Sustainable Systems

Depletion of fossil fuels. Global warming. Water scarcity. Loss of biodiversity. Modern environmental challenges like these impact both developed and developing nations, and they are compounded by increasing consumption pressures and a growing global population. The world needs innovative leaders who can help solve these complex problems and address basic human needs such as mobility, shelter, water, food, and communication, in a more sustainable manner.

SEAS Sustainable Systems graduates are equipped to become these leaders through an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on systems thinking, as well as a sound understanding of ecological principles, the capabilities of technology, and the mechanisms that reshape economic and social progress. The curriculum draws on courses from SEAS and across the University of Michigan, many of which are cross-listed with the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering for a truly collaborative educational experience. The Sustainable Systems program is led by a diverse team of faculty with expertise ranging from urban infrastructure ecology to renewable electricity and corporate environmental strategy. Much of our research is done in tandem with the Center for Sustainable Systems and the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise.

“The best thing about the Sustainable Systems track is the flexibility to study the specific system you are most passionate about changing. For me, that is the energy sector. At SEAS, I am taking classes in multiple disciplines across campus, giving me a well-rounded understanding on technical, financial, and policy levels.”

—Shreyas Vangala, Sustainable Systems student track leader


You will gain expertise in systems-analysis techniques with a wide range of applications, including renewable energy, water infrastructure, green construction, sustainable mobility, and food systems. In your coursework, you will examine sustainability by studying global and regional environmental impacts, materials and energy flows, social values and equity issues, consumption patterns, and key policy mechanisms.

You also will develop the critical skills of systems thinking and systems-dynamics modeling and apply them to the challenges of global environmental and social change. Lifecycle assessment, risk analysis, multi-objective analysis and optimization, environmental economics, energy analysis, design for environment, carbon-emissions modeling, and spatial analysis are among the analytical tools and skills taught.

Management training in environmental strategy, decision analysis, organizational change and conflict resolution, ethics, stakeholder engagement, and scenario analysis round out your skill set. For example, you will deepen your understanding of institutions that govern energy use and explore ways in which government and industry policy have succeeded - or failed - in order to transform energy systems and influence consumer choices, and ultimately to reduce carbon emissions. 

Course Sampling



Sustainability Systems graduates pursue careers in the government, private, and nonprofit sectors, often obtaining leadership roles in engineering and product development, management consulting, and strategic and sustainability planning. They work toward systems improvements including transportation efficiency, green buildings, supply chain management, public utility analysis and regulation, and renewable energy. The following are select employers of Sustainable Systems graduates:

 Top Sustainable Systems employers

For more information on Sustainable Systems, contact