Environmental Policy and Natural Hazards3
PLAN 625Historic Preservation and Sustainable Practice3
PLAN 636Site Planning3
PLAN 650Capstone Studio3
UPA 648Housing and Community Development3
UPA 672Public Management3
UPA 679Environmental Policy3
UPA 680Special Topics in Urban and Public Affairs1-6

Natural Environment

ANTH 528Animals and Humans3
ANTH 531Anthropology of Water3
ANTH 535Nutritional Anthropology3
BIOL 567Conservation Biology3
BIOL 644Global Change Ecology4
BIOL 660Advanced Ecology of Urban and Suburban Landscapes4
BIOL 663Advanced Population and Community Ecology4
BIOL 667Advanced Conservation Biology4
GEOS 663Climate and Environmental Change3
LAW 903Land and Ecosystem Conservation2-3

Social Environment

ANTH 530Human Impacts on Past Environments3
ANTH 540Health and Civilization3
ANTH 626Food Justice3
ART 692Art, Thinking & Social Change3
GEOG 500Globalization Seminar3
HIST 610Introduction to Historic Preservation3
HIST 611Studies in American History3
HSS 675Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Individual Level3
HSS 676Community Health Promotion and Disease Prevention3
HSS 697Special Topics in Heatlh and Sport Sciences1-3
LAW 931Environmental Law2-3
LAW 939First Amendment Law2
PHEH 620Global Issues in Environmental and Occupational Health3
PHEH 651Advanced Environmental Health Services3
PHPB 612Health Communications Campaigns: Theory and Practice3
PHPB 722Health Risk Communication3
PLAN 673Behavioral Dimensions of Urban Sustainability3
PLAN 674Sustainable Urbanism3
PLAN 676Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems3
POLS 639Seminar in International Relations3
SOC 610Statistics II3