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STRATEGY 6.0 Education and Research

Students from the  Sustainability Internship Program at the Summer 2019 poster presentation

The Education and Research strategy will help UIC integrate sustainability in teaching, learning, and research as part of the recommendations of the UIC Climate Commitments and of the report To Green and Beyond: Excellence in Sustainability.

This strategy calls for UIC to develop a sustainability-related curriculum by creating a sustainability course rubric, embed sustainability into existing courses for general education credit, incentivize the development of interdisciplinary sustainability majors, minors, and certificates, and create ways for colleges to hire faculty with sustainability expertise. This strategy will also enhance sustainability-related co-curricular activities by creating learning opportunities such as educational signage around campus. This strategy urges UIC to catalyze sustainability-related research by providing seed funds to practice research beyond the campus, establish administrative pathways for igniting interdisciplinary research, and creating funding opportunities sustainability-related research topics.

These solutions on this page have been updated from what is mentioned in the original report (2018).

Review the original CAIP Strategy 6.0 (2018)

Sustainability is integrated into UIC’s curriculum through faculty-initiated course development. The Teaching Sustainability Initiative is one initiative helping faculty integrate sustainability into their research and courses.

The College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) offers an undergraduate minor in Sustainable Cities. This minor offers two introductory courses related to sustainability: US 130 and 230; furthermore, US 390 (Sustainability Internship Program) is an elective course for the Sustainability Cities minor and Urban Studies major.

6.1.1 Sustainability Course Rubric Heading link

professor at podium in front of a classroom of students


Develop a sustainability course rubric.

There are at least 125 courses that could be defined as sustainability-related or -focused (2020 survey). In order to assist students in identifying sustainability-related courses more readily, the CCSE Education and Research Subcommittee is tasked with developing a sustainability course rubric.

students at a solar panel picnic table


Increase the number of sustainability-related courses for general education credit.

Throughout 2021, the CCSE Education and Research subcommittee has held productive conversations with the Provost as well as committed administrators and faculty partners in the School of Public Health, the College of Business Administration, the College of Engineering, and the College of Education in order to strategize about effectively integrating and expanding opportunities for sustainability education across the university.

The Education and Research Subcommittee developed a set of learning objectives and outcomes. This is being presented to the Committee of Associate and Assistant Deans, Education Policy Committees in the Colleges, Gen Ed Council, and targeted departments (e.g. Anthropology, Public Health, Sociology, Engineering) along with why faculty might want to integrate sustainability into their courses.

The UIC Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (CATE) has posted workshops related to integrating sustainability across the curriculum. CATE and PSPM sustainability staff are developing a Teaching Sustainability Checklist to assist faculty in the process of evaluating their own courses and programs to identify opportunities for development in this area.

Check the original CAIP (2018) for a list of the learning objectives and outcomes for sustainability.


6.1.3 Interdisciplinary Sustainability Majors, Minors, and Certificates Heading link


Increase number of students graduating from interdisciplinary sustainability majors, minors, and certificates.

Program development is driven by tuition distribution and the desire to develop programs to increase enrollments. Tuition generally goes to the college from which the course originated and the college may reallocate funds to departments based on internal formulas. Incentives for development of interdisciplinary courses, programs, and certificates should be established through the Associate Chancellor for Budget and Resource Planning and the Office of the Provost.

The UIC Extended Campus offers a platform for the development of revenue generating programs, whether standard in-person classroom, online, or blended formats. Opportunities to offer sustainability focused courses, certificates, and other educational program are currently being explored.

6.1.4 Faculty Expertise Heading link

people walking past the College of Nursing


Incentivize future faculty cluster hires to include academic areas of Energy and Sustainability, Environmental Economics, Environmental Sociology, Environmental Justice, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Urban Infrastructure and Sustainability.

The Teaching Sustainability Initiative (TSI)  has intentionally grown UIC’s sustainability course offerings to all students since 2019 by offering faculty of all subject areas an overview on how to amend and/or create curricula to include sustainability concepts.

A selection of sustainability-oriented co-curricular programs, informal educational opportunities, and related activities have grown in the last decade at UIC, clearly indicating a marked shift for our faculty, staff, and student body. The Sustainability Internship Program and the Heritage Garden Internship currently receive funding form the Sustainability Fee, however, institutional support should be part of the conversation.

There are several notable, ongoing successes of sustainability-related co-curricular programs at UIC.

6.2.1 Learning Opportunities Heading link

Pollinator Habitat sign near rain garden at Arthington Mall


Utilize every sustainable infrastructure project as an opportunity to create the campus as a learning lab.

Every green infrastructure project is an opportunity to utilize the campus as a learning laboratory. Since 2019, eight “Sustainable University” signs have been installed throughout campus to educate passers-by of the sustainable infrastructure projects. Details of each sign can be viewed at 

Many faculty are engaged in sustainability-related research through various academic and research programs. Research that furthers specific sustainability goals – including disciplinary, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and translational projects, as well as community-based participatory research – must be facilitated and supported across campus.

6.3.1 Research Beyond Campus Heading link


Provide seed funds for community-based participatory research to help neighboring communities address issues of sustainability.

In order to advance broader community and off-campus research, relevant colleges as well as the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research should provide seed funds for community-based participatory research to help neighboring communities address issues of sustainability.

Off-campus research partnerships must be facilitated, with industry and foundations, to develop innovative projects that are designed to improve efficiencies in energy and resource usage consistent with sustainability goals. The campus needs a more nimble process to elevate and bring research discoveries to market. Those responsible include UIC Advancement, Office of Technology Management, UIC Innovation Center, and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

6.3.2 Interdisciplinary Research Heading link

Chancellor, students and faculty underneath a UIC Earth Month Banner holding awards


Establish administrative pathways for catalyzing interdisciplinary research. Implement tenure and promotion and recognition of interdisciplinary publications. (The OVCR and Office of the Provost).

Provide seed funds to facilitate collaborative partnerships across disciplines to secure extramural funds for large complex projects (OVCR).

The OVCR has convened researchers around the topic of water as well as urban sustainability. However, in order to create a cohesive vision and a stronger collaboration among individual researchers, staff support is needed to stay on task and assist with grant writing and submissions. Staffing may be done by an advanced graduate student, post-doc or staff with strong grant writing and management background. Research Development Services in the OVCR should provide this support.

6.3.3 Funding Opportunities Heading link


Increase funding in sustainability-related research.

The OVCR is tasked with developing a process to track and optimize funding opportunities in sustainability-related research topics including governmental sources but also specific research foundation opportunities.