New Department of Sustainability and Environment Announced at USD

Photo of kayakers on Missouri River. Students kayak down the Missouri River as part of a summer research opportunity.

VERMILLION, S.D. – At its meeting in early December, the South Dakota Board of Regents approved the formation of the Department of Sustainability and Environment at the University of South Dakota.

The new departmental designation focuses USD’s efforts to support undergraduate and graduate education in sustainability and strengthens the ability for faculty members to obtain programmatic grants to fund research and teaching activities. Broadly defined, sustainability is improving human well-being for current and future generations while enhancing the environment.

Located in the USD College of Arts & Sciences, the Department of Sustainability and Environment currently offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees and a minor in sustainability as well as a minor in earth sciences. Pending Board of Regents approval in spring 2018, the department will also offer master’s and doctoral degrees.

“We’re excited about the new opportunities for USD students in this department,” said Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology who serves as program coordinator for the sustainability program.

Together with Jarchow, other full-time faculty in the department include associate professors Mark Sweeney, Ph.D., and Brennan Jordan, Ph.D., and instructors Jennifer Fierro, M.S., and Jeanne Fromm, M.S., all faculty members with the earth sciences program. Faculty from across the university will continue to be affiliated with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Jarchow said.

Designation as a department gives sustainability studies greater clout when faculty members apply for grants to support research and programs related to teaching and outreach, Jarchow said. Formerly the only faculty member administering the sustainability program, she added that the new department faculty members will enhance the advising and guidance given to undergraduates studying sustainability.

Jarchow said she sees a bright future for the department. “I came here in the fall of 2012 to start the brand new undergraduate major in sustainability,” she said. “It’s really exciting that now, less than six years later, we have a thriving undergraduate program and we’re going to start a master’s and Ph.D. program. We will also have better opportunity for programmatic grants for undergraduate and graduate research and broader capacity building. It’s fun to look back to see how far we’ve come.”


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News