Sustainable Systems

Overview

Both developed and developing nations face ever-growing challenges to meet basic human needs in a sustainable manner. Key issues include depletion of fossil fuels, global warming, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and the human health impact, all of which are compounded by an expanding global population.

Innovative solutions are required at all levels of society to address these complex and inter-related problems. Individuals and communities, small businesses and global corporations, government agencies and non-governmental organizations - each constituency plays a vital role in the creation of a sustainable world.

The Sustainable Systems field of study offers an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on enabling technology and enterprise to enhance the sustainability of systems that provide mobility, shelter, sustenance, communication and recreation. It draws on and benefits from the diversity of faculty expertise found at the school and across the University. Many cross-listed courses offered by the Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering complement the research activities of the Center for Sustainable Systems and the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

What you will study

Curriculum

You will gain expertise in systems analysis techniques with a wide range of applications, including renewable energy, water infrastructure, green construction, and sustainable mobility. In your coursework, you will examine sustainability by studying global and regional environmental impacts, materials and energy flows, social values and equity issues, and consumption patterns and sufficiency.

You also will develop the critical skills of systems thinking and systems-dynamics modeling and apply them to the challenges of global environmental and social change. Life-cycle assessment, risk-benefit analysis, environmental economics, energy analysis, design for environment, carbon emissions modeling and spatial analysis are among the analytical tools and skills taught.

Management training in environmental strategy, organizational change and conflict resolution, ethics, stakeholder engagement and scenario analysis will round out your skill set. For example, you will deepen your understanding of institutions that govern energy use and explore ways in which government policy has succeeded, or failed, in order to address the need for renewable energy and other sustainable-development challenges.

Launching your career

Students develop the skills necessary for effective and innovative leadership in the public and private sectors. "In these leadership roles, our graduates will solve complex sustainability challenges through systems thinking and a sound understanding of ecological principles, the capabilities and limitations of technology and the mechanisms which bring about social change", says Professor Gregory A. Keoleian, coordinator of the Sustainable Systems field of study.

Graduates also pursue careers in the private sector, often involving engineering and product development, management consulting, and strategic and sustainability planning. You also will be qualified to fill a professional position in the public sector with federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Renewable Energy Lab, with a state or municipal governmental unit, or with nonprofit groups, such as Environmental Defense or the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For more information on Sustainable Systems, contact snre.admissions@umich.edu.

Watch Videos about our students and faculty