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Sustainable Engineering

Brian Thorn
Associate Professor

Interest in “sustainability” and related issues continues to grow, nationally as well as internationally. A sustainable economy is one that can meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Moving an economy toward the goal of sustainability presents myriad challenges for all professions, especially business and engineering. As we move deeper into the 21st century the problems associated with delivering society’s goods and services using traditional, non-sustainable practices will become more apparent, and the value of more environmentally and socially responsible approaches to meeting society’s needs will become increasingly evident. Engineers and managers must be equipped to become environmentally and socially sophisticated decision makers.

The Kate Gleason College of Engineering offers two graduate level programs: a non thesis Master of Engineering option, and a Master of Science degree that requires the completion of a thesis in Sustainable Engineering. The Center for Sustainable Engineering ( defines SE as “engineering for human development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Bruntland Commission, 1987).” The intent of RIT’s graduate programs is to equip engineers and business leaders with the tools they will need to meet the challenges associated with delivering goods and services through sustainable means. The SE programs deliver education on sustainable product and process design methods as well as end of life management decision tools and technologies.

Specific program objectives include:

  • The development of student awareness of issues in areas of sustainability (e.g. global warming, ozone layer depletion, deforestation, pollution, ethical issues, fair trade, gender equity, etc.)
  • Exploration and demonstration of the role and impacts of various aspects of engineering (design, technology, etc) and policy decisions on environmental and societal problems. Particular emphasis will be placed on the potential trade-offs between environmental, social and economic objectives.
  • Equipping students with engineering and decision-making tools and methodologies and providing them with opportunities to apply them on sustainability-related problems.

The programs are multidisciplinary in nature and draw on expertise residing in several of RIT’s colleges (Engineering, Liberal Arts, Applied Science and Technology, and Business).

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