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Graduate Course Proposal Form Submission Detail - IDS6234
Tracking Number - 4739

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Current Status: Approved by SCNS - 2013-08-05
Campus: Tampa
Submission Type: New
Course Change Information (for course changes only):
Comments: to GC 5/6/13 for Global Sust. Changes. Approved. Cleared concurrence. To SCNS 7/31/13. Sub as 6232. Apprd as 6234 eff 8/1/13

Detail Information

  1. Date & Time Submitted: 2013-04-22
  2. Department:
  3. College: CS
  4. Budget Account Number: 390500
  5. Contact Person: Ali Yalcin
  6. Phone: 9745397
  7. Email:
  8. Prefix: IDS
  9. Number: 6234
  10. Full Title: Systems Thinking: The Key to Sustainability
  11. Credit Hours: 3
  12. Section Type: C - Class Lecture (Primarily)
  13. Is the course title variable?: N
  14. Is a permit required for registration?: N
  15. Are the credit hours variable?: N
  16. Is this course repeatable?: N
  17. If repeatable, how many times?: 0
  18. Abbreviated Title (30 characters maximum): Systems Thinking
  19. Course Online?: B - Face-to-face and online (separate sections)
  20. Percentage Online: 0
  21. Grading Option: -
  22. Prerequisites:
  23. Corequisites:
  24. Course Description: The course develops the critical system thinking skills to solve sustainability challenges. It covers quantitative system analysis techniques including environmental impact assessment, life-cycle assessment, cost-benefit analysis and decision analysis

  25. Please briefly explain why it is necessary and/or desirable to add this course: Needed to compete with national trends
  26. What is the need or demand for this course? (Indicate if this course is part of a required sequence in the major.) What other programs would this course service? This new course is part of a systematic redesign of the degree requirements for the MA in Global Sustainability now housed in the new College of Global Sustainability. The revisions to the degree emerge from our analysis of other competitive programs across the country, our assessment of the core competencies of the College and our analysis of skills desired by employers for positions related to sustainability and green economy. The proposed revisions are academically rigorous and position our degree and our students for success in the academic and workplace market. After synthesizing this research, we have designed four new core courses for the MA degree. The four core courses are; Concepts and Principles of Sustainability, Economics and Finance for Sustainability, Systems Thinking: The key to sustainability, and Communicating the Value of Sustainability. In addition, we have strengthened our Water Concentration with a new required course titled Sustainable Water Resource Management.

    The demand for this course will be the same as the demand for the degree since this course is required for all students enrolled in the degree program. We are currently receiving 60-80 applications per year without any systematic recruiting effort. Our current enrollment is around 35 students per academic year.

    With the increasing focus on sustainability in higher education, we believe that these courses may serve as electives to other programs, especially those housed in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Public Health and Business.

  27. Has this course been offered as Selected Topics/Experimental Topics course? If yes, how many times? No
  28. What qualifications for training and/or experience are necessary to teach this course? (List minimum qualifications for the instructor.)
  29. Objectives: 1. To enable students to develop an understanding of basic concepts and principles of systems thinking and how systems thinking can be applied to address major sustainability challenges.

    2. To introduce students to different sustainability system analysis tools and apply them to a diverse range of sustainability challenges.

    3. To enable students to make informed decisions on the selection of appropriate sustainability system analysis tools.

  30. Learning Outcomes: After completing this course, the students should be able to:

    1. Describe the principles of system thinking and its critical role in sustainability.

    2. Apply the principles of systems thinking to address a variety of interdisciplinary and complex sustainability challenges.

    3. Apply systems modeling and analysis tools including environmental impact assessment, life-cycle assessment, footprinting, risk assessment and multi-criteria decision analysis to reveal the underlying causes of sustainability challenges and to develop long-term sustainable solutions.

    4. Analyze and critique competing sustainability solutions and to identify high-leverage solutions to problems in sustainability.

  31. Major Topics: Principles and Concepts of System Thinking for Sustainability

    1. Principles of System Thinking for Sustainability: System thinking and sustainability; including elements of socio-technical and environmental systems (system boundaries, system properties, state of the system) interactions of the systems (interconnectivity among sustainability challenges); wicked vs tamed sustainability challenges.

    2. System Thinking Skills: System thinking skills for sustainability include holistic thinking, considering interactions, consider system traps, identify leverage points, system feedbacks, consider complexity, adaptive systems; introduction in system dynamics for sustainability (describing the behavior of complex systems over time, consideration of feedback loops, time delays, stocks and flows, resulting nonlinearity of systems behavior); principles and strategies to deal with complexity of sustainability challenges (upstream thinking, back-casting). This will include case studies application of systems thinking skills for sustainability.

    3. System Models and Frameworks for Sustainability: Introduce system models and tools (Powersim); environmental indicators and index; system based sustainability indicator frameworks; tools for system mapping; mind and concept mapping; agent based modeling for sustainability; including case studies of models and frameworks for sustainability.

    Sustainability Systems Analysis Tools

    4. Environmental Impact Assessment / Strategic Environmental Assessment: Principles of environmental impact assessment will includekey steps of environmental impact assessment, extense of possible impact, vulnerability of system against impact, risk of the impact, different risk assessment frameworks (DPSIR, source – pathway – receptor, vulnerability analysis, resiliency analysis etc.), introduction in statistical analysis (descriptive statistics), statistical risk assessment, aggregation of results using multi-criteria analysis, including case studies of environmental impact assessment

    5. Principles of Life Cycle Assessment: the need for life cycle assessment for sustainability; principles of life cycle assessment (from gravel to grave, interactions between different resources, definition system boundaries); guidelines for life cycle assessment; different life cycle assessment methods (input-output resources flow analysis, full life cycle accounting, material intensity per unit service, total material requirement); life cycle cost assessment; life cycle assessment methods focused on energy (Exergy analysis, Emergy analysis); application of life cycle assessment tools (Sustainable Minds); concluding with case studies of life cycle assessment.

    6. Footprint Assessment: Introduction in different footprint assessment methods (ecological footprint, water footprint, CO2 footprint); similarities and differences between different methods; critique on footprint methods; application for communicating the sustainability of products, services, nations; and case studies of a water footprint and a CO2 footprint.

    7. Environmental Cost-Benefit Assessment: Introduction to different economic impact assessment methods for sustainability (cost-benefit analysis, environmental cost-benefit analysis, positional analysis, pros and cons analysis, payoff matrix), advantages and disadvantages of the different assessment methods in regard to sustainability assessment; review of case studies of environmental cost benefit analysis.

    8. Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis: Single criterion vs. multiple criteria nature of sustainability challenges; incorporate multiple conflicting criteria in the decision process for sustainability, different multi-criteria assessment techniques (Multi-Attribute Value Theory (MAVT), Multi-Attribute Utility Theory (MAUT), and the Analytical Hierarchic Process (AHP) Step Method (STEM), Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solutions (TOPSIS), Elimination and Choice Translating Reality (ELECTRE) and the Preference Ranking Organization Method for Enrichment Evaluations (PROMETHEE); including case studies of multi-criteria decision analysis for sustainability.

  32. Textbooks: 1. Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Donella H. Meadows

    2. Life Cycle Assessment: Principles, Practice and Prospects, Horne, Ralph. 2009

  33. Course Readings, Online Resources, and Other Purchases: Recent journal articles providing a critical discussion on the topics will be used in this course.

    Following software will be used in this course:

    1. PowerSim (generic system modeling, footprint assessment)

    2. Sustainabile Minds (life-cycle-assessment, footprint assessment)

    3. Microsoft Excel (environmental cost-benefit assessment, multi-criteria decision analysis)

  34. Student Expectations/Requirements and Grading Policy: Assignments/project 30%

    Homework 30%

    Final Exam 40%

    The following grading scale will be used

    90 to 100% = A

    80 to 89% = B

    70 to 79% = C

    60 to 69% = D

    Below 50% = F

    Grades will be posted on through the course management software. There is no other extra credit available.

  35. Assignments, Exams and Tests: Week- Topic- Assignments/Quizzes- Assignment due

    1- Principles of Systems Thinking for Sustainability

    2- Systems Thinking Skills

    3- System Models and Frameworks for Sustainability- Homework 1 Systems Models- Week 4

    4- System Models and Frameworks for Sustainability- Start group project applying system thinking on sustainability challenges- Week 13

    5- Environmental Impact Assessment

    6- Life-Cycle Assessment- Homework 2 Life-cycle assessment- Week 8

    7- Life-Cycle Assessment

    8- Life-Cycle Assessment

    9- Footprint Assessment- Homework 3 Footprint Assessment- Week 11

    10- Footprint Assessment-

    11- Environmental Cost-Benefit Assessment

    12- Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

    13- Presentation final project report

    14- Examination- Final Exam

  36. Attendance Policy: Course Attendance at First Class Meeting – Policy for Graduate Students: For structured courses, 6000 and above, the College/Campus Dean will set the first-day class attendance requirement. Check with the College for specific information. This policy is not applicable to courses in the following categories: Educational Outreach, Open University (TV), FEEDS Program, Community Experiential Learning (CEL), Cooperative Education Training, and courses that do not have regularly scheduled meeting days/times (such as, directed reading/research or study, individual research, thesis, dissertation, internship, practica, etc.). Students are responsible for dropping undesired courses in these categories by the 5th day of classes to avoid fee liability and academic penalty. (See USF Regulation – Registration - 4.0101,

    Attendance Policy for the Observance of Religious Days by Students: In accordance with Sections 1006.53 and 1001.74(10)(g) Florida Statutes and Board of Governors Regulation 6C-6.0115, the University of South Florida (University/USF) has established the following policy regarding religious observances: (

    In the event of an emergency, it may be necessary for USF to suspend normal operations. During this time, USF may opt to continue delivery of instruction through methods that include but are not limited to: Blackboard, Elluminate, Skype, and email messaging and/or an alternate schedule. It’s the responsibility of the student to monitor Blackboard site for each class for course specific communication, and the main USF, College, and department websites, emails, and MoBull messages for important general information.

  37. Policy on Make-up Work: All exams and assignments are to be completed within the time frame provided in the syllabus. If there are anticipated or unanticipated problems, the student needs to email the instructor ahead of time and explain the reason to be considered for make-up. Such situations will be handled by the instructor on a case by case basis.

    See also the University Policy on Academic Integrity at

  38. Program This Course Supports: MA in Global Sustainability
  39. Course Concurrence Information:

- if you have questions about any of these fields, please contact or