Portfolio Program

The Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability provides Master and Doctoral students with a trans-disciplinary framework to study and research issues related to sustainability. Sustainability is an emerging discourse that simultaneously addresses issues of economic development, environmental protection, and social equity. The objectives of the portfolio program are to:

Currently, the program has eleven students (seven doctoral level; eleven masters level) from programs in architecture, community and regional planning, historic preservation, American studies, landscape architecture, engineering, advertising, geography, sport management, and public policy. The program is supervised by a committee of nine professors: Dave Allen (Cockrell School of Engineering), Jessica Cance (College of Education), Sarah Dooling (School of Architecture), David Eaton (LBJ School of Public Affairs), Daene McKinney (Cockrell School of Engineering), Steven Moore (School of Architecture), Erika Bsumek (Department of History), Eric Hersh (School of Engineering) and Allan Shearer (School of Architecture).

The program was originally funded as an interdisciplinary initiatives project by the Henry Luce Foundation. For more information, please see the Luce Foundation website.

General Information and Eligibility

The University of Texas at Austin offers graduate portfolio programs to introduce students to trans-disciplinary areas of academic inquiry while completing degree requirements in an established discipline. Portfolio programs are not degree programs; instead they provide an opportunity for graduate students to orient their studies to address a specific topic that overlaps several disciplines. These programs are similar to a minor area of study or a certificate program at other institutions. To be eligible for admission to the Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability, students must be admitted to a graduate degree program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Program Details and Application Information

The Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability information packet, application form, and internship approval form are all available as PDF files for download. For more information about sustainability at UT and to select portfolio courses, please see the UT Sustainability Directory.

Please Note: The Fall 2014 deadline for admission to the Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability is Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

An information session for interested applicants and current participants with questions is scheduled for September 5th at 9:00am West Mall Building room 4.118Come ask questions about the program over some coffee and bagels. Please RSVP to this session at catie.m.carter@gmail.com.

If you would like to attend the information session, have additional questions about the program, are interested in applying, or are unable to download the PDF files above, please contact the program coordinator, Catie Carter, at catie.m.carter@gmail.com.

Papers and Posters by Recent Graduates

As part of their requirements, each Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability participant is required to present on their sustainability research at the annual Portfolio Program symposium (hosted by the Center for Sustainable Development) before the end of their course of study. Each student must also complete a scholarly paper, suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Recent submissions include: 

Jeanie Donovan (poster) "Developing a Healthy Food Zone Ordinance Model for Austin/Travis County"

Jessica Zarowitz (poster) "Reimagining Infrastructure"

Hanna Patterson, Red McCombs School of Business, "The Future of Fishing: Aquaculture, Eco-Labeling, and Consumer Choice"

Meredith Gray, LBJ School of Public Affairs and School of Architecture (Community and Regional Planning) "Getting to Net Zero: Green Building and Net Zero Energy Homes" from Energy, Sustainability, and the Environment (2011)

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I submit an application for the program?

You should submit an application at least two semesters before you intend to graduate. If you plan to graduate in the spring or summer, you should submit your application before the first day of the fall semester. If you plan to graduate in the fall, you should submit your application before the first day of the spring semester. The Faculty Steering Committee reviews applications at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters each academic year.

If I meet the program requirements, will my application automatically be accepted?

Not necessarily. This is a competitive program and not all applications will be accepted due to administrative limitations and University policies. However, the Faculty Steering Committee will attempt to include all students who meet the program requirements and demonstrate a strong interest in sustainability and sustainable development issues.

Can I apply courses to the program that I have completed in previous semesters?

Yes. You can fulfill the program’s course requirements with courses you have successfully completed in previous semesters in the same degree program. However, these courses must be approved by the Faculty Steering Committee as part of your Thematic Course of Study.

I’m interested in a course not currently listed in the UT Sustainability Directory – is it possible to have it approved as part of my Thematic Course of Study?

Yes. Since sustainability is a rapidly developing and expanding field, there are many new courses related to sustainability added each semester at UT Austin. If you find a course that has a substantial focus on sustainability or sustainable development, please send the course title and description to the Program Coordinator and request that it be considered by the Faculty Steering Committee.

Are there other portfolio programs at UT?

Yes, there are several other portfolio programs available at UT in a variety of subjects. Students interested in this portfolio program may also be interested in programs such as Integrated Watershed Science and the Societal Impacts of Science & Technology. The Graduate School maintains a current list of all portfolio programs at www.utexas.edu/ogs/docport/index.html.

Will my participation in the program be reflected on my diploma or transcript?

Students who successfully complete the program requirements will have a statement added to their transcript that reads, “With Certification in the Graduate Portfolio Program in Sustainability”. Portfolio Program certification will not appear on your diploma.

If accepted, what are there deadlines for completing the program requirements?

All program requirements must be completed within a week from participant's graduation date from UT. If you do not complete the program requirements in this time period, you will be dropped from the program.

What is sustainability anyway?

Sustainability is interpreted in various ways and it is not necessarily helpful to provide a rigid definition. However, advocates of sustainability and sustainable development would probably agree that the concepts involve the simultaneous consideration of interrelated issues in the long-term. The intent of this program is to engage students and faculty members from across campus in a broad discussion of how long-term, holistic perspectives can be employed to solve social, environmental, political, and economic problems in ways that are equitable and effective.