Development of a Sustainable Engineering Masters Program: The Path Taken and Lessons Learned

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Beginning in 2002, the Kate Gleason College of Engineering (KGCOE) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began implementing a series of sustainability themed curricular innovations. These innovations began in 2002 with the introduction of courses focused on sustainability, followed with the implementation of a programmatic minor in Sustainable Product Development in 2006, and culminated with the development and registration of the nation’s first Sustainable Engineering graduate programs in 2008. This article describes the genesis and maturation of KGCOE’s Sustainable Engineering graduate programs. The article reviews the early work that set the stage for the development of the new degree programs in Sustainable Engineering, and details the establishment and workings of the multidisciplinary faculty team that was charged with structuring the programs and marshalling them through the RIT curricular approval process and the New York State program registration process. These award winning programs have now been in place for over 7 years, and during that period they have evolved. This article describes the lessons learned along the program development path and highlights important program outcomes. Particular attention and reflection is devoted to the unusual demographic characteristics of the graduate student body that constitutes the programs. A comparison between the populations of these programs in sustainable engineering and those from other engineering departments in the same college is presented. The results indicate that the Sustainable Engineering programs are attracting a more diverse pool of students (with respect to academic preparation, national origin, and gender) than other KGCOE graduate programs.


© 2015 The authors

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Publication Title

Proceedings of EESD15 : The 7th Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development

Published Citation

Thorn, B.K, Carrano, A.L. Development of a sustainable engineering master’s program: the path taken and lessons learned. 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD 2015). Vancouver, Canada. June 9-12, 2015.