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.

Sustain 1S03

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): Registration in Level I or above

Instructor: Greg Zilberbrant

Sustain 2S03

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): Registration in Level I or above

Instructor: Peter Topalovic

Sustain 3S03

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


Instructor: Michael Mikulak



Sustain 3SS3

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.

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: Kate Whalen