For the first time, University of Louisville undergraduate students will have the option of majoring in sustainability.

The board of trustees approved a new Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability degree at its meeting Sept. 22. Classes will begin next fall.

The degree will be the first undergraduate degree housed in the Department of Urban and Public Affairs (UPA), which coordinates several master’s degrees including the new Master of Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Sustainability that began enrolling students this fall.

“We have been working for several years to make this bachelor’s degree a reality,” said David Simpson, PhD, chair of UPA and of the university’s 60-member Sustainability Council. “I know that graduates of this degree will make a difference in their own communities and the world.”

UofL is leading the way in programs and education in sustainability, he said, adding that creating the degree “positions graduates to be thought leaders and solution seekers in the many facets of sustainability, from the environment to health, conservation and community quality of life, among many others.”

Simpson noted that UofL is the only university in the state to receive the top sustainability ranking from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, earning a gold STARS ranking earlier this year. In addition, The Sierra Club ranked UofL in the Top 50 of its 2016 “Cool Schools” (No. 43).

The new bachelor’s degree program will train students to research, identify, implement and monitor sustainable processes and systems. It is designed to prepare students for future careers in sustainability-related endeavors, including the environment, energy, climate change, public policy, transportation, and urban and regional planning. It will also serve as a well-rounded base to allow students to pursue graduate training in affiliated fields of study. The degree is designed as an interdisciplinary program and will require a minimum of 124 hours to complete.

The degree program proposal was based on models from other university programs, several years of discussion at the university among interested departments, and through the Sustainability Council. The Faculty Senate recommended the creation of the Bachelor of Arts degree in Sustainability during its May meeting, and the Council on Postsecondary Education 45-day review of the preproposal was completed on July 22.