Princeton University provides a rigorous course of study, combined with immersion experiences, to educate the next generation of innovators, leaders, and citizens for a sustainable planet. The University’s sustainability curriculum encourages students to investigate and understand the environmental, economic, social, and cultural impacts of natural resource use, and to develop practices that conserve these resources when pursued over generations. Through their experiences at Princeton, students gain an understanding for how sustainability applies to their major and an appreciation for the interconnectedness of sustainability issues across disciplines. Princeton offers a combination of sustainability-focused and sustainability-related courses across 21 academic departments.
- Sustainability-focused courses concentrate on the concept of sustainability, including its social, economic, and environmental dimensions, or examine an issue or topic using sustainability as a lens.
- Sustainability-related courses incorporate sustainability as a distinct course component or module, or concentrate on a single sustainability principle or issue.
Undergraduate Program in Environmental Studies
PEI offers multiple educational opportunities for students with interest in environmental sustainability.
Undergraduate students wishing to achieve proficiency in environmental sustainability may elect to pursue a Certificate in Environmental Studies. The Program in Environmental Studies (ENV) offers a diverse range of courses as well as opportunities for independent study. The curriculum is experiential with emphasis on field research and hands on learning.
Freshman Seminar Courses taught by PEI faculty enable incoming students to delve deeply into environmental topics. Several provide unusual field study experiences that powerfully impact student perspectives on sustainability topics. Among the offerings are:
- FRS 102: Global Warming: Risks, Policies, Politics and Human Values
- FRS 114: The Everglades Today and Tommorow: Global Change and the Impact of Human Activites on the Biosphere
- FRS 142: Princeton's Ecological Footprint: Using the Campus as a Laboratory for Sustainability
- FRS 180: Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future
- FRS 186: Signals, Yardsticks, and Tipping Points of Global Warming and Ocean Environments
The ENV Program’s core laboratory courses (Fundamentals of Environmental Studies: Population, Land Use, Biodiversity and Energy, and Fundamentals of Environmental Studies: Climate, Air pollution, Toxics and Water) feature a sequence of field research projects that contribute data as part of on-going monitoring studies of campus water quality, weather, energy consumption and other parameters of the campus sustainability landscape.
An upper level course, Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Solutions, examines the University’s sustainability plan with implications for improvements in energy efficiency, resource conservation and other sustainable systems on campus. Other upper level ENV courses explore topics including food, agriculture, infectious disease, land use, biodiversity, alternative energy, climate change, and global impacts on natural resources.
Through PEI’s internship program, undergraduates from diverse disciplinary backgrounds are able to engage in sustainability research and service projects on the Princeton campus and around the globe. Past internships have focused on issues including land stewardship, energy efficiency in low income housing, urban transportation, water scarcity, sanitation, and food purchases.
Independent Research Projects
PEI provides generous funding to support undergraduate students who wish to pursue independent field research projects with a focus on sustainability. Students from diverse academic backgrounds representing as many as 25 academic majors including those pursuing a certificate in Environmental Studies and others have received support for field projects focused on sustainability. A sample of recent topics includes:
- Leave No Trace: Designing a Zero Waste Bridge on the Appalachian Trail, Samuel Borchard '11
- The Effects of Human Disturbance on Large Mammal Populations in a Tropical Forest Ecosystem: Cuscuco National Park, Honduras, Juliet Philips '11
- To Mobilize a Nation: American Public Perception of Climate Change and the Prospects for U.S. Climate Legislation, Brooks Barron '11
- GreenArch: Designs for a Green Roof on Princeton University's School of Architecture building, Jessica Hsu '10
- The Better Earth: Contextualizing Contemporary Organic Farming within China's Dynamic Agricultural History, Maura Mathieu '10
PEI offers funding to support graduate students who are interested in pursuing sustainability research. The PEI-STEP Graduate Fellowship Program enables graduate students from multiple disciplines to explore the policy dimension of their graduate research. The Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars group is an honorific fellowship society for Ph.D. candidate students whose graduate work focuses on dimensions of challenges in energy and climate. This interdisciplinary group meets twice monthly with faculty and visitors to discuss relevant topics. Application is open to students from diverse academic backgrounds. Selection is competitive.