Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Integrated Science and Technology


Research indicates that sustainability higher education (SHE) has been promoted since the 1970s but has not achieved satisfactory progress in meeting original goals. Reflecting the evasive nature of sustainability as a goal, SHE programs appear stunted and there is little overall guidance with regard to curricula development. This dissertation addresses this issue by conducting a comprehensive literature research and sampling of those in sustainability post-graduate programs in an effort to determine an articulable set of core thinking and learning elements to assist in implementing SHE programs. Initial research identified fifteen core element candidates. These were incorporated into a survey sent to seventeen existing sustainability post-graduate programs. Survey responses were limited but provided insight into the opinions of sustainability scholars. The core elements were further researched to determine their significance to others researching sustainability education. It was found that the proposed core elements represented a hierarchy of critical thinking concepts, ranging from those generically applicable to sustainable decision-making, to those which influence results but may change over time, to those which are tools of implementation, to those which are tools which aid in understanding relevant issues and implementing/monitoring solutions. This hierarchy was organized in the context of those elements which should be included in all programs and those which represent optional choices and/or specialties for differing programs. The dissertation concludes by the presentation of these in a logical fashion and by identifying important reasons why adoption of the proposed approach will result in the furtherance of sustainability higher education.