With sustainability becoming a growing field, the University of Virginia is creating future sustainability leaders to work in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Our students are able to use their academic backgrounds, extracurricular passions, critical thinking skills and knowledge of sustainability trends to prepare for their careers. 

Students represent a variety of academic programs and offer different perspectives to issues related to sustainability. Students learn to think critically and approach real-world problems with a strong liberal arts education, supported by faculty from departments across the University. These programs include the nationally renowned McIntire School of Commerce, Global Environments and Sustainability program, Environmental Thought and Practice program, and the Department of Environmental Sciences. 

Additionally, UVA has Sustainability Advocates, a peer to peer student network that instills knowledge, empowers students, and creates awareness of the impact of daily decisions to create a sustainable community on Grounds. 

Jump ahead to: 

Student Demographics

Undergraduate Enrollment by Major (2015)

  • Architecture- 246
  • Urban and Environmental Planning- 47
  • Environmental Sciences- 181
  • Commerce-688
  • Environmental Thought and Practice- 25
  • Global Studies- 160 
  • Biology- 604

Students Graduating by Major (2012-13)

  • Architecture-71
  • Urban and Environmental Planning- 17
  • Environmental Sciences- 76
  • Commerce- 344
  • Biology- 282

Rankings and Data Points

The University of Virginia prides itself for being among the nation's most elite colleges and universities. Both the university and its schools are nationally ranked, and students in schools related to the sustainability industry achieve 3.0 GPAs or higher. 

U.S. News and World Report Rankings

  • No. 2 public university in the country
  • No. 24 among the 310 "national universities"
  • No. 5 public university best value
  • No. 25 most innovative school
  • No. 1 among public universities in first-year retention and 2015 graduation rate 

School Rankings

  • The McIntire School of Commerce ranks No. 3 among public institutions and No. 6 overall

Average GPA by School (2015)

  • Architecture- 3.388 (309 students) 
  • Arts and Sciences- 3.296 (10,291 students)
  • Commerce- 3.64 (696 students)



The Architecture pre-professional program focuses on architecture as the critical step towards a high level architectural practice, but also as the holistic education that prepares students for intellectual and ethical success in any possible direction of his or her professional life. With the Bachelor of Science Architecture, graduates receive advance placement in the professional Masters degree program, a typical 4+2 years education sequence.

The Bachelor of Architecture program attracts a diverse range of students with a wide range of interests that are bound together by an overriding desire to consider and construct environments of enduring value. Two different concentrations are offered: the Pre-Professional concentration and the Architectural Design-Thinking concentration.

Undergraduate students entering the School of Architecture share a common first year curriculum. Students take core courses in Architectural History, Architecture and Urban and Environmental Planning to provide a framework for the study of contemporary culture through observation, analysis, and considered design of our ongoing constructed occupation of the earth. The prime objective of the curricular core of second year is to provide a framework for the study of contemporary culture through observation, analysis, and considered design of our built environment.

During the third and fourth years, students begin to focus on their concentration. This may be either a pre-professional track, for students intent on pursuing a career as a practicing architect, or architectural design thinking, for students interested in interdisciplinary problem solving through exploratory design processes.

In addition, the minor in architecture provides students with an opportunity to develop a basic understanding of, and appreciation for architecture as an important component of culture and the built environment. The Minor in Architecture is offered to all students at the University. Students who complete the minor range from those whose major is in a related field and who wish to expand the boundaries of that endeavor, to those considering graduate study in architecture.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include: 

  • Introduction to Urban And Environmental Planning
  • World Contemporary Architecture
  • Building Matters
  • Foundations in Design Thinking 

Urban and Environmental Planning

The Urban and Environmental Planning degree is for students who want to serve communities facing social, economic, environmental, and cultural challenges by working with residents to:

  • Enhance a sustainable quality of life
  • Protect the natural environment
  • Preserve historic buildings and landscapes
  • Promote social justice for disadvantaged groups and
  • Deal effectively with population growth or decline

The curriculum integrates professional courses, both theoretical and technical, with a liberal arts education focused on understanding our cities and environments. In particular the Program introduces students to the theories of planning, methods of analysis, effective means of communication, planning processes, and creative strategies for implementation. Some key areas of study include:

  • Sustainable community development
  • Environmental impacts
  • Public and private costs of development
  • Neighborhood planning and community development

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include: 

  • Introduction to Environmental Planning 
  • Law, Land and the Environment
  • Neighborhoods, Community and Regions
  • Global Sustainability

Environmental Sciences

The Environmental Sciences major provides strong preparation for employment in natural resource fields through liberal arts science training; professional schools through a focus on the reasoning, analysis and management skills that involve natural processes; and graduate school in one of the disciplines through its in-depth training in theory and method. Students must complete at least 30 hours of graded coursework. The department also requires related work in math and science, including one semester of calculus and two semesters of college-level chemistry, biology, or physics with laboratories.

The Environmental Sciences minor is an excellent addition to any liberal arts, pre-professional, or science graduate-school oriented major.  The minor is suitable for students who are interested in legal, business, foreign policy, or other applications in natural resources, in writing and communicating about science, in analytical methods, or simply in understanding how their natural environment works.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include:  

  • Fundamentals of Ecology
  • Atmoshpere and Weather
  • Physical Hydrology


McIntire’s Integrated Core Experience, the curriculum required of all third-year students, is designed to offer a comprehensive skill-set that will enable them to meet the challenges of the business world. The two-semester program is composed of 12 credit hours in the fall and nine credit hours in the spring. In addition, McIntire offers five concentrations—functional or specialized areas of study—to its undergraduate students. Students must complete one concentration to fulfill degree requirements, but may complete two. These concentrations Include: 

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information Technology
  • Management
  • Marketing 

Students may also pursue one of six tracks that help prepare them to address the complex, multidisciplinary issues businesses face today. As opposed to concentrations, tracks allow students to focus on topics that cross and integrate disciplines, augmenting their concentration coursework.The tracks are: 

  • Advertising and Digital Media
  • Business Analytics
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Global Commerce
  • Quantitative Finance
  • Real Estate

Additionally, some highlighted courses from the curriculum include: 

  • Global Sustainability
  • Invest in Sustainable Future

Environmental Thought and Practice

The Environmental Thought and Practice (ETP) major teaches undergraduates to think about environmental issues within a broadly interdisciplinary framework. Faculty members from Anthropology, Chemistry, English, Environmental Sciences, History, Law, the McIntire School of Commerce, Politics, Religious Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and Urban and Environmental Planning are involved with the Environmental Thought and Practice program.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include:  

  • Introduction to Community and Environmental Planning
  • Global Sustainability
  • The Nature of Nature
  • Environmental Ethics and Sustainability

The ETP major also offers a Distinguished Majors Program to highly qualified students with a minimum 3.6 GPA in the major and 3.4 GPA overall to complete during their fourth year. DMPs take a year-long independent study with a faculty advisor, with the goal of producing a thesis that is evaluated by outside readers.

Global Studies

Global Studies is an interdisciplinary major composed of four concentrations or tracks. These concentrations include: 

  • Global Development Studies
  • Global Public Health
  • Envoronment and Sustainability
  • Security and Justice 

Global Development Studies is an undergraduate interdisciplinary program with a focus on social justice, sustainable economic development, public health, global interconnection, and public service. The Global Public Health  track explores the complex cultural, social, political, economic, and environmental conditions, factors and pathways that affect health, health care, access, and quality of life around the world. The Global Environments and Sustainability program prepares students to understand, innovate and lead efforts to sustainably transform the physical environment. The Security and Justice program allows students to explore both empirical and ethical aspects of conflict in the world today.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include: 

  • Global Sustainability
  • Global Cultural Studies 
  • Global Development, Theories and Case Studies 
  • Capstone Seminar


The Biology program provides intensive study in the biological sciences. Students are encouraged to consider independent research experiences as part of their major. Research opportunities are available in many faculty laboratories at the University of Virginia, and course credit may be obtained for work in laboratories within the Biology Department, in some research laboratories in other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences or in many research laboratories in the basic science departments in the Medical School.

Some highlighted courses from the curriculum include: 

  • Evolution and Ecology
  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Environmental Public Health
  • Management of Forest Ecosystems

The Department of Biology, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Sciences, also offers an opportunity for students to obtain the Bachelor of Arts or Science in Environmental Sciences with a specialization in Environmental and Biological Conservation. Candidates for the Specialization must fulfill all the requirements for the Environmental Sciences major with additional Specialization requirements.

Top Employers

After graduation, our students across these academic disciplines go into a wide variety of careers within the sustainability realm.

Some employers of our alums include: 

  • Apex Clean Energy
  • McKissack & McKissack
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • LMI Government Consulting 
  • Stratford Capital Group
  • Silka Environmental Services

Student Experiences

Contracted Independent Organizations (CIOs)

There are nearly 1,000 different student organizations at the University of Virginia. Among them include these organizations specifically focused on sustainability: 

  • Machik Chapter at University of Virginia- Machik is a national non-profit independent organization which supports initiatives that advance innovative and solution-oriented approaches to the challenges of community revitalization and sustainability for people on the Tibetan Plateau.Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not a part of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs.
  • Net Impact at the University of Virginia- Net Impact at the University of Virginia is an organization run by students whose mission is to inspire, educate, and provide individuals with the necessary tools to intertwine business and social impact, creating a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. It focuses on creating a positive change on grounds by raising awareness of sustainability careers, offering educational lectures on the importance of social impact in business settings, and giving individuals the opportunity to build relationships with local social impact business leaders.
  • School of Architecture EcoReps- Founded by School of Architecture Dean Tanzer in Spring 2012, the EcoReps have since participated in raising awareness of sustainability through projects, initiatives, and events as well as applying for grants. The EcoReps have four specialized focuses: Waste & Recycling, Paper & Printing, Student Engagement & Education, and Energy & Water.
  • Student Council Environmental Sustainability Committee- The Sustainability Committee of the Student Council seeks to build a community of students, staff, faculty, and alumni passionately concerned about sustainability and the world we inhabit, as well as to protect and improve the rights, opportunities, and quality of life for the community through environmental sustainability.
  • Green Grounds- Green Grounds is dedicated to educating and advocating for sustainable planning, design, implementation and operations on the grounds of the University of Virginia. Formed in 2004 by planning and architecture students to address green design at the University, the group sponsors projects that encompass a range of sustainable design ideas – from green roofs to energy use to transportation. Through each project, Green Grounds works with a diverse set of university stakeholders including administrators, staff, faculty, students and community members.
  • RideForward- RideForward is an interdisciplinary project initiated in 2008 at UVA to research, design and build alternative-fuel vehicles. The group is now expanding its efforts to include topics in renewable energy production and more efficient energy consumption. 


The following are examples of past research opporunities provided to students through the Center for Undergraduate Excellence:

  • Hereford Scholars Undergraduate Research Grants-Hereford Residential College offers research grants to Hereford students interested in pursuing a topic or project of academic research that speaks to at least one of Hereford’s core missions of community outreach, cultural diversity, and environmental sustainability. The goals are to enhance undergraduate student interactions with faculty, support students in pursuing individually devised initiatives, and to act to support and further the College’s core missions.
  • EPA Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships for Undergraduate Environmental Study- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships program, offers undergraduate fellowships for bachelor level students in environmental fields of study. 
  • Morven Summer Institute Scholarships- At the Morven Summer Institute, undergraduate and graduate students with interests in sustainability, design, food systems, and ecology will have the opportunity to escape traditional confines of the classroom while working on projects with real-world applications.  In conjunction with time spent in the classroom at Morven, this interdisciplinary program features guest speakers, field trips, active group discussions, and hands-on projects to ignite creative collaboration among students and faculty. 

Capabilities and Skills


Students are confronted with complexity from the very first moment, introduced to methodologies to understand and transform creatively complex realities. Innovation is the final aspiration of any intellectual endeavor at any step of the degree. Innovation requires creativity, technical knowledge, historic culture, cross boundaries abilities and awareness. Research is essential to reach innovation, and in the architecture field, research is developed through design and speculation, through the imagination and development of new scenarios and solutions for the new pressing challenges that our society faces now and will face increasingly in the future.

Urban and Environmental Planning

Upon completion of the Urban and Environmental Plainning program, students will have knowledge in ten key areas: 

  1. The link between urban and environmental dimensions of planning
  2. The concept of sustainability
  3. Approaches to citizen engagement;
  4. The implications of global climate change
  5. Affordable housing
  6. Ethical dimensions of planning
  7. Tools such as the comprehensive plan and zoning
  8. Skills for planning practice
  9. Sources of planning data
  10. The integration of theory and practice

Environmental Sciences

Students who complete the Environmental Sciences program will have gained knowledge in the areas of ecology, geosciences, hydrology, and atmospheric sciences. This unique juxtaposition of several sciences in one department fosters cooperation and exchange among students across traditional disciplines that share similar methodological and philosophical problems. Upon completion of the program, students are qualified to be employed by universities and colleges, federal laboratories and agencies, or research institutes. 

Environmental Thought and Practice

Students who complete this program have the ability to connect ideas across a variety of diverse disciplines, including anthropology, literature, history, ethics, economics and land use planning. 

The Environmental Thought and Practice program produces students who can:

  • comprehend and think critically about scientific information, economic analysis, and the various ethical constructs that enter into environmental decisions; and,
  • appreciate how political and social context, historical events, and cultural expectations shape the way we perceive and solve environmental problems.

Global Studies

Students develop multiple skills and competencies necessary to understand and develop strategies for solving complex environmental issues:

  • knowledge of historical and current environmental conditions
  • cross-cultural translation and comparison
  • statistical literacy, visual literacy and the visualization of data
  • systems thinking and design thinking skills to address complex, open-ended problems
  • applied, project-based problem-solving
  • research methods for collaboration across diverse disciplines (scientific, technical, social, aesthetic, economic)
  • communication, community engagement and leadership skills

How to Recruit

Employers in the sustainability space looking to recruit students have a variety of opportunities to engage.

Our signature events of the year are our Green Job and Internship Fair and our Social Impact and Sustainability Fair. The Fairs are an opportunity for organizations and institutional members to meet with students from these universities who are interested in environmental and social responsibility careers. The programs consist of  panels, presentations, and exhibitor showcases. There are several opportunities for organizations and institutional members to participate as a sponsor or as an exhibitor.

This is the information from this year's Green Job and Internship event.  

This is the information for this year's Social Impact and Sustainability event. 

Engagement is not limited to these events, however. Organizations are encouraged to post their jobs and internships year round through our Handshake job portal. 

Handshake is UVA's online recruiting portal that allows you to:

  • Post jobs or internships
  • Register for Career Fairs
  • Manage your On-Grounds Interviewing
  • Advertise your presentations
  • and more!

Log in or register for Handshake here.

More to Explore

David Lapinski, Director of Employer Relations and Experiential Education

UVA offers a wide variety of large career events to meet the needs of organizations recruiting UVA students. 

Handshake is UVA's online recruiting portal. Post jobs or internships, register for Career Fairs, manage your On-Grounds Interviewing, and more!