Sustainability and Environmental Studies


Sustainability refers to the capacity of a society to meet current needs without degrading the ecological, social, and economic systems on which the society will rely for meeting future needs. Established in 1999, the Sustainability and Environmental Studies (SENS) Program is an important part of Berea College’s efforts to develop a sustainable campus.

SENS is an interdisciplinary academic program centered on ecological design – the purposeful integration of human actions with the structures and functions of the natural world. The goal of SENS is to help its students acquire the knowledge and practical skills necessary to prosper in a world that faces unprecedented threats to environmental and economic well-being, while contributing to the development of resilient communities and a sustainable society.

SENS courses emphasize experiential learning, and the inclusion administratively of SENS in Division II facilitates close collaboration with other “hands on” programs including Agriculture and Natural Resources, Technology and Industrial Arts, Business, and Computer Science. Serving as a living laboratory for teaching and research, the SENS House Complex – 1.5 acres within the Berea College Ecovillage – includes an ecologically-designed residence (SENS House), an aquaponics facility, the Natural Building Shelter, edible landscapes, and a permaculture food forest. The nine students in the SENS labor program operate and maintain these facilities and play a key role in their use for teaching and outreach.

Other College assets including the College farm and gardens, and the 8000 acres of College forest with several reservoirs, ponds, and streams, serve as ecological laboratories for SENS classes, internships and projects. The landscapes and human communities of Appalachia offer endless opportunities for student engagement in efforts to increase community resilience, and the on-going “greening” of the Berea campus provides another set of experiential learning opportunities.

Faculty from a variety of disciplines in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences teach courses that allow students to pursue their particular interests within the broad field of Sustainability and Environmental Studies. On- and off-campus internships move students out of the classroom and into the real world of complex problems and solutions. Ultimately, the SENS Program attempts to convey to all members of the campus community the immediacy and magnitude of the ecological, economic, and social threats facing our society, and to engage them as active participants in the transition of our campus, community and society to sustainability.

For information about an independent SENS major proposal contact Nancy Gift,, (859)-985-3362.

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