Course Content, Expectations, and Help (if you need it)

About the Course

Sustainable Summer’s “pre-program” course is designed to build a common foundation in key sustainability concepts. We will start with a short “pre-test” and then dive into a “modified” version of a college-level Introduction to Sustainability course taught by the renowned Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs is widely considered one of the foremost authorities on sustainable development and is the director of Columbia’s Earth Institute. The lectures are based on Sachs’ book The Age of Sustainable Development.

Our objective for this pre-program course is to establish a working definition of sustainability, understand the relationship between environmental sustainability and sustainable development, and begin thinking critically about how you, as an individual, can play a role in solving sustainability problems.

You are asked to complete the following activities:


  1. Take a very brief pre-test where you’ll self-evaluate your own attitudes towards leadership and sustainability
  2. Watch a series of video lectures by Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs based on his book The Age of Sustainable Development.
  3. Reflect on each video lecture by responding to the question prompts of each lesson. You’ll record your responses in a journal or other format of your choosing, but you should be prepared to discuss your responses in a group setting when you arrive on campus this summer.
  4. Develop an independent project proposal
  5. Read and Reflect on a recent article in the New York Times about Costa Rica’s “Green New Deal”
  6. Read and Reflect on Michael Pollan’s Why Bother, found in your student handbook (delivered by mail about four weeks prior to the program)

You’ll have 4 hours in total of video lectures to watch, plus the time involved in responding to the reflection prompts as well as the independent project design. In total, you’ll probably need around 6 hours to complete the pre-program work, so plan accordingly and don’t wait until the last minute.

[pl_alertbox type=”warning”] Please note. You will need to click the green “Mark Complete” button after each lesson topic to advance to the next activity.[/pl_alertbox]

Purpose and Expectations

During the program, we will be referencing the ideas contained in this course. We understand that finding time in your schedule to complete the pre-program course may be challenging, but you should only expect to spend about six hours total with the course materials. Yet, your efforts will significantly prepare you to be an engaged participant while traveling and learning about sustainability this summer.

Technical Help

  • If you encounter a “Page Not Found” error, please try refreshing your browser. If that doesn’t work, please try clearing the cache from your browser history.
  • Click the green “Mark Complete” button at the end of each lesson topic to advance to the next activity. This button is at the bottom of each lesson.
  • Email for any other technical issues.