Sustainable Futures

Experience campus life and gain a deeper understanding of sustainability!
July 24 – 28, 2017

This intensive course for motivated high school students offers a college-level interdisciplinary foundation in environmental sustainability. The course includes discussions with University faculty and expert practitioners, combining an academic assessment of the fundamental challenges of sustainability with case-study investigations of local practice. Students will engage in research, visit field sites and make team presentations on their findings.

The course involves field trips to restored prairie, the universities’ Sustainable Student Farm, net-zero and LEED-gold certified buildings, experimental biofuel plantations and more. Students that successfully complete the course will receive a Center for Global Studies Global Leadership Certificate. 

Enrollment is limited to 20 students.

What is Sustainability?
The issue of sustainability – the continued existence of humanity on planet Earth for an indefinite future – has become increasingly obvious and important over the last fifty years, driven by an increasing human population with increasing per capita resource consumption on a planet with finite resources.

Sustaining human existence requires complex interdisciplinary approaches to sustain functioning economic, social, and political systems, and supportive physical and biological environments.

Course Objectives

  • Introduce students to the social and natural systems that underlie our understanding of sustainability.
  • Equip students with a number of key Earth System conceptual models that allow them to apply a theoretical framework to sustainability issues.
  • Expose students to examples of sustainability practice in a critical way so that these practices are understood in a broad sustainability context.
  • Expose students to research skills and pathways for undergraduate study prior to entering college.

Jonathan Tomkin, Lead Faculty Co-Instructor

Dr. Jonathan Tomkin is the Associate Director of the School of Earth, Society and Environment and a Research Associate Professor in the department of Geology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  His research aims to uncover the processes of how changing climates, glaciers, and landscapes interact. This study has involved fieldwork all over the world – including the Olympic Mountains, the Swiss Alps, Patagonia and Antarctica. Last year he taught the first ever Massive Open Online sustainability course (with more than 70,000 enrolled students),  and he is the co-editor and contributing author of the free, online, college textbook Sustainability: a Comprehensive Foundation.

Click here for a short video lecture by Professor Tomkin: Introduction to Sustainability

Rob Kanter, Lead Faculty Co-Instructor
Dr. Rob Kanter teaches courses in environmental communications and issues for the School of Earth, Society, and Environment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also serves as an academic adviser. Away from campus, he is known for writing and narrating “Environmental Almanac,” a weekly program that runs as a column in the Sunday edition of the Champaign News-Gazette and a radio commentary on WILL-AM 580 and other NPR affiliates in Illinois.


For Center for Global Studies staff, please see