Build a more sustainable world

Explore a wide variety of majors and tracks that will help launch your career in sustainability, environmental policy, geographic information science, and more. Discover and research innovative solutions to address tomorrow’s challenges. 



Explore undergraduate programs

Why study geographical and sustainability sciences?

The Department of Geographical and Sustainability Science offers three undergraduate majors—environmental policy and planning (BA or BS), geography (BA or BS), and sustainability science (BS)—that provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the complex environmental problems of today.

Why study environmental policy and planning (EPPL)?

Are you committed to environmental protection and stewardship? The interdisciplinary EPPL major trains students to tackle environmental problems through action, advocacy, and compliance. It is excellent preparation for a career in environmental law.   

The planning track provides tools for working in city, county, or regional planning, or in land and resource use assessment. The policy track offers training for positions in the public or private sector. 

Environmental problems are often difficult to resolve because they are embedded in a complex mesh of economics, politics, culture, and behavior. To address environmental problems in the future, professionals need to understand the human dimensions of these issues.  

The major provides a recognizable, meaningful label to a concentration of courses that are customized by the student, making graduates viable employees or graduate students. Undergraduate students will take a common core of courses in anthropology, economics, geographical and sustainability sciences, and political science.  

Students choose between the planning and policy tracks. The planning track has courses primarily in geographical and sustainability sciences and in urban and regional planning. The planning track provides tools for working in city, county, or regional planning, or in land and resource use assessment. 

The policy track has courses primarily in political science and geographical and sustainability sciences. The policy track offers training for positions in the public or private sector. 

Why study geography?

Interested in environmental issues? Geoinformatics and GIS? Public policy? Health and geography? If you enjoy connecting a complex global system, geography might be the major for you!

Geography is concerned with place and environment and the ongoing processes of change within and between social and physical systems. Three concepts at the core of the discipline—space, place, and scale—provide theoretical constructs and methodological tools for a science that investigates the complex character of social and environmental phenomena.

Geographers examine issues such as distribution and consumption of natural resources, air and water quality, climate changes and ecosystem dynamics, growth and development of urban areas, population dynamics, politics and practice of international development, social justice, and gender relations. They view society and the environment as a physical/social/cultural system. They apply unique geographical perspectives and tools, and knowledge from other social and scientific disciplines, to analyze these systems' emergent properties.

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in geography will select one of three tracks:

Why study sustainability science?

Are you interested in building a more sustainable world for future generations? Graduates of the sustainability science major will be able to address complex problems emerging from growing populations and increasingly stressed resources, communicate the importance of sustainability science and management to leaders and the public, and adapt and flourish in a rapidly changing world to work toward a better tomorrow.

The National Academy of Science defines sustainability sciences as “an emerging field [...] dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet's life support systems.”

Our major is built on an integrative curriculum, with coursework in the social, natural, and analytical disciplines, providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to help build a more sustainable future in Iowa, the United States, and around the world. The program offers students relevant real-world experiences like study abroad and community outreach, and an academically rigorous curriculum.