Address: Living Learning Center, 301 Bodenheimer Dr. Boone, NC  28608-- in LLA (Living Learning Academics) side

About the Organization

We are a critical development studies department that is committed to preparing students for both thoughtful analysis of the processes of human development and applied practice in the pursuit of transformative, community-driven development and social change. Sustainable development aims to enrich human well-being, protect and conserve healthy and productive natural systems, support shared economic prosperity, and advance an ecological worldview. With more than 300 undergraduate majors and 50 minors, our students examine the interdependent complexities and challenges of the world’s most pressing environmental, economic, and social problems and envision and enact creative and innovative solutions to these challenges in the context of sustainable development. Our faculty and students are deeply committed to the creation of a just and sustainable future for all.  

Students in the Sustainable Development Department are exposed to key theoretical concepts and analytical tools in order to assess what development means and how it is experienced in different places and cultures in all parts of the world. Students examine how current development and livelihood challenges are shaped by globalization and environmental change. Our faculty have a strong transdisciplinary dedication to sustainable development, and our curriculum integrates theory and practice from across the social sciences, natural and agricultural sciences, and humanities. Our students concentrate in one of four degree programs: community, regional, and global development; sustainable agriculture; environmental studies; or an individually-designed program. The Department is home to one of the largest diversified teaching and research farms in the nation. Our department has deep historical roots at our university, where faculty across the campus share our commitment to sustainability.

Join us as we engage in understanding and advancing the social, economic, and environmental transformations necessary to create thriving, equitable, and sustainable communities within an ecologically healthy world.

Vision and Mission

Mission: The Sustainable Development Department emerges from the United Nations mandate to engender "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Our mission is to prepare students to engage in the social, economic, and environmental transformations necessary to create thriving, equitable, and sustainable communities within an ecologically healthy world.

This mission is achieved through:

  • integrative teaching and mentoring;
  • applied research, experiential education, and restorative creative endeavors; and
  • effective and ethical community engagement, both locally and globally.

These efforts enable students to think critically and constructively as they work to build a sustainable future.

Vision: We envision a world where sustainability and sustainable development are integrated into all human endeavors. We imagine a world based on a deep appreciation for life, with lasting natural and cultural wealth, where well-being, social justice, and ecological integrity are valued and guarded with the same rigor as economic prosperity. Graduates of the Sustainable Development Program will be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively and ethically address sustainability challenges in public, private, and non-profit sectors through informed, engaged, and hopeful work.

Basic Info

What Organization is it a part of?  Appalachian State University, a public university
Primary Contact

Dr. Sandra Lubarsky, Chair
Sustainable Development Department
Living Learning Center


Sandy Wilson
Administrative Assistant

Social Media


The Goodnight Family Sustainable Development (SD) Department at Appalachian State University (ASU) is the oldest Sustainable Development program in the country.  Established in 1991 by Jeff Boyer, Loren Raymond, and Dennis Scanlon, with the financial support of the Ecumenical Project for International Co-operation, the program enabled undergraduate students to minor or concentrate in SD. Since 1996, students pursuing a Masters in Appalachian Studies could also concentrate in Sustainable Development.

Because community engagement is a central tenet of sustainable development, Sustainable Development Outreach was added as a structural component of the program in 1997. This was made possible with support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Since its inception, SD Outreach has been a model of participatory sustainable development for the region. SD Outreach assists communities with their initiatives in sustainable agriculture and land use, promoting Appalachian traditions and culture, and localized community development efforts.

Connecting academic and outreach efforts is the Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm. In 2001 SD began utilizing a farm in Valle Crucis for courses, research, and community activities. The farm's purpose is to educate students in agroecology, agroforestry and sustainable farming practices. Information from farming research is exchanged with the local community to help local farmers and entrepreneurs better foster alternative, sustainable agricultural practices in the region.

A generous gift from a local business family, the Goodnights, in 2001 has greatly assisted SD in its academic and outreach activities.

In 2008 the Sustainable Development Program once again took a great leap in promoting sustainable development by offering undergraduate degrees. The BA/BS degrees focus on blurring the lines between theory and practice as students engage in the interdisciplinary work necessary to understand sustainable development. For more information on the degree program, go toAcademics.

Academic Degrees 

The Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs in Sustainble Development are flexible, cross-disciplinary, and skills oriented.

The degrees aim to prepare students to think critically and constructively about the practices of sustainable development and to have the knowledge and skills necessary to build a sustainable future. The study of sustainable development provides a strong preparation in sustainability for those who wish to pursue graduate work or wish to address sustainability in public, private, and non-profit sectors.

The Sustainable Development Department offers the following degree options:

  1. B.A. degree in Sustainable Development
  2. B.S. degree in Sustainable Development with concentrations in:
  3. Undergraduate minor in Sustainable Development
  4. Sustainable Development Concentrations in other Departments

The required core is designed to familiarize students with principles and practices of sustainability found in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. All degree programs mirror one another in structure and ensure that all SD students have a shared foundation upon which to build their studies.

The general structure for all SD Degrees is as follows:

  • SD Program Core
  • Concentration Specific Core
  • Focus Area
  • Skills Area
  • Minor (required for BA, optional for BS Concentrations)
  • Electives

Click here for more on Studying Abroad and looking at sample focus and skill areas.

SD Clubs

Appalachian State University boasts over 300+ student clubs and organizations.  Below you can find the ones we see as having a direct connection with the SD Department and those which are closely related. There are surely others that will benefit from having an SD influence so explore the many options by logging into AppSync, viewing the club directory, and getting involved today! Click here for clubs that are directly and closely connected with SD.

Some examples include:

  • Sustainable Development Student Alliance (SDSA): The Sustainable Development Student Alliance here at Appalachian State exists to serve as a voice for the students of the SD department. We also focus heavily on being actively engaged in a variety of events and initiatives both on campus and in the community. Our mission is to both strengthen and organize the student body of the SD department while simultaneously supporting a variety of student lead community building and sustainability oriented projects. Check out the public fb group page and the official fb page.
  • Fossil Free App State: Our purpose is to advocate for the University to divest its investments held in its endowment and its foundation from fossil fuel industries and to use less fossil fuels for its energy needs. We're also committed to raising awareness about climate change on campus and in the community. Check out their fb page.

SD Outreach Projects

  • Sustainable Farming Resource Center: The  Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department has a resource center to assist small-scale growers. We rent high-quality equipment, including an Incubator and Mobile Processing Unit (MPU) on a trailer. Find out more here.
  • Lettuce Learn: Farm-to-School Support Network: Lettuce Learn strives to build the physical, environmental, and socio-economic health of communities by using agricultural knowledge and outdoor classrooms to inspire and educate children. They work with schools and organizations to create and support learning gardens in the High Country of North Carolina.  The Sustainable Development Department offers support for their programs in various ways including volunteer recruitment and providing grant writing and research as a class project in summer 2014. Find out how to get involved here.

  • The Edible Schoolyard: The Edible Schoolyard is a dynamic community garden located on the campus of Appalachian State University. It is a place for collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching, research, and experiential learning.  Faculty, staff, students, and members of the greater Boone Community are invited to utilize the space for collective enjoyment. This .2 acre garden features established communal perennial beds, fruit trees, berries, and herbs. Additionally, it provides individuals an opportunity to plant, tend, and harvest from individual garden plots.
  • Southern Appalachian Environmental Research and Education Center: SAEREC is the newest addition to the Research Institute for the Environment, Economics and Energy (RIEEE) and is one of three Centers located within the Institute. SAEREC addresses a broad range of research issues concerned with environmental issues facing the Southern Appalachian Mountains, ranging from biodiversity and conservation, ecological restoration, air quality, land use change, and regional climate change impacts. SD Faculty member, Laura England, is the outreach coordinator for the center.  Laura is highly involved with environmental education on campus including: K-12 outreach on watershed science and stream ecology, hosting environmental education workshop series for educators, and advising ASU undergrads who want to do environmental education with local youth. Find out how to get involved here.
  • Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture: Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA) is dedicated to strengthening the High Country's local food system by supporting women and their families with resources, education, and skills related to sustainable food and agriculture.  Sandra Lubarsky serves on the BRWIA Board and numerous SD students have engaged with this meaningful organization. Find out how to get involved here.
  • High Country Farm Tour: The High Country Farm Tour aims to educate consumers about the importance of sustainable agriculture and local food while also increasing income through on-the-farm sales and advertising.The SD Department has been a long time supporter of the Farm Tour by providing volunteers, financial support, and promotion.  And of course, the SD Teaching & Research Farm is always a featured farm on the tour! Find out how to get involved here.
  • The FARM Cafe- Feed All Regardless of Means: Sustainable Development was a member of the Planning Committee for FARM Cafe. This restaurant provides a free space where people of all social and economic groups can gather to eat a healthy meal, and since there are no set prices, customers will pay what they can. This endeavor is providing many internships, service-learning, and employment for many ASU students. Find out how to get involved here.
  • Music Fest 'n Sugar Grove: The school is also the site for the annual Music Fest n’ Sugar Grove, a combined effort between Sustainable Development and the Cove Creek Preservation and Development, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the school. The Music Fest continues to raise community awareness as well as funds for the community of Cove Creek, the Micro Business Incubation Center at the Old Cove Creek School, and the Doc and Rosa Lee Scholarship fund for students majoring in Sustainable Developmet at ASU. Find out how to get involved here.
  • The High Country Local Food Summit: This is coordinated annually by the Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department at ASU. Strategic outreach efforts such as this demonstrate the Sustainable Development Department's commitment to collaborating with and supporting local community efforts. The Summit is not possible without the generous financial support of the Harold and Mazie J. Levenson Fund for the Environment. At the Summit participants share their knowledge in order to develop a visual model of the High Country local food system. This model highlights the strongest parts of the system; illustrates the linkages between the arenas of production, consumption, distribution, and recycling; and creates opportunities to strategically identify action-oriented initiatives.