Indiana State University Newsroom

New sustainability minor a win for students, employers

June 11, 2014

A revised academic minor at Indiana State University will satisfy both students' and businesses' growing interest in sustainability training.

Beginning this fall, Indiana State students will be able minor in sustainability, which was previously known as the conservation minor.

Senior Kara Phelps' interest in sustainability runs so deep that she has at least three research projects in the field. Her decision to sign up for the minor is a no-brainer, especially considering she's already satisfied half of the requirements.

"I've been taking ‘fun classes' each semester, and it just so happens a lot of my ‘fun classes' are going to count for the minor. So, I'm already mostly done with it," Phelps said.

Her current research projects include taking an inventory of greenhouse gases in Terre Haute, determining whether chemicals from plastic leech into hydroponic gardening systems and seeing if there is a correlation between mediation and sustainability practices.

The revised minor has been in the works since 2011 and is the result of feedback from a university survey in which most students said they would like more sustainability curriculum offered, said Caroline Savage, interim executive director of the university's Institute for Community Sustainability.

"Sustainability is not confined to any one field. It can teach you to solve problems, no matter what field you're going into, and it really doesn't have any prerequisites," she said. "We hope someday, everybody gets a sustainability education."

In addition to the revised minor, the institute is working with the university's Career Center to develop a certification program.

"We're seeing more and more fields feeling the need to not be in their own silos, and that's cool because that's what sustainability teaches you to do, to think of things as interconnected systems," Savage said. "So, in addition to the benefits of being able to have sustainability on your resume, there are so many soft skills that come with it, too, that it's going to make our students really attractive to future employers, if they have sustainability training on their resumes."

A study by Arizona State University concluded 65 percent of small businesses and 87 percent of large businesses look favorably on candidates with sustainability training. Why? Simple economics, Savage said.

"In sustainability literature, the core components are the economy, society and the environment and how those things are interconnected. You can't have an economy without people, and people exist in the context of the environment. They are all interrelated," Savage said. "And businesses care about the bottom line. They care about: How I can cut my costs? They care about: How can I keep my people happy, so they keep working for us?"

As these businesses hire, Indiana State's new minor gives its graduates a leg up on their competition in the job market - and fulfills the interests of young adults who grew up on programming such "Captain Planet."

"This generation of students sees themselves as change-makers. They see this as a real opportunity for them to do some good," Savage said.

Phelps agrees. A biology major, she plans to pursue a master's and doctorate - and eventually return to Indiana State to teach and work with the university's Institute for Community Sustainability.

"(Sustainability is) a great way to step outside of the bubble that your major creates and meet more people to help figure out how the world is going to be working outside of college," Phelps said.


Photo: -- Senior Kara Phelps poses for a portrait at Indiana State University's Institute for Community Sustainability.

Contact: Caroline Savage, interim executive director of the Institute for Community Sustainability at Indiana State, 812-232-8502 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

The revised minor is the result of feedback from a university survey in which most students said they would like more sustainability curriculum offered. Businesses, too, say they want to hire employees with sustainability training.

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