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Environmental/Sustainability Literacy Course Requirement

Year Initiated: 2020-2021

One of the goals of Duke’s Mode of Inquiry requirements is to “ensure that undergraduates are exposed to important intellectual themes that transcend individual disciplines and that students need to know about if they are to be well prepared for life in the 21st Century”. 


As such, we are working to add a Mode of Inquiry requirement to both Trinity College of Arts and Science and, eventually, the Pratt School of Engineering, so that students have the opportunity and motivation to gain knowledge needed to succeed in a world rapidly changing due to climate change. 

Environmental management and degradation, touch on all disciplines including law, economics, medicine, marketing, and engineering. A steady environmental literacy today is not only important for navigating our changing world, but also provides students a competitive advantage in many industries. Duke as an institution provides society service in teaching and preparing the next generation of leaders in best practices and skills necessary for success and global impact. The curriculum must reflect the needs of the time.

We are requesting that the university add an additional Mode of Inquiry course requirement to the graduation requirements of all Duke Trinity undergraduate students. We believe that a requirement of this nature will NOT add any additional courses to a student’s graduation load and will benefit both students and faculty at Duke. An environmental/sustainability literacy requirement fits within the standards set by Duke to a) best prepare its student to enter the world as productive and well-educated young people with the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge set necessary for a life in the 21st century, and b) enhance the quality of education, in-class discussion, and academic engagement opportunities, both in the Nicholas School of the Environment and other departments. And as a top trend-setting institution in the way of academic excellence and sustainability, a requirement like this, which has not been widely added to undergraduate curricula in many institutions in the United States, would set Duke apart from other institutions of the same or similar standing. 



  • To create an environmentally literate student body at Duke University by harnessing the support of undergraduate students, administrators, faculty, and other stakeholders. 

  • To add a Mode of Inquiry (MOI) to the Trinity School of Arts and Science that requires students to take at least one course during their time as an undergraduate at Duke related to the environment and/or sustainability

  • To increase the number of students at the university who are involved in environmentalism or academia related to environmental science, policy, justice, and sustainability. 

  • To modify the curriculum at the Trinity School of Arts and Science, and eventually the Pratt School of Engineering, to reflect the shift in focus in the political climate towards topics relating to environmentalism and sustainability. 

  • To contribute to a wide-scale curriculum change at Duke overall by collaborating with groups vying for the inclusion of social justice curriculum at Duke. 


Sept-Dec 2020 - Finalize our proposal and petition and take it to major Duke stakeholders in the Nicholas School, student organizations, the Energy Initiative, the Campus Sustainability Committee and Sustainable Duke for review and feedback. 

Jan-Apr 2021 - Provide the proposal and petition to these stakeholders as well as Duke faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees, and students for approval and support from as many Duke community members as possible. 

Sept 2021 - Take the final proposal and letters/statements of support to the curriculum and course committees for approval and eventual implementation. 

Who's Expressed Interest:

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Campus Sustainability Committee |

Sub-Committee on Education


Some members of the Board of Trustees |

Climate Change and Sustainability Task Force

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UEU Board Members

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