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Sustainability Studies

mercyhurst sustainability


“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in an undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Mercyhurst University's commitment to renewable energy, sustainable food production and student engagement in a wide range of environmental initiatives makes this a great place to study the multi-faceted and interdisciplinary world of sustainability studies. Our world is increasingly shaped by issues of climate change, the diminishing supply of fossil fuels, degraded water quality, and food security. Whether you choose to major, minor or pursue a concentration in sustainability studies, you'll graduate from our program with a broad interdisciplinary understanding of the environmental and sustainability challenges facing our world today.

Students can choose to major or minor in sustainability studies, or declare a concentration in connection with nearly a dozen different academic disciplines, from the natural sciences to interior design to history and political science. However they structure their degree, students confront contemporary environmental issues and are also challenged to develop real-world solutions to issues involving energy, climate change, land use and food production, sustainable economic development, green building design, and more. Our program is based at the Erie campus, but students in the program are frequently engaged in experiential learning projects and activities throughout the community.

At Mercyhurst, you'll gain practical, hands-on learning outside of the classroom. Through faculty-supervised field and internship experiences, you'll conduct research and tackle today's current sustainability issues. Sustainability studies students are also able to work with two faculty advisors to design a curriculum of coursework tailored to their particular interests. Because Mercyhurst's sustainability studies program offers students the kind of experience that is highly valued by employers across the board, our graduates often land quality positions in the fields of business, retail and service, government, non-profits, healthcare and education. The sustainability studies program also provides excellent preparation for graduate school or development in a number of additional, more specialized fields.

By incorporating sustainability into the Mercyhurst curriculum, the lessons become an essential part of the learning process for all students, not just those in the Natural Sciences. Currently, Mercyhurst offers a Sustainability Minor and Major, a Sustainability Studies Concentration within the Chemistry and Biology departments. In addition, Introduction to Sustainability Studies is a course open to all students.



Sustainability Studies Major



Sustainability Studies Minor


Sustainability Studies Concentration

Ready to begin your journey in sustainability?  Apply online today -- it's free and getting your application started takes only a few brief minutes.  Interested students may also consult the course catalog for more information.  As a liberal arts institution, all undergraduate students complete Mercyhurst's core curriculum

Looking for the Graduate Sustainability Concentration, click here!  

The mission of the Mercyhurst University Sustainability Studies program is to foster in graduates an understanding of ecological systems, the consequences of human-environment interactions, and the potential of practical, empirically based solutions that can advance a more sustainable world. The program is firmly grounded in both the Mercyhurst Liberal Arts curriculum as well as multi- and  interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability issues from earth systems sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. The program provides students with a broadly encompassing multimethods education that emphasizes systemic analysis, critical thinking, and community engagement. It also stresses the importance of social responsibility, ethical leadership, and a science-based focus on solutions and integrated problem solving.  Mercyhurst gradates in Sustainability Studies will have learned how to advance more sustainable local and global ecosystems. Students will have the ability to assess complex environmental issues at all levels, using multiple and diverse methodologies and an interdisciplinary approach, within a context of environmental justice, equity, and long-term sustainability. Students will be able to think critically about their role as creative problem solvers and their responsibility as citizens, political and economic participants, and members of an extended ecological community.

  • Students will demonstrate mastery of the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of the international movement toward a more sustainable world, including its historical, economic, and political dimensions
  • Students will demonstrate through course projects, internship opportunities, and a senior field experience an ability to apply their knowledge of local, national and global challenges related to energy, food, land use, water and air, waste, and public environmental health
  • Students will demonstrate a clear understanding of the empirical/data/natural science-based nature of local and global sustainability issues – and engage in a practical examination through course projects of potential solutions to these challenges
  • Students will evince an ability to critically analyze and communicate clearly, in writing and orally, their knowledge of environmental sustainability.

Here are some of the experiential projects our students have worked on:

  • Organized a city-wide “Pedal for the Planet Duathlon” that raised nearly $2,000 for the design and installation of bicycle racks in the city of Erie.
  • Collaborated with community partners in an effort to establish a network of urban community gardens in Erie.
  • Helped to lead middle- and high-school students in the city of Erie in conducting energy audits aimed at reducing energy usage and strengthening conservation.
  • Spearheaded a successful effort to install a green roof on a wing of our science hall.
  • Drafted the beginnings of our first-ever Mercyhurst Climate Action Plan directed toward our long-term goal of carbon neutrality.
  • Mounted a successful campus-wide campaign to establish a Student Sustainability Fee/Fund to support green energy and other sustainability projects on campus.
  • Engagement with a wide range of sustainable organic farming projects on the Mercyhurst Farm now located on our North East campus, where an exciting array of additional sustainable development initiatives are now taking root.


Student Involvement

Student input is integral to creating a sustainable campus and two of the most important pieces are our Student Sustainability Club and the Student Sustainability Fund. The Student Sustainability Club, funded through MSG as a recognized student club or organization, is a body of students working toward a more sustainable campus, while the Student Sustainability Fund is a student tuition fee that funds energy, environmental, and sustainable projects for the Erie campus.

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Student Sustainability Fund

During the 2006-07 academic year, student Green Team members successfully campaigned for the passage of a Student Green Energy Fee. Through petitions (with over 1,000 students signing) and a 2-1 student referendum vote, students overwhelmingly approved a $5 per student, per term fee that allows Mercyhurst University to strengthen an already impressive commitment to renewable green energy. With four geothermal buildings, 1kw solar panels, and a 30 percent commitment to wind energy, this has become a hallmark of sustainability at Mercyhurst.

In the spring of 2008, the Green Energy Fund approved the first two projects: purchase of a solar safety-emergency lighting system, and increasing the percentage of campus electricity coming from wind farms from 10 percent to 30 percent.

In Fall 2011, new bylaws were passed including the changing the name to the Student Sustainability Fund. The fund is administered by a Review Board consisting of four students (two of which must be present in order to vote on a proposal), two faculty members, director of the physical plant, the Sustainability Officer, and the Executive Assistant to the President. The review board meets periodically to review proposals, which may be submitted by any Erie Campus member.

Since then, additional projects that have been funded include partial funding of the Green Roof located on Zurn Hall, an educational Kiosk for the Green Roof, the increase in our wind offset purchase to 100% of the Erie Campus electricity consumption, plastic reusable To-Go meal containers for Egan Dining Hall replacing the disposable containers, and the purchase of a carbon accounting software that will assist with maintenance of the campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.

For more information on the Student Sustainability Fund, please contact Dr. Dyan McBride, chair of the Student Sustainability Fund Reivew Board by e-mailing .

Other members of the board:

  1. Dr. James Snyder, Faculty
  2. Sue Johnson, Executive Assistant to the President
  3. Ken Stepherson, Director of Physical Plant
  4. Brittany Prischak, Sustainability Officer
  5. Tom Hall, Student Green Team Representative
  6. Jeremy Dickey, Student MSG Representative
  7. Dr. Chris Magoc, Faculty, non-voting member, Advisor to the Campus Green Team

Chris Magoc
Department Chair, Professor, Associate Dean - School of Social Sciences
Office: Preston 116
Phone: (814) 824-2075