Academic Sustainability
Programs Office


Sustainable Future Program (SUSTAIN)

The Sustainable Future Program (SFP) consists of a suite of undergraduate courses focused on providing students with the opportunity for interdisciplinary, student-led, community-based, and experiential education focused on sustainability. Courses in the program are open to students from all Faculties.


McMaster developed the Sustainable Future Program for students interested in learning about sustainability while having the opportunity to engage in experiential learning through developing and implementing real-world sustainability initiatives. The Sustainable Future Program (SFP) aims to build reciprocal relationships between students, community members and McMaster University to engage all parties in the journey towards a sustainable future.


The specific objectives of the Sustainable Future Program are as follows:

  • Teach students about sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Provide the opportunity for self-directed, interdisciplinary and experiential learning.
  • Support student learning within the University and local community.
  • Engage undergraduate students in taking part in meaningful, experiential research.
  • Foster opportunities for students to place local knowledge and local action within a global context.


To promote interdisciplinarity, instructors and teaching assistants come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, course content is pulled and presented to students from multiple perspectives, and strides are taken to ensure a truly interdisciplinary learning environment. One way we provide an interdisciplinary learning environment is through maintaining enrollment caps at the Faculty level to ensure student representation from all Faculties. All courses in the program include an experiential learning project to provide students with the opportunity for self-directed, community-based, and experiential learning. Within the level-three and level-four courses, students work in interdisciplinary groups, with support from a community project champion, to develop and implement a sustainability project. All projects include undergraduate-level research to varying degrees and provide students with opportunities to develop skills and experiences for future academic research, if they choose.

Since launching the first course in the Winter of 2013, which had an enrollment of 97 students, we have grown to include five courses with over 750 students enrolled in the 2019/20 academic year. Stay tuned for news about future expansions and new courses to come!


We would like to thank the faculty members, course Teaching Assistants, and community members for supporting student enrolled in the Sustain courses as well as for supporting continuous course and Program development. Our sincerest appreciation extends to the hundreds of students who have contributed by taking courses and providing feedback for continuous improvement. We would also like to extend a special thanks to the Faculty of Engineering and Engineering & Society Program for providing guidance and administrative support for the Sustainable Future Program.


Introduction to Sustainability

An introduction to sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective which examines the historical and societal lenses through which sustainability is viewed. Students will learn terminology, theories and concepts to effectively communicate across disciplines and on various topics of sustainability.

  • Offered first and second term
  • One three-hour lecture
  • One one-hour tutorial
  • Prerequisite(s): None

Instructor: Dr. Greg Zilberbrant



 Evaluating Problems and Sustainable Solutions

Students will learn how to identify problems and evaluate sustainable solutions to societal problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. The course will involve active experiential learning which emphasizes actions on local projects.

  • Offered first and second term
  • One three-hour lecture
  • One one-hour tutorial
  • Prerequisite(s): None

Instructor: Peter Topalovic




Advocating for Sustainability

Students will gain knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively communicate and influence decisions, which they will apply to current sustainability issues within the community. This course is interdisciplinary and experiential.

  • Offered first and summer term
  • One three-hour lecture
  • Prerequisite(s): None

Instructor: Sarah Precious






Intersectionality and Sustainable Development 

Explores complex dimensions of sustainability through a lens of intersectionality — how our individual identities shape our life experiences — with a focus on environmental injustices. Includes interdisciplinary teamwork, simulated case studies and UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Offered during Intersession (May 3rd – 28th, 2021)
  • Two three-hour lectures (Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am-12pm)
  • Prerequisite(s): None

Course Developer: Dr. Kelsey Leonard


Draft Syllabus: LINK

Enroll: March 15, 2021






Exploring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Students will learn the breadth of sustainability by engaging with each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Through interdisciplinary team-work, students will tackle complex issues of sustainability through simulations, debates and games

  • Offered during Intersession (May 3rd – 28th, 2021)
  • One three-hour lecture (Thursdays 12pm-4pm)
  • Prerequisite(s): None

Course Developer: Dr. John Boakye-Danquah


Draft Syllabus: LINK

Enroll: March 15, 2021




Implementing Sustainable Change*

Exploring agency, leadership, and strategy effectiveness within the context of sustainability. The course will include interdisciplinary perspectives, experiential learning and community engagement projects.

*Previously Sustain 3A03 – Societal Tools for Systemic Sustainable Change



Fostering Sustainable Communities through 100in1Day Hamilton

Students will gain knowledge, skills and abilities to support collaborative approaches to making positive, sustainable change within the community. They will apply their learning through involvement in 100in1Day Hamilton.

  • Spring/Summer Session 1 (May 3, 2021 – June 18, 2021)
  • Tuesday & Thursday, 6-9pm (ONLINE for Spring 2021)
  • Prerequisite(s): Level III or above, or permission of the Academic Sustainability Programs Office
    • If you are seeking permission to enroll in SUSTAIN 3SS3, please email the course administrator Anna at and include the following information.
      1. Course you are requesting to take: (ie. SUSTAIN 3SS3)
      2. Reason for request: (ie. I do not yet fully enrolled in level 3 on Mosaic)
      3. Your Mac ID:
      4. Your student number:

Instructor: Peter Topalovic





A/B – Leadership in Sustainability

Final-year course where students gain leadership skills and apply them by working in interdisciplinary teams to develop and implement a sustainability-focused project within the community.

  • Full year course (Sept – May)
  • One three-hour lecture
  • Prerequisite(s): Registration in Level IV or above or permission of the instructor

Instructor: Dr. Kate Whalen




Students wishing to request course permission for SUSTAIN 3S03 or SUSTAIN 4S06 are encouraged to email us at with the following information:


1. What course are you requesting permission for?


2. Have you read the draft course syllabus found here (y/n)?


3. Why do you want to take this course and/or what interests you most (in 3-5 sentences)?


4. Is there a project from a recent year that you found most interesting? If so, why (in 2-3 sentences)?


              See here for past projects sorted by course.


5. Have you taken any SUSTAIN courses before? If so, which one(s)?