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Sustainable Academics

liberal arts education at Morris is an ideal foundation for a career—especially one in sustainability.

We see our liberal arts mission as a natural fit with sustainability. The qualities of a liberal arts education are precisely the qualities that will help solve the sustainability challenges ahead:

  • Critical thinking
  • Broad knowledge base
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity

Morris: a renewable, sustainable education

Sustainability is rooted in the idea of balance and a thoughtful approach to problems—an activity must not exhaust the resources it needs to continue; a solution to a problem must consider its full impacts.

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At Morris the goal is to study widely, work across disciplines, and step back to look at the big picture.

“I didn’t have a real understanding of what liberal arts education meant until my classes were in motion. You start to see themes across different fields with various professors. Even biology and management are related. Your experience at Morris encourages you to pull from everything you’ve learned and all facets of life.”


In an increasingly complex world confronting problems that will require broad-based knowledge and flexible solutions, a liberal arts education is well-suited to someone interested in a career in sustainability, or for anyone who wants to be conversant in the issues facing our planet.

“I’ve learned the world is not black and white—there’s a lot of gray. You must listen to other arguments and accept people even when you disagree with their opinions.”


Sustainability is an important part of our academic offerings and is integrated into most of our disciplines.

  • There are two majors specifically devoted to the environment, Environmental Science and Environmental Studies, which cover policy, economics and cultural issues.
  • We build climate and carbon literacy into many of our courses and co-curricular activities. We also make ample use of the renewable energy resources on campus.
  • More than three-fourths of our disciplines have a sustainability-related course.
  • Students perform internships with outreach organizations like the Center for Small Towns to assist with community-based sustainability initiatives.
  • Three of our chemistry faculty members received the 2012 American Chemical Society Award for incorporating Sustainability into Chemistry 
  • The Green Energy tour plays a role in some courses, introducing both scientific and policy issues to students.
  • Faculty members regularly include students in technological research related to renewable energy and the environment.
  • Environmental policy issues are addressed in courses across varied disciplines.
  • Students take advantage of our renewable energy projects on campus, learning more about their operations and conducting independent research.
  • In the area of biomass gasification, our courses are training the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, and policy makers in this emerging sector.

In addition to our curricula, Morris faculty members are pursuing research and projects across the spectrum of sustainability issues:

  • Arne Kildegaard (economics/management) has worked with students to study various economic impacts of biomass, different renewable energy systems, and wind ownership structures.
  • Ted Pappenfus (chemistry) has worked with thin-films for solar cells.
  • Nancy Carpenter (chemistry) has performed algal research.
  • Timna Wyckoff (biochemistry) performed research on differences in bacterial resistance between conventional and organic dairy herds.
  • Donna Chollett (anthropology) worked with a student to perform a community-food assessment for a region.
  • Jess Larson (studio art) instituted Fashion Trashion, an upcycle fashion show.
  • Ray Schultz (theatre arts) and Siobhan Bremer (theatre arts) have directed environmental theater productions on campus, including As You Like It, featuring recycled costumes and props, and Sophie and the Adventures of Ice Island, a play with environmental themes for children.
  • Cyrus Bina (economics/management) has researched and written widely on the geopolitics of oil.

Morris has a strong commitment to leadership in sustainable academics, and we continue to develop and expand our work and offerings in this important field.