Name change for Environmental Studies reflects commitment to sustainability

Photo Credit: Students from the Environmental Studies Orientation class sort refuse from lunch at Lincoln Southwest High School.
March 7, 2023

Above: Students from the Environmental Studies Orientation class sort refuse from lunch at Lincoln Southwest High School.

To more closely reflect the curriculum and align with programs at peer institutions, the undergraduate degrees in Environmental Studies available through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and College of Arts and Sciences have been renamed to Environmental and Sustainability Studies. The Environmental Studies program, which administers the degrees, has also been renamed.

There is an increasing demand for sustainability professionals in the private and public sectors, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), and employment is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030.

“This name change will better describe employment opportunities and create a more relevant online search term for prospective students,” David Gosselin, director of the program, said.

Launched in 1991 as a collaborative effort between the two colleges, the program also administers the minors in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Studies. Sustainability has been a key element since a curriculum update in 2010, part of what has led the program to be recognized as a campus leader in empowering students to create a world that uses resources more effectively and responsibly.

One of Gosselin’s mantras is having students “do real work, with real people, on real problems.” The program partnered with three organizations to launch Project Energy Nebraska, which has worked with Lincoln, Grand Island, Norfolk, and South Sioux City in their efforts to become more sustainable. Gosselin helped organize the Sustainability and Resilience Education Summit as part of his role as co-director of the Chancellor’s Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Commission (CESRC). Kayla Vondracek, a senior environmental studies major in 2019, channeled her passion for sustainability into assessing how human recreation on the Niobrara River is impacting its aquatic ecosystem through the UCARE program. Zoe Zingler teaches sustainability to Norwood Park Elementary students in the Green Genius Honors Afterschool Club.

The CESRC also developed the university’s Environment, Sustainability, and Resilience Master Plan, which includes an action item to “establish a multi-college Sustainability Solutions major.”

The Teaching and Learning Working Group of the CESRC endorsed the name change, as well as stakeholders representing groups that hire students from the program.

“Adding ‘sustainability’ reflects the commitment the program and its students have to creating a culture of sustainability and resilience at UNL,” Gosselin said.

More information about the program can found on its website at