Beginning in 2002, the Kate Gleason College of Engineering (KGCOE) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began implementing a series of sustainability themed curricular innovations. These innovations began in 2002 with the introduction of courses focused on sustainability, followed with the implementation of a programmatic minor in Sustainable Product Development in 2006, and culminated with the development and registration of the nation’s first Sustainable Engineering graduate programs in 2008. This article describes the genesis and maturation of KGCOE’s Sustainable Engineering graduate programs. The article reviews the early work that set the stage for the development of the new degree programs in Sustainable Engineering, and details the establishment and workings of the multidisciplinary faculty team that was charged with structuring the programs and marshalling them through the RIT curricular approval process and the New York State program registration process. These award winning programs have now been in place for over 7 years, and during that period they have evolved. This article describes the lessons learned along the program development path and highlights important program outcomes. Particular attention and reflection is devoted to the unusual demographic characteristics of the graduate student body that constitutes the programs. A comparison between the populations of these programs in sustainable engineering and those from other engineering departments in the same college is presented. The results indicate that the Sustainable Engineering programs are attracting a more diverse pool of students (with respect to academic preparation, national origin, and gender) than other KGCOE graduate programs.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



Originally presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, Vancouver, Canada. June, 2015

Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)


RIT – Main Campus