Asee peer logo

On the Development of an Undergraduate Course on Sustainability Research Methods

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Sustainability and engineering education

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.943.1 - 23.943.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kim LaScola Needy University of Arkansas

visit author page

Kim LaScola Needy is Department Chair and 21st Century Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Wichita State University. Prior to her academic appointment, she gained industrial experience while working at PPG Industries and The Boeing Company. Her first faculty appointment was at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Needy’s research interests include engineering management, sustainable engineering, engineering economic analysis, and integrated resource management. She is President-Elect of IIE as well as a member of ASEE, ASEM, APICS and SWE. She is a licensed P.E. in Kansas.

visit author page



visit author page

Tahar Messadi is Co-Director of the Sustainability Programs and 21st Century Chair of Sustainability at the University of Arkansas. He graduated from the University of Michigan with Master and Doctoral Degrees in Architecture with concentration on Environmental Technology. His previous faculty appointment was at Georgia Tech where he taught for ten years. His consulting work focuses on lighting, acoustics and building energy consumption, and climatic design.
His varied research interests are focused on buildings lighting, thermal and acoustic performance and sustainability education. Professor Messadi is the author and co-author of numerous publications in national and international conferences and journals. His papers dealt with a number of subjects including optimization/calibration of smart facades, lighting design, and high performance schools. He has supervised many MS, M.Arch and Ph.D. theses.

visit author page


John Henry Kester III University of Arkansas

visit author page

John Henry Kester III is a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow and PhD student in the Environmental Dynamics program at the University of Arkansas. John received his B.A. degrees in Biology and Economics from Denison University, and his M.A. in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University. During his time as a student, he works to build connections and foster working relationships with city leaders. John's research interests focus on city sustainability metrics and citizen participation is local governance. This research started with a Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting held in Washington, D.C. in April 2012.

visit author page

Download Paper |


An interdisciplinary team at the University of ________ is developing an undergraduatecourse that will be devoted to methods and techniques to appropriately conduct research inthe field of sustainability. Research carried out in sustainability is complex due to itsinterdisciplinary nature within engineering and between engineering and other STEMand/or non-STEM disciplines. Furthermore, research methods span from strictlyquantitative to more qualitative extremes adding to the complexity. Academic rigor andproper student preparation are primary motives to accompany the sustainability efforts thatare expanding at the University of ________ with the addition of both a university-wideundergraduate minor and a graduate certificate in sustainability. Efforts to develop thiscourse are further motivated by the university’s commitment to creating a bachelor’s degreein sustainability. Our team aims to complement this structural improvement tosustainability by developing an engaging research methods course for undergraduatestudents in the program.From our academic experience and initial literature review, it is apparent that very littlework has been done to specifically tailor current methods of inquiry to sustainability, oremerge with new ones that are more fitting. Instead, we witness a de facto reliance ontraditional approaches to solve problems that are fundamentally different due to theirmultidisciplinary nature. As a result, research training is lacking not only in thesustainability program, but for undergraduates, including engineering students, as a whole.The ability to conduct research is usually learned through initiation with continued practiceand builds from a foundation of understanding the different approaches that are available.For sustainability, there is an inherent interdisciplinarity that encourages exposure to a widearray of techniques and tools. Thus, this research methods course is constructed to presentthe class with a wealth of conceptualized procedures, and also, case studies to learn fromexemplars of sustainability research. Collaboration from faculty with different backgroundsis further expanded by enlisting the participation of the University of ________Sustainability Curriculum Steering Committee members to review and assess the veracity ofthe proposed methods. This paper shares the outcome of this new course developmentaimed at preparing undergraduate students, including engineers, to carry out sustainabilityresearch and further prepare them for graduate studies.

Needy, K. L., & MESSADI, T., & Kester, J. H. (2013, June), On the Development of an Undergraduate Course on Sustainability Research Methods Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22328

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015