Environmental Sustainability

Ecology, Policy, and Social Transformation

Apply systems thinking and environmental justice studies to real world case studies. Partner with organizers transforming communities and restoring ecosystems.

Currently accepting applications for spring 2021 and 2021-2022 academic year.

Program Structure

Due to health and safety precautions in response to the pandemic, class meets for half-days three times a week using a hybrid format of education combining in-person, socially-distanced site visits, and virtual discussions. Both formats engage a different expert in the climate, food, and environmental justice movements each day. Students begin their internship placement sites during the second week of class, and (while the pandemic continues) can expect to spend 8-10 hours per week at their site.

Topics & Themes

History, theory, science, and art of environmental justice. Anti-colonial, interdisciplinary field methods and research practices. Systems-thinking to grow student capacity for change-making. Internship to apply program themes to student educational and career goals


Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN

Terms & Dates

Fall 2020 (Sept.8 - Dec. 18), Spring 2021 (Feb. 2 - May 14)


16 credits

Program Overview

Environmental Sustainability students learn how and why environmental burdens are inequitably distributed and explore the work of communities organizing for radical, lasting change. This moment in history is marked by widespread unrest due to climate change, environmental destruction, toxicity, and uneven access to life-giving natural resources. This moment also presents new opportunities for social justice and sustainability as people around the world demand both novel and time-tested approaches to systems-change. The Environmental Sustainability program equips learners with tools to appreciate the histories that birthed this moment, and skills to create a liberatory future.

At the heart of the program lies a fundamental question: “How can we restore ecosystems, environmental health, and good quality of life for all?” Throughout the semester students consider the concepts of “earth care,” “people care,” and care of the future. Coursework is interdisciplinary and includes field research, a project-based internship, conversations with innovators in the field of sustainability, and a substantial partnership with a permaculture farm in Wisconsin. The program explores structural inequalities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and beyond, examining patterns of privilege, power, and oppression. Students take part in environmental justice organizing, ecosystems restoration, urban and rural sustainability initiatives, and complete an intensive internship. Past internship sites include MN350, the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, and Lily Springs Farm. Students leave prepared for leadership at the intersection of environmental and climate justice.

Staff and Faculty

Michelle Garvey

Program Director

Photo of MichelleDr. Michelle Garvey (she/her/hers) is an interdisciplinary scholar-activist, specializing in environmental justice (EJ) theory, history, and activism. Addressing its interconnected fields—climate justice, food justice, and reproductive justice among them—Michelle educates through community-engaged projects that channel student scholarship into the EJ movement. She has collaborated with several EJ partners, including Tamales y Bicicletas, Project Sweetie Pie, The Women’s Environmental Institute, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Mashkiikii Gitigan Urban Farm, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, and MN State Congresspeople. Garvey also mentors the UMN student group Voices for Environmental Justice, and as an Institute on the Environment Educator, collaborates across UMN colleges to promote EJ research and community partnerships.

Most recently, Michelle served as a teaching specialist in Sustainability Studies at the University of Minnesota and Environmental Studies at Macalester College, and a food justice curriculum writer for Minnesota Youth Story Squad. She holds a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, an M.A. in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University, and a B.A. in Philosophy from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University.


Climate & Environmental Justice (4 credits)

History & theory of climate and environmental justice social movements to end inequities in environmental/climate benefits & drawbacks.

Socio-Ecological Systems Change (4 credits)

Critical approaches to systems change: learning diverse interventions in systems of oppression and environmental destruction at reformist to radical, personal to political, and local to global, scales.

Field Methods (4 credits)

Encounters with and critical evaluations of diverse field methods in sustainability aimed at producing liberatory partnerships and outcomes in interdisciplinary research.

Internship (4 credits)

Concentrated practice: students apply theoretical learning to hands-on experience in an EJ field tailored to individual learning and career goals.

Complete Syllabus


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

Lily Springs Farm

Lily Springs is a 100-acre farm using regenerative agricultural practices informed by permaculture design elements. The farm focuses on regeneration, education, and celebration. They use livestock and perennial plants to achieve a system of climate-appropriate, carbon-negative agroforestry with zero chemical inputs typically seen in commercial agriculture. The HECUA student intern worked with the full-time farm manager to maintain and run major aspects of the farm. This included harvesting herbs and berries, creating paddocks for the goats in the forest, and learning about regenerative agriculture.

Growing North

Growing North Minneapolis is a community-driven collaboration with the University of Minnesota, which focuses on youth and their communities. Through intergenerational mentorship and urban agriculture, they advance environmental, social and racial justice in North Minneapolis.


MN350 unites Minnesotans as part of a global movement to end the pollution damaging our climate, speed the transition to clean energy, and create a just and healthy future for all.

Program Costs

Fee Breakdown: All USA semester-long programs are based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. USA semester program fees include tuition, nearly all reading materials, some field visits (including meals while traveling), and tickets to events and opportunities associated with the program. More information regarding program costs and fee breakdowns can be found here.

Group A schools

Students from the University of Minnesota pay $9,200.

Group B schools

Students from all consortium member* and affiliate member schools except Denison University, and the University of Minnesota pay $14,600. 

*unDACAmented students from Augsburg College receive a $3,000 scholarship from Augsburg.

Standard Cost

Students from nonmember schools and Denison University $15,500. Although a HECUA member, Denison has opted to apply its member discount to a grant program dedicated to assisting low-income Denison students who wish to participate in a HECUA program.


HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Click here to view all scholarships.

Good to Know

This course will be offered in hybrid format for Spring 2021, combining remote instruction with in-person opportunities for hands-on learning.

For students coming outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, housing is available through HECUA’s partnership with Augsburg University. Contact Julie at jrossate@hecua.org to learn more about housing.

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