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UH Mānoa Interdisciplinary Studies program enables interested and qualified students to arrange interdisciplinary “major equivalents” for B.A. degrees.

University of Hawaiʻi offers many world-class programs offering BA, MA, and  Doctoral degrees in sustainability-related areas of focus  across colleges such as: College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM);  College of Arts and Sciences;  Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani (College of Hawaiian Language)College of Natural Sciences;  College of Education;  College of Engineering;  College of Natural Sciences (NatSci);  College of Social Sciences;  College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR); Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge;  School of Architecture;  School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology: (SOEST);  William S. Richardson School of Law and more.

In addition, students can obtain a degree in sustainability through these new degree programs designed around teaching sustainability as a discipline to prepare students to become change-agents equipped with competencies which empower them to to work towards transformation of the socio-ecological systems upon which our societies depend.

Sustainability Degree Programs at University of Hawaiʻi

Sustainability degree programs are interdisciplinary and teach sustainability as an integrated concept, including its cultural, social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

The University of Hawaiʻi recognizes the need for inter and trans-disciplinary curricula that prepare a new generation for productive futures in the face of accelerating future trends. Future career pathways include sustainability professionals, resiliency officers, socioecological restoration practitioners, change agents to transform legacy systems, and perhaps even careers in fields that do not yet exist.

The University of Hawaiʻi currently offers three Sustainability-focused degree programs:

The courses required for the successful completion of these programs educate students about how different dimensions of sustainability relate to and support each other in theory and practice.

Accelerating Future Trends

  1. Planetary instability: The life support systems of our planet have been damaged as a result of human activities and are rapidly deteriorating according to many measures; the anticipated impacts of climate change to future generations are already being felt by many communities around the world.
  2. Computing power (Moore’s law): The Information Age demands the ability to rapidly process copious amounts of information whilst simultaneously being able to discern the quality of different information sources, and the ability to know how to find the right information you need to solve any given problem.
  3. Social change: The two trends mentioned above combine to create an accelerated pace of change in our societies. Climate change has already caused billions of dollars in damages from extreme weather events, and in areas such as Syria have even created resource shortages that have led to conflict; meanwhile technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) raise significant moral, ethical and existential questions that civil society may not be equipped to respond to in the timeframe that these technologies advance.

Sustainability degree programs are designed to equip you with new ways of thinking, being and doing to navigate uncertain futures ahead, and take empowered action to help solve some of the many pressing challenges facing future generations.

Core Competencies of Sustainability Degree Programs

As a discipline, sustainability educators seek to equip students with core sustainability competencies that will better support graduates to navigate their futures successfully. Wiek, Withycombe, and Redman (2011) synthesized essential sustainability learning competencies emergent from international dialogue on Education for Sustainability:

  • Systems-thinking competence: the ability to collectively analyze complex systems across different domains (society, environment, economy, etc.) and across different scales (local to global), thereby considering cascading effects, inertia, feedback loops and other systemic features related to sustainability issues and sustainability problem-solving frameworks.
  • Interpersonal competence: the ability to motivate, enable, and facilitate collaborative and participatory sustainability research and problem solving.
  • Strategic competence: the ability to collectively design and implement interventions, transitions, and transformative governance strategies toward sustainability.
  • Anticipatory competence (futures-thinking): the ability to collectively analyze, evaluate, and craft rich ‘‘pictures’’ of the future related to sustainability issues and sustainability problem-solving frameworks.
  • Normative competence (values-thinking): the ability to collectively map, specify, apply, reconcile, and negotiate sustainability values, principles, goals, and targets.

The sustainability learning competencies articulated above relate to the competencies displayed by the Master Navigators of Polynesia and their abilities to:

  • Visualize an unseen destination, formulate & implement a strategy to get there.
  • Navigate a rapidly shifting landscape to a destination you may have never been to.
  • Inspire, motivate and lead a team to accomplish an audacious and highly challenging goal.
  • Rapidly process copious amounts of data points and continuously adjust your strategy as new data is received.
Last modified: June 15, 2020
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