Sustainability Leadership Semester


This 13-week fall semester program is for students who want to explore many ways to contribute to sustainable, resilient futures for our communities in the midst of our rapidly changing planet. It is ideal for those who want to learn skills and mindsets that they can use as they become leaders in their careers and everyday lives.

In the SLS, we explore the sustainability of places in multiple ways, canoeing 70 miles from the top of the watershed at Merry Lea to Lake Michigan, hiking trails, biking, and interacting with a variety of community members and sustainability professionals. We also read widely, connecting with insights and ideas from diverse disciplines and perspectives.

Through the SLS, students dig into personal leadership development, clarifying their unique strengths and working together with others to catalyze growth. Students also consider how to influence the holistic health of communities as they experience many aspects of the systems our society relies on. We discover how to use our values and ethics to impact climate change, ecological degradation, and other sustainability challenges the earth is facing.

The SLS is an integral part of the Sustainability Studies major and the Sustainability minor, but is open to all majors and students from other colleges seeking to transfer credits or gain a certificate.


Watch Video

Watch this video to learn more about the Sustainability Leadership Semester.

Program Distinctives

SLS has a strong focus on building and maintaining healthy communities.

  • Work closely with a team of faculty and a small cohort of other passionate students, who come from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise.
  • Interact and work with community members to wrestle with the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the issues and possible steps toward positive change.
  • This learning community is a crucial component of the SLS, because the hope of a sustainable future lies in our ability to communicate and cooperate with all stakeholders in a given issue. Our aim is to equip students with that ability.

Live and learn about sustainability in the field.

  • Live in Indiana’s first LEED Platinum set of buildings: Rieth Village. Two cottages are available with all the sustainable features one could want: solar panels, solar water heaters, local timber, pervious pavement, ground-source heating and cooling, a wind turbine, an adjacent kitchen garden…and the list goes on.
  • Rieth Village is situated on the northeast corner of the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center’s 1,189-acre property: your outdoor classroom and backyard.
  • Students have full access to 8 miles of hiking trails through a mosaic of restored native ecosystems, four bodies of water for boating, and ample space for personal recreation or meditation.

If you have any doubts about how SLS fits into your personal academic plan, please talk with your academic advisor or contact Joel Pontius for more information.

Joel Pontius

Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Environmental Education

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Joel Pontius

Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Environmental Education
Director of Sustainability Leadership Semester

Jonathon Schramm

Associate Professor of Sustainability and Environmental Education
SST Tanzania: SP

Dave Ostergren

Director of Graduate Program in Environmental Education