Delaney Buskard and Sabrina Sampson, UVA Office for Sustainability Student Employees (Promotions Team)

Looking to fill up your enrollment shopping cart? UVA offers sustainability classes in a variety of schools and departments! Here’s 10 classes to check out for the Spring 2021 semester:

1. PLAN 3860 (10169): Cities and Nature, Professor Beatley (TuTh 2-3:15 PM)

This urban planning course through the School of Architecture explores the importance of human contact with nature in modern life. Students examine evidence for nature’s importance and how cities can creatively plan for and design within nature, fostering meaningful daily connections with the natural world. 

Among other courses, Professor Tim Beatley also teaches PLAN 1010: Introduction to Urban and Environmental Planning and much of his work focuses on sustainable and resilient communities. This August, Professor Beatley was awarded funding from UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute to study the effects of COVID-19 on the environment and access to nature as a response to the pandemic. He has also recently co-authored or authored two new publications: Biophilic Cities for an Urban Century: Why Nature is Essential for the Success of Cities and The Bird-Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitats.

A popsicle cart with a rainbow umbrella accents a brick walkway with a canal on the right and the buildings of downtown Richmond in the background. The sky is a clear blue and there are trees throughout the landscape.
The Canal Walk in Richmond, VA

2. HIST 2152 (20408): Climate History, Professor Gratien (TuTh 2-3:15 PM)

Consider taking this course if you are looking to answer the “how” and “why” of our environmental movement. This course, taught by Professor Christopher Gratien, is split into three parts: how our understanding of the environment has developed, how historical climatology can answer our modern questions, and the history of the environmental movement as a political issue. Don’t worry if you are not a traditional history buff! This course approaches climate change from various perspectives, giving you an interdisciplinary knowledge base to move forward with. 

3. RELG 2210 (12778): Religion, Ethics, & Global Environment, Professor Jenkins (TBA - Online Asynchronous) 

Religion, Ethics, & Global Environment, abbreviated as “REE” by many, is taught by the revered Professor Willis Jenkins. He is one of the top experts on the topic of ethical, environmental concerns. The course is broken down into three sections: Imagining Natures, Ethical Frameworks, and Religious Traditions & Spiritual Ecologies. Each section culminates in a short paper that asked you to apply what you had learned. Additionally, each week, there are online discussion posts due on Fridays. These usually include a new reading and asked you to summarize and synthesize what you had learned in the last week. This class also serves as a core requirement for the Global Sustainability program. 

Delaney took this course in the spring of her second year and remembers learning so much about why humans and societies are the way that they are. She had never taken any religion classes before, and as someone who isn’t particularly religious, she was very intrigued by this new perspective. Though there was online discussion, this class was quite large and definitely would have benefited from deep in-person discussions about ethics and morals. Much of this class also ties in well with GSVS 2150: Global Sustainability, which is taught in the fall semesters by Professor Phoebe Crisman. 

Book cover of book titled "Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum" in a red banner by William F. Ruddiman (written in purple). The subtitle is "How Humans Took Control of Climate," written in various colors. It was published by Princeton Science Library as noted by the black banner on the side.
"Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum," the book Delaney chose to read when she took ANTH 3340.

4. ANTH 3340 (19386): Ecology and Society: An Introduction to the New Ecological Anthropology, Professor Damon (MonWeFri 10-10:50 AM)

In the spring of her second year, Delaney took this course since it seemed interesting and would satisfy a Forum and her second writing requirement. This course is also an environment elective for the Global Sustainability program. Professor Frederick Damon is one of those professors who you can tell is very passionate about the topics he teaches. The goal of this course is to learn about how human societies evolved and how they have impacted our planet. Being a 3000-level course, Delaney thought it was very heavy on reading and writing but it definitely improved her reading comprehension and writing skills. 

One aspect of this course that really sticks out fondly in Delaney’s memory were the weekly book reports. At the beginning of the semester, each student chooses a book from Professor Damon’s list to read and report on throughout the semester. Each Friday, one student summarizes their chapter and provides analysis. At first this was intimidating, but looking back it was an amazing experience because every book was extremely interesting and brought many diverse perspectives to environmental ecology and justice. Even though each of the books had been summarized each week, after the semester was over Delaney read three more from that list for some summer reading. 

5. EVSC 4995 (19125): Air Pollution Environmental Justice, Professor Pusede (TuTh 9:30-10:45 AM)

This new course in Environmental Sciences will build off of Professor Sally Pusede’s Air Pollution class (EVSC 4490), which involves the science of how air can become polluted with airborne particulates. EVSC 4995 will reframe the issues of atmospheric pollution through the lens of environmental equity, while still reviewing the basics of atmospheric chemistry and physics. This topic will be incredibly important moving forward, as it will teach us how to amplify the voices of the most affected and underrepresented communities by giving us the background knowledge to speak out. Delaney has this class in her shopping cart currently, so you may see her Zoom window in just a few months! For other EVSC courses, check out the department’s schedule of upcoming courses.

6. AAS 2559 (19388): Intro to Race, Class, Politics & the Environment, Professor Fields (We 3:30-6 PM)

This new course in the department of African and African American Studies examines environmental policy, quality, and justice in the United States at federal, state, and local levels. After examining the foundational concepts like justice, race, class, and the history of the environmental justice movement, Professor Kimberly Fields will then present a series of environmental (in)justice case studies in the United States that explore these topics. 

Understanding that all people have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment with sufficient natural resources, students will consider the following questions: How is it that certain populations of people do not have access to basic resources, or are systematically burdened with pollution or environmental hazards to a greater extent than other populations? What are the social relations of production and power that contribute to these outcomes? What can be done?

Professor Fields’ research centers around race, inequality, and environmental policy and justice. This fall she taught intermediate seminars in Race, Class, Politics, & the Environment and Environmental Justice in the Mid-Atlantic, a course Sabrina really enjoyed and found valuable.

7. ARTH 3863 (19500): East Asian Art, Landscape & Ecology, Professor Wong (TuTh 9:30-10:45 AM)

If you’re looking for an arts and humanities perspective to sustainability and environmental thought, consider taking this Art History course. Professor Dorothy Wong introduces ways of thinking about nature according to several East Asian traditions: Daoism, Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Students explore art forms that embody these traditions' and cultures’ views on nature, critically viewing a variety of nature-themed artworks ranging from landscape paintings to religious architecture and gardens. Students also explore how these ideas and representations of nature can contribute to the current discourse on environmental ethics and sustainability. 

In fall 2019 when it was first offered, Sabrina took this class as an environment elective for the Global Sustainability major. It was her first art history class and it was an engaging and visual new way to think about many of the lessons she has learned in the other classes for her major. Though it might not be an option this spring, Sabrina really enjoyed how Professor Wong took this small class on visits to the Fralin Museum and the Japanese garden and tea house at Morven.

An ink landscape painting by Sesshu Toyo titled "View of Ama-no-Hashidate' painted cerca 1502–1505, currently located in the Kyoto National Museum. The horizontal landscape painting shows a scenic view of mountains, water, and a sandbar in Japan. The tall mountains in the background are enveloped in mist.
Sesshū Tōyō. View of Ama-no-Hashidate (c. 1502–1505), Kyoto National Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

8. SOC 3700 (11947): Health and Society, Professor Skubby (TuTh 12:30-1:20 PM + discussion)

Particularly relevant given the current coronavirus pandemic, Professor David Skubby’s sociology class offers an exploration of the social dimensions of health and illness and how characteristics like race, gender, class, age, and sexuality affect health experiences and discourse. An equity elective for Sabrina’s Global Sustainability major, this course also provides an introduction to public health topics and an overview of different healthcare systems. 

This course gave Sabrina a more complete understanding of health disparities in the United States and globally, reflecting the trends we have seen in the current pandemic’s infection and fatality rates. If this class doesn’t fit into your spring 2021 schedule, don’t worry! Professor Skubby typically teaches this class every semester. 

9. COMM 4822 (14678): Investing in a Sustainable Future, Professor White (Mo 2-4:45 PM)

If you are a fourth year student and particularly interested in leading us into a more sustainable future, this may be the perfect course for you. This class emphasizes team work to complete case analyses of real-world investment projects. Groups will work together to consider sustainability best practices, practicality, and economic feasibility and performance. Delaney included this course because she attended a lecture by Professor Mark White and was very empowered by his passion for sustainable development. This course also counts as an Economy and Policy elective for the Global Sustainability program. McIntire also offers many other sustainability-related courses, but some are restricted to those in the school. 

The sun shines through the glass ceiling of the Green Solutions House hotel in Denmark. Small solar panels that look like dark squares create a grid on some of the glass panels.
Small photovoltaic solar panels pattern the glass ceiling of the Green Solutions House hotel in Rønne, Denmark.

10. GSVS 2050 (15889): Sustainable Energy Systems, Professor Groves (TuTh 2-3:15 PM)

Cross-listed in the Engineering school as ENGR 2050, this Global Sustainability course provides a cross-disciplinary look at the energy consumption that fuels human activity. Professor James Groves covers topics such as electricity science, emerging sustainable innovations, and governance and culture. 


The course culminates in a personalized learning project that allows students to either explore a sustainable energy challenge or identify an aspect of sustainable energy systems where you want to become active now. For Sabrina’s final project in spring 2019, Sabrina chose the second option, engaging with President Ryan’s Ours to Shape campaign that shaped the UVA vision and strategic plan. She wrote a short essay stressing the importance of UVA’s pursuit of sustainable energy and created a template for others to write effective comments.This class is a great option for students who want an accessible but comprehensive understanding of energy systems. 

The photo on the left, albeit not taken during the class directly, is just one amazing example of how energy systems can be implemented.