Skip to main content

Sustainability Distinction

The academic "distinction" class of credential at Pitt was designed to combine curricular, co-curricular, and experiential learning activities that support an undergraduate student’s growth and development in particular interdisciplinary areas. By participating in a sequence of courses that are then blended with high-impact activities outside the classroom, students learn to translate their knowledge into practical applications and are prepared to communicate these experiences to a broad audience.

The Sustainability Distinction

The primary goals of the Sustainability Distinction are to provide undergraduate students with a mechanism to gain recognition and “credit” for their outside-the-classroom endeavors and broaden the number of undergraduate students participating in sustainability activities throughout campus.

Sustainability Distinction Alumni Profile: Zachary Delaney A&S '21
Access text version of alumni profile quote

Sustainability Distinction Requirements


  • Current Issues in Sustainability (ENGR 1905)
  • One (1) Sustainability-Focused Course as designated with the attribute code, "MCSI - Sustainability-Focused"
  • Note: If a student is unable to take the Current Issues course, then three (3) alternative Sustainability-Focused courses can be taken for nine (9) credits.

List of acceptable courses.

High-Impact Activities (Minimum of Three Activities)

These activities should enrich the student’s academic pursuits and provide opportunities to apply knowledge and skills to pressing social and environmental challenges. Examples of such activities include:

  • Leadership role in a Student Office of Sustainability affiliated organization (other student groups will be considered with approval by the committee)
  • Long-term campus or community service and/or a Place-Based Engagement Project (at least a two-semester commitment)
  • A sustainability-related internship, research project or co-op experience
  • A sustainability-related study abroad or alternative break experience
  • An innovation competition, experience or startup related to sustainability

All High Impact Activities must be verified by a supervisor or advisor using the form below. All forms must be submitted on Suitable. 

High Impact Activity Completion Form

Exploration (OCC Pitt Sustainability Activity Set)

These undertakings should broaden an undergraduate student’s personal development through outside-the-classroom (OCC) experiences aimed at expanding sustainability knowledge, skills and networks. The OCC Pitt Sustainability set provides credit for the following types of activities (among others):

  • Participation in a minimum of three (3) Green Team service opportunities
  • Attendance at the Sustainability Showcase and Fair
  • Attending the Student Office of Sustainability First Thursday Meet-up
  • Participating in Clutter for a Cause or the Resident Student Association Panther Prowl food drive (benefiting the Pitt Pantry)
  • Donating to the University of Thriftsburgh or attending a University of Thriftsburgh fix-it or maker event
  • Completing the Pitt Green Resident Program
  • Attendance at three (3) Student Office of Sustainability-sponsored events

Students must complete 5 required and 3 optional activities. 

Pitt Sustainability Activity Set


Students should reflect upon and share how classes, activities, and experiences collectively contributed to their overall personal and professional development. Students should provide examples of how these experiences enabled them to apply academic knowledge and skills to important sustainability issues. The reflection essay is meant to enhance your personal understanding of sustainability within these experiences and how they impact your professional development. The reflection can be a useful tool in the future to help articulate and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.

In 2,000 words, please respond to the following prompts:

  • Reflect upon and share how classes, activities, and experiences collectively contributed to your overall personal and professional development.
  • How would you relate what you have learned during your curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences to sustainability as defined by Pitt*? How might you apply lessons learned in your professional or personal life?
    • *The University of Pittsburgh defines “sustainability” as balancing equity, environment, & economics so current and future generations can thrive.
  • What does it mean to you to live in a sustainable world? Are challenges to living in this world an issue of economics, people, or something else?

The essay must include a header, be double-spaced, and use 12-point font. It must be uploaded as a Word document or PDF file. Students must submit their Reflection Essay on Suitable.

Reflection Essay Submission

Enrollment Information

Undergraduate students interested in completing the Sustainability Distinction will declare their intention to pursue by completing the Sustainability Distinction Declaration. Students will be able to use the Suitable OCC dashboard to self-track their progress of the Sustainability Badge. Some activities may require prior approval for credit. Students can apply for the distinction at any time; however, the deadline to submit the intention to pursue the distinction will be the end of the add/drop period of the semester prior to the semester in which they will graduate.

  1. Log into your OCC profile using your Pitt credentials. 
  2. Search in the activities tab: Sustainability Distinction Declaration.
  3. Complete the online form.

Sustainability Distinction Declaration Form


Please contact Savannah Denlinger ( if you have any questions about the distinction.

For more information on the Interdisciplinary Distinctions program in general, visit Interdisciplinary Distinctions on the Undergraduate Studies site.