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Academic Programs:

Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability

Addressing sustainability in our society poses interdisciplinary challenges that require interdisciplinary solutions. McMaster created the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability with the goal to develop student’s interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of sustainability. 



To achieve this goal (see above), the Minor provides a path for students to study diverse aspects of sustainability by taking courses from different faculties and integrating them into a cohesive whole. The specific objectives of the Minor are as follows:

  • Promote engagement among students, faculty, and staff across all faculties, facilitating interdisciplinary learning.
  • Offer a wide selection of courses to enable students to choose the sustainability emphasis that is right for them and to pursue courses that will further their individual learning objectives.
  • Provide opportunities to meaningfully engage with communities both within and outside of McMaster.
  • Encourage opportunities for student experiential learning about sustainability.


Through the development and implementation of McMaster’s Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability, students are now able to choose from over 64 courses from faculties across campus to gain a truly interdisciplinary perspective of sustainability as well as tailor a minor that compliments their major. In only two years of operation, 19 students have declared an Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability.


The Minor would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the past and current members of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability Committee; the Arts & Science Program for providing an administrative home for the Minor; the faculty members who have opened up their courses for inclusion and helped communicate the Minor; the staff members, including academic advisors, who have provided advice and guidance throughout; and the dozens of students who have shown their support by taking the Minor and working with us through its development.


  • No more than 6 units from Level 1 courses
  • Any 3 units from the following list of Sustain courses may count towards this requirement:
    SUSTAIN 1S03 – Introduction to Sustainability;
    SUSTAIN 2S03 – Evaluating Problems & Sustainable Solutions;
    SUSTAIN 3S03 – Implementing Sustainable Change;
    SUSTAIN 4S06 – Leadership in Sustainability
  • Starting in 2017/18, Sustain 2S03, 3S03, and 4S06 will include prerequisite of the previous level course. However, all courses will include the option for acceptance upon permission of the instructor.

Selected from two or more Faculties as outlined by the Undergraduate Course Calendar

  • Any cross-listed course and those of interdisciplinary programs between two or more Faculties will be counted as a course outside of the student’s home Faculty.
  • Sustain courses do not count towards units outside a student’s home Faculty.


  1. Students should note that not all courses listed are available each year. As well, it is the student’s responsibility to check carefully for prerequisites, co-requisites and enrolment restrictions.
  2. Students are strongly encouraged to seek guidance from their Faculty advisor to ensure they are meeting all enrollment requirements, including Faculty-specific requirements for double counting courses required for a student’s major.
  3. All courses have enrolment capacities. The Faculty cannot guarantee registration in courses for minors, even when prerequisites have been met.


Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of the Committee are as follows:

  • Promote the Minor, including Sustain 1S03 and other courses on the Minor Course List
  • Advise on the administrative processes involved, such as course exception process, course list, requirements, etc.
  • Consult with Faculty colleagues on the course list and other administrative aspects
  • Approve the course list, specifically for courses under each member’s home Faculty. Offer insight on courses outside home Faculty.
  • Provide pan-campus perspective as it relates to development and management of the Minor

Guiding Principles

McMaster's Minor in Sustainability is guided by the following principles:

  • Provide students with foundational sustainability knowledge
  • Create a consciousness and respect for the diversity of sustainability perspectives held in different Faculties
  • Ensure an interdisciplinary educational experience
  • Encourage and support student-directed learning
  • Complement existing McMaster educational offerings while avoiding redundancy
  • Ensure inter-Faculty equity, including student accessibility

Meeting Frequency

Twice annually in July and November


Member Faculty Department Contact Information
Kate Whalen, Co-Chair Academic Sustainability Programs Office
Brent McKnight, Co-Chair Business Strategic Management
Shelley Anderson, Administrative Support Arts & Science Arts & Science
John Maclachlan Arts & Science Arts & Science
Daniel LaFrance, Student Representative Engineering
Dean Mountain Business Finance and Business Economics
Cam Churchill Engineering Civil Engineering
Carlos Filipe Engineering Chemical Engineering
Judy Major-Girardin Humanities School of the Arts
Susie O'Brien Humanities English and Cultural Studies
Luc Bernier Science Geography and Earth Sciences
Chad Harvey Science Integrated Science (iSci) Program
Maureen Padden Science Geography and Earth Sciences
Shanti Morell-Hart Social Science Anthropology
Sandra Preston Social Science Social Work
Stacey Ritz Health Sciences Health Sciences

Request for Course Exception

In addition to the Course List, the Minor Committee does allow students to request course exceptions for other courses that they feel help to satisfy the objectives of the Minor. These courses often include student-led and project-based courses where the student chooses to focus on a sustainability topic.

Student requests for course exception can be completed using this request form.

Minor in Sustainability can be found within the 2017/18 Course Calendar, under the heading of Interdisciplinary Minors.

Additional Resources:

Request for Course Exception

Student requests for course exception can be completed using this request form.

Form Link

2017/18 Course Calendar

Minor in Sustainability can be found within the 2017/18 Course Calendar, under the heading of Interdisciplinary Minors

Resource Link

McMaster 2013 Sustainability Annual Report

This report contains more information about the development of the Minor

Resource Link