One of the first degree programs of its kind in the United States, Columbia University’s undergraduate major in sustainable development is founded on the principle that students must be trained in a variety of disciplines in order to be effective leaders in the field of sustainable development. The program is designed to ensure that graduates, upon completion of the degree, will understand the basics of the natural and social sciences and will be equipped to address complex problems across a wide range of challenges facing humanity.

A minimum of 15 courses and a practicum are required, for a total of approximately 47 points, to complete the major. Students will take courses within the following framework:

I. SDEV Foundation
II. Basic Disciplinary Foundation (Natural Science, Social Science, Quantitative Foundation)
III. Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems
IV. Skills/Actions
V. Elective
VI. Practicum
VII. Workshop

A letter grade of C- or better is needed in all program related courses in order to satisfy the requirements for the major. P/F grades are only permitted in SDEV 3998 and INAF 4420.

For course descriptions and scheduling, check out the sustainable development Bulletin.

I. Sustainable Development Foundation (three courses)*

SDEV 1900 Introduction to Sustainable Development Seminar
SDEV 2300 Challenges of Sustainable Development
EESC 2330 Science for Sustainable Development

  • The program recommends students take the above 3 foundation courses prior to completing the remaining program requirements.
  • No substitutions will be permitted for foundation courses.
  • Taking Principles of Economics prior to Challenges of Sustainable Development is recommended but not required.

II. Basic Disciplinary Foundation (five courses)

A. One of the following science sequences:

CHEM 1403 General Chemistry I  – 1404 General Chemistry II
EEEB 2001 Environmental Biology I  – EEEB 2002 Environmental Biology II + EESC 2310 Life Systems Lab
EESC 1600 Earth Resources & SusDev – EESC 2100 Earth’s Environment System: Climate
EESC 1600 Earth Resources & SusDev  – EESC 2200 Earth’s Environment System: Solid Earth
EESC 1600 Earth Resources & SusDev  – EESC 2300 Earth’s Environment System: Life
EESC 2100 Earth’s Environment System: Climate – EESC 2200 Earth’s Environment System: Solid Earth
EESC 2100 Earth’s Environment System: Climate – EESC 2300 Earth’s Environment System: Life
EESC 2200 Earth’s Environment System: Solid Earth  – EESC 2300 Earth’s Environment System: Life
PHYS 1201 General Physics I + PHYS 1291  – 1202 General Physics II + PHYS 1292 

  • EAEE E2100 A Better Planet By Design will not be approved as a science sequence after Fall 2016.
  • Earth Resources and Sustainable Development has two sections (1600 and 4600), which count toward separate major requirements. Please note 1600 satisfies one course of the science sequence only and 4600 is accepted for Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems. Transfers between requirements is not permitted.

B. Two social science courses:

ANTH 1002 The Interpretation of Culture
ANTH 2004 Intro to Social and Cultural Theory
ECON 1105 Principles of Economics
POLS 1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics OR POLS 1601 International Politics
SDEV 2000 Intro to Environmental Law
SDEV 2050 Environmental Policy and Governance OR POLS 1201
SDEV 3400 Human Populations and SDEV
SOCI 1000 The Social World

C. One of the following Quantitative Foundations courses:

EEEB 3005 Introduction to Statistics for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
EESC 3017 Environmental Data Analysis
MATH 2010 Linear Algebra
STAT 1201 Calculus-Based Introduction to Statistics *
STAT 2103 Applied Linear Regression Analysis
STAT 3105 Applied Statistical Methods
STAT 3106 Applied Data Mining
STAT 4203 Probability Theory
STAT 4204 Statistical Inference
STAT 4207 Elementary Stochastic Processes
STAT 4205 Linear Regression Models

  • Introduction to Statistics must be taken with Calculus. Taking Introduction to Statistics and Calculus separately will not fulfill the quantitative requirement.

III. Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems (two courses)

ANTH 3932 Climate Change, Global Migration, and Human Rights in the Anthropocene 
CIEE 3260 Engineering for Developing Communities
EAEE 4304 Closing the Carbon Cycle
ECIA 4100 Management and Development of Water Systems
EESC 3032  Agricultural and Urban Land Use: Human-Environment Interactions
EESC 4600 Earth Resources & Sustainable Development
PUBH 3100 Fundamentals of Global Health 
PUBH 4200 Environment, Health and Justice
SDEV 3330 Ecological and Social Systems for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3355 Climate Change and Law
SDEV 3360 Disasters and Development
SDEV 3366 Energy Law
SDEV 3410 Cities and Sustainability
URBS 3565 Cities in Developing Countries: Problems and Prospects
SDEV 4250 Climate Change: Resilience and Adaptation
The Summer Ecosystems Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U)

IV. Skills/Actions (two courses)

EAEE 4257 Environmental Data Analysis and Modeling
EESC 4050 Global Assessment and Monitoring Using Remote Sensing
EESC 3050 Big Data with Python: Python for Environmental Analysis and Visualization
SDEV 2320 Economic and Financial Methods for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3390 GIS for Sustainable Development
SDEV 3450 Spatial Analysis and Modeling for Sustainable Development
SDEV 4101 Qualitative Research Methods for Sustainable Development
SDEV 4240 Science Communications
SOCI 3010 Methods for Social Research
SUMA 4100 Sustainability Management
The Summer Ecosystems Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) 

V. Electives (two courses)

Select two courses from the following areas. Courses can be combined across Areas 2-5 only. If you select Area 1, you must complete two thesis courses and these will fulfill the elective requirement:

Area 1: Senior Thesis Sequence (EESC 3800/3801, EESC 3901)

  • If choosing the senior thesis option to fulfill the elective requirements, students must take both courses in the senior thesis sequence.

Area 2: Upper level courses from the approved electives list
Area 3: Additional courses listed under Analysis and Solutions to Complex Problems
Area 4: Additional courses listed under Skills/Actions
Area 5: (a) SDEV 3310 Ethics of Sustainable Development , (b) SDEV 4050 Essential Connections: US Water & Energy Policy in a Resource-Constrained World , (c) SDEV 4350 Public Lands in the American West

VI. Practicum (one course)

INAF 4420 Oil, Rights and Development 
SDEV 3998 Supervised Individual Research
SUMA 4310 Practicum in Innovation Sustainability Leadership
SUMA 4734 Earth Institute Practicum 

VII. Capstone Workshop (one course)

SDEV 3280 Workshop in Sustainable Development
SDEV 3550 Bangladesh Workshop