Students will have new options to earn certificates or a minor in Sustainability  

  Tuesday, March 23, 2021 3:00 PM
  Milestones, Science and Technology, Academics, News

Pittsburg, KS

Elliott Rowland

Elliott Rowland has bragging rights: he is the first to earn the Sustainability Leadership Certificate at Pittsburg State University.  

“Elliott's story reflects the diversity of interests drawn to sustainability-related academic programs and how they attract a variety of traditional and non-traditional students,” said Alicia Mason, a professor who teaches in the program. “And, the certificate can be applied to almost any career field; there are so many possibilities.”   

The Sustainability Leadership Certificate is quickly gaining interest and soon will be joined by two additional options at PSU: A new minor in sustainability that will be offered for the first time this fall, and a new Certificate of Sustainability that can be completed online in any of seven areas of focus.   


Students will be able to complete either of the two certificates at their own pace — something appreciated by Rowland, as he works full time as the university’s HVAC control specialist.   

In that role, he manages the heating and air conditioning systems in buildings across campus in seasons during which weather can change quickly. The certificate gives him options for advancing his career, he said.  

“The certificates have core courses that cover the basics of sustainability and offer a great deal of flexibility by allowing students to choose supporting courses to customize it,” said Catherine Hooey, a professor who teaches in the program. “It’s compatible with many of majors offered by PSU in any of our four colleges — Education, Arts & Sciences, Technology, and Business.”  

The Sustainability Leadership Certificate includes five core units: Sustainability & Society; Business & Economics; Environmental Systems; Ethics, Professional Development & Leadership; and Field Studies & Applications. Students select one course from each unit (a total of 15 hours) and engage in 20 hours of experiential learning to complete the certificate.   

The Certificate of Sustainability (13 hours) includes a one hour required course on the foundations of Sustainability and a choice of one course from four of seven focus areas: Natural Systems, Communication, Planning, Economics and Marketing, Technology, Political/Legal Systems, and Social Equity.   

The certificates can be applied to careers in public and private sectors, including public health, energy, education, corporate, government, and non-profit careers.   

“Many employers recognize the value of sustainability to their operations and this certificate, which can be completed entirely online, can give current students a competitive edge and graduates who are employed an opportunity for career advancement,” Hooey said.  


The new minor will include four required courses: a foundation course in Sustainability, Principles of Ecology, Introduction to Strategic Communication, and Environmental Geography, to provide students with a solid basis in sustainability.    

They can then choose three courses from a list of 29 courses from disciplines including Biology, Communication, Economics, Graphics and Imaging, Geography, Marketing, Sociology, and Women and Gender Studies. In this way, students can create their sustainability minor in a way that complements their major and expands their expertise in whatever career field they choose, incluidng economics, marketing, public health, environmental policy, renewable technologies, communication, corporate sustainability reporting, and more.  

University focus  

The new certificates and the minor both are part of a university focus on sustainability put in place by President Steve Scott. A Sustainability Advisory Committee lends expertise to campus operations and the academic side is supported by a unique major, Sustainability, Society, and Resource Management — the only one of its kind in Kansas.  

“PSU recognizes that there are limited and finite resources here on Earth," Scott said. "We’re committed to establishing sustainable practices and socially responsible choices for our students, university, and community."  

Jon Bartlow, who heads up the Sustainability Advisory Committee, noted that PSU is measuring progress toward being a gold-level sustainable campus through the national Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System or “STAR.”