SFASU students Natasha Johnson and Taryn Lenert explore options for a green roof and solar panels at a local library in Nacogdoches. Courtesy of Bill Forbes.

Aug. 14, 2020

Stephen F. Austin State University is now offering an online sustainability degree.

The bachelors degree in sustainability community development is available starting this fall semester, which starts Aug. 24.

Bill Forbes, a professor of geography at SFASU and the faculty advisor for the university's Sustainability Club, has been working on the interdisciplinary ad hoc committee that developed the program.

The degree is designed to train students to work as sustainability coordinators within city planning departments, corporations, universities and nonprofits. 

“Some sustainability degrees tend to emphasize the negative things that have been going on in the past century - and that's fairly easy to do," said Forbes. "But what we're trying to do is engage students directly with initiatives that will help change the system - direct actions where they're working with community members and trying to make a difference.”

The university, located in Nacogdoches in East Texas, hopes to attract remote students from large urban centers with the new online courses.

It’s designed to accommodate first-year, second-year or community college transfer students wanting to stay in their hometown location, he said.

The courses span several disciplines including sociology, anthropology, geography as well as business and public administration.

The degree builds core competencies in sustainability, including internships in areas such as renewable energy, community gardens, sustainability monitoring and grant writing.

“These new climate action plans that are being adopted by the big cities, we assume they're going to need people to monitor those plans,” he said. “A lot of sustainability coordinators will end up tracking data and monitoring things. And so, for example, we have an option to take a course on records management.”

Students will learn not only the fundamentals of sustainability but how to measure data, analyze processes and study how human behavior affects the environment and the economy.

In addition to the bachelors degree, SFA has a suite of four courses that offer a certification in sustainability.

For the spring semester, they plan to unveil a masters degree program in interdisciplinary studies, with an emphasis in sustainability linked with business, nonprofit and community development courses.

See more information on the sustainability community development program or contact Bill Forbes at forbesw@sfasu.edu.

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