minor sustainability

Minor in Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Approach

This minor is designed for third-year bachelor students from all disciplines and Schools, who wish to critically explore some of the most pressing sustainability challenges we face today.

Students who take this minor will develop an understanding of complex sustainability challenges including climate change, species and biodiversity loss, poverty, natural resource management, water management, and sustainable cities. Innovative teaching methods that draw on a rich mix of academic disciplines and concepts will support students from diverse academic backgrounds to think critically about sustainability from different perspectives. Ideas, examples, and case studies from across the world will be unpacked and students will explore creative, research-based solutions to challenges.

Five courses

The minor consists of five diverse but complementary courses (all 6 ECTS) that approach sustainability from different angles and perspectives. All courses take place in Semester 1 (Fall) 2024/2025. All students should take Complexities of Sustainability plus at least one other course. It is recommended to take all five courses if possible. All courses are taught in English and are designed in alignment with the small-group, interactive teaching style of University College Tilburg. 

Open to all third-year bachelor students (and a limited number of exchange students)

The minor is open to all third-year bachelor students and no prior knowledge is needed. The minor will complement a wide range of study programs. An inquisitive mind and openness to interdisciplinary working is key, and we encourage enrolment from students who want to think deeply and creatively about sustainability issues, towards a fairer and more abundant future.

More info?  Check the video  

Course descriptions

Complexities of Sustainability (840902-B-6). 6 ECTS

Course overview

We are collectively facing a wide range of global sustainability challenges, including climate change, species and biodiversity loss, and growing global inequality. These challenges are largely driven by human activities, which has led to the labelling of the current period in history as ‘The Anthropocene’. Sustainability challenges are inherently complex, and they are understood and experienced in a multitude of different ways.

This course will introduce students to the idea of sustainability, as well as some of the most pressing challenges we currently face. Through exploration of concepts including environmental narratives, scale, environmental justice, and transformation, students will develop tools to critically analyse contemporary sustainability challenges and some of the approaches to solving them. This course is grounded in social and political sciences but encourages interdisciplinary thinking so will also include guest lectures and ‘team-taught’ classes by people from different disciplines and with diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

Course Learning Goals

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the complex nature of sustainability and sustainability challenges, including climate change, biodiversity (species) loss, and energy. 
  • Explain and apply core sustainability concepts related to environmental narratives, environmental justice, environmental governance, and transformations. 
  • Compare and contrast ways of understanding and describing sustainability challenges from different academic disciplines and stakeholder perspectives. 
  • Critically analyse how sustainability governance approaches might impact different groups in society using an environmental justice lens.  
  • Critically evaluate different proposals for transformations to sustainability, and argue for particular approaches. 

Assessment

The assessment has also changed slightly so please change to: 

  • Individual poster assignment (30%) 
  • Individual written assignment 1 (30%) 
  • Written exam (40%) 

Lecture/contact person

Dr Kate Massarella

Course dates and enrolment

Complexities of Sustainability is mandatory for anyone wanting to take the minor Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Approach. It takes place in semester 1/Fall semester (blocks 1 and 2). Please see the FAQs for more information on the enrolment process.

Maximum number of students: 60

Futuring the Earth (840904-B-6). 6 ECTS

Course overview

The future of the Earth is uncertain due to the challenges brought about by human activity. What should we do about it? This course assesses possible solutions to ensure a good future for the planet and its inhabitants from a philosophical and ethical standpoint. In Part 1, we examine ethical challenges related to our relationship with the natural environment and its preservation, including theories of personal and political responsibility. In Part 2, we consider theories of justice and civil disobedience to address the moral and political questions that arise from our existence as human beings living on Earth.

Course Learning Goals

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyse ethical challenges in preserving the natural environment through the application of theories of personal and political responsibility.
  • Analyse the moral and political implications of the life of humans on Earth through the application of theories of justice and civil disobedience.
  • Evaluate potential solutions to ensure a positive future for the Earth and its inhabitants from a philosophical and ethical perspective.
  • Create original arguments and proposals for addressing the challenges facing the Earth and its inhabitants, incorporating theories of personal and political responsibility, justice, and civil disobedience

Assessment

  • Group tutorial presentation (35%)
  • Individual self-reflection (15%)
  • Exam (50%)

Lecturer/contact person

Dr Pilar Lopez Cantero

Course dates and enrolment

Futuring the Earth is an optional course within the minor program. It takes place in semester 1/Fall semester (blocks 1 and 2). Please see the FAQs for more information on the enrolment process.

Maximum number of students: 35

Communicating Sustainability (840901-B-6). 6 ECTS

Course overview

In this course, students engage with the choices and responsibilities companies and organizations face when it comes to sustainable entrepreneurship and communicating a sustainable brand image, i.e. in how companies act and how they portray themselves in terms of sustainability. Drawing from Issue Arena theory and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) theories, they analyse both real behaviour (how do corporate strategies align with sustainability goals?) and branding of companies (what role does sustainability play in the image of brands and companies?), with a particular interest in risks and opportunities, for example in situations where (perceived) mismatches occur, e.g., in cases of greenwashing.
 

The course also looks at measures that are available for companies and organizations to stimulate sustainable choices by their employees and by their customers. Drawing on findings from business economics, marketing- and communication studies, behavioural and environmental psychology, students explore how companies and organizations may stimulate more sustainable behaviour through their internal and external communication.
 

In sum, this course focusses on how sustainable intentions are communicated at the level of organizations and companies, and how they can affect and influence people’s behaviour, with the goal of promoting more sustainable choices.

Course Learning Goals

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Define core concepts and describe current theories in Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable entrepreneurship with a focus on communicating sustainability.
  • Analyze companies’ and organizations’ sustainability strategies and policies and critically contrast those with their communicative behavior, both in internal communication and external communication, i.e., public relations, branding and marketing.
  • Design, execute, and evaluate small-scale empirical case studies aimed at promoting sustainable behavior by employees and/or customers through manipulating corporate communication.
  • Develop a sustainability communication plan based on the empirical case study.

Assessment

  • Assignment (small groups) 40%
  • Exam 60%

Both the exam and the overall average grade must be a pass to pass this course.

Lecturer/contact person

Dr Pytrik Schafraad (contact person Dr Maria Mos)

Course dates and enrolment

Communicating Sustainability is an optional course within the minor program. It takes place in the second half of semester 1/Fall semester (block 2). Please see the FAQs for more information on the enrolment process.

Maximum number of students: 60

Navigating Sustainability (840907-B-6). 6 ECTS

Course overview

Sustainability challenges often require cooperation between a great variety of parties on the local, national, and international levels. However, reaching collective sustainability agreements is complex and requires effective navigation of conflicts between stakeholders. The Navigating Sustainability course offers a number of international case studies that exemplify sustainability-related negotiations to understand the intricacies of cooperation and conflicts between multiple stakeholders. In this course, the students will connect theoretical knowledge with a more practical approach.

The case studies will be presented by international experts in either a specific case or in a more general, related field such as human geography, international law, political science, or climate science. Through in-class in-depth discussions under the guidance of these experts, students will discover the many challenges involved in (international) sustainability cooperation and obtain a broad perspective on the topic. In addition, this course features a small set of debating sessions, where students take up the role of stakeholders (e.g., NGOs, Corporations, and Government/Regulators) and aim to resolve conflicts and reach sustainable agreements.

Course Learning Goals

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Examine and explain the complexity of negotiations in achieving sustainable agreements.
  • Investigate best practices with international case studies showing sustainability-related cooperation or conflict.
  • Critically assess the role of different stakeholders and institutions in decision-making and policy negotiations.
  • Identify the levers for action to implement sustainability solutions.
  • Balance the interests of different parties towards collective sustainability agreements and effective navigation of conflicts.

Assessment

  • Individual Reflection Paper (60%)
  • Group Project including oral presentation (40%)

Lecturer/contact person

Dr Vikas Lakhani

Course dates and enrolment

Navigating Sustainability is an optional course within the minor program. It takes place in semester 1/Fall semester (blocks 1 and 2). Please see the FAQs for more information on the enrolment process.

Maximum number of students: 30

Sustainability Think Tank (840908-B-6). 6 ECTS

Course overview

It is argued that although many sustainability challenges are global in nature, change and action towards sustainability happens at the local scale – in communities, villages, and cities. In this course students will use Action Research (a collaborative, solutions-based research approach) to address real-life, local sustainability challenges. Working in interdisciplinary student groups, students will engage with external stakeholders to unpack sustainability challenges, and co-produce visions for a more sustainable future. Students will receive step-by-step guidance on conducting a research project as well as skills-based workshops, which will also help prepare them for thesis-writing and research master’s degrees.

Course Learning Goals

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the rationale behind Action Research as a tool for transformations to sustainability.
  • Select appropriate Action Research elements (aims, methods, stakeholders etc.) and use them to investigate real-life sustainability challenges.
  • Collaborate effectively with students from different study backgrounds, chosen research participants, and different stakeholders.
  • Suggest potential pathways to tackling local sustainability challenges that resonate with stakeholders.
  • Design and deliver engaging ways of sharing findings to academic and non-academic audiences.
  • Critically reflect on Action Research methodology, their research process, and the research outcomes.

Assessment

  • Group research proposal (10%)
  • Final presentation and report (45%)
  • Individual paper (45%) 

Lecturer/contact person

Dr Kate Massarella

Course dates and enrolment

Sustainability Think Tank is an optional course within the minor program. It takes place in semester 1/Fall semester (blocks 1 and 2). Please see the FAQs for more information on the enrolment process.

Maximum number of students: 30

Frequently asked questions about the minor Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Approach

I am a bachelor student at UCT/TSHD/TSB/TLS/TiSEM/TST. Can I take the minor?

The minor is open to all third-year Tilburg University students who need to take a minor as part of their curriculum. For specific questions about whether you can take these courses as a minor in your curriculum please ask your study advisor or exam committee to see if it is possible.

All courses will be taught and assessed in English, so a high level of academic English is required to take the course.

I am an exchange student coming to Tilburg University for a semester. Can I take the minor?

Yes, it is possible. Please contact the Study Abroad and Exchange Office at studyabroad@tilburguniversity.edu to discuss this further.  

I only need to take 18 ECTS/24 ECTS for my minor. Is it possible for me to take the minor without taking all the courses?

Yes, it is possible. Students will take the Complexities of Sustainability course plus at least two other courses.

How and when can I register for the minor?

Pre-registration for the minor and its courses is recommended to secure your place. Pre-registration for the 2024/25 program can be done via this form. The deadline for pre-registration is Friday July 26, 2024. You will receive confirmation of your registration shortly after the deadline. Once registered you will be able to manage your registration in OSIRIS.

Registration for the remaining spaces will be possible directly through OSIRIS in August 2024. More information about registration for courses can be found on  this webpage. 

Please note that there will be a cap on the number of students from each school/bachelor program in order to ensure the minor is interdisciplinary in relation to students as well as teaching. 

When will the courses take place?

All courses are scheduled for semester 1/Fall Semester in 2024-2025 and are full semester courses. At the end of the summer holidays the schedule will be known and can be found here.

Do I need prior knowledge to do this minor?

No. This minor is specifically designed as an introduction to sustainability inquiry. This is why we would like all students to take the Complexities of Sustainability course, as it will introduce students to core sustainability concepts and challenges and explore them from different disciplinary perspectives.

All courses will be taught and assessed in English, so a high level of academic English is required to take the course.

Contact

Do you have further questions about the minor Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Approach? Please contact Dr. Kate Massarella, minor coordinator at k.h.massarella@tilburguniversity.edu.