Mission Sustainability Course

Mission Sustainability: Student Sustainability Literacy Course

Mission Sustainability is an educational and survey requirement for all Cornell students launched in 2020. The course provides context for how students can play a role in living, leading, and learning about sustainability as a member of our community, and measures students' sustainability knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs to help assess our goal of achieving 100% climate literacy for all students by 2035.  

Welcome screen for Mission Sustainability Canvas course
First launched in Fall 2020 during the COVID19 pandemic, the Mission: Sustainability course is required by incoming students each semester as a way to measure sustainability and climate literacy and beliefs. 
Related News

Sustainability and climate literacy module added to first-year orientation
Campus Sustainability Office September 14, 2020

About the Course

Mission Sustainability is a learning and survey module required for all incoming Cornell students.  It measures sustainability beliefs and literacy, and specific knowledge and attitudes around climate change, our role on this planet, and the interconnectivity and urgency of planetary change issues from incoming students.  The module also provides students with a launch point to live, lead, and learn about sustainability and climate change during their Cornell career.

Measuring Literacy

Combined with exit surveys and other institutional data from graduating students, the course
 helps Cornell University measure and understand one of our most critical metrics related to creating a more sustainable future: the literacy and beliefs of our student population. Our goal from the Climate Action Plan is to see 100% of students from all colleges and all degrees graduate with strong sustainability & climate literacy by 2035.

The experience is critical to introducing our framework "live, learn, and lead" as a way to chart a path to sustainability and climate leadership and solutions.

Requirement for incoming students

The course is required of
 all incoming full-time students, including transfers. Requiring approximately 1hr for completion, it allows students to discover how sustainability and climate change are integrated into campus operations and the student experience at Cornell.  It also provides staff and senior leadership with annual metrics on students' literacy, knowledge, behaviors, and beliefs on a wide range of topics to help inform education and co-curricular sustainability program development.

Contact the Campus Sustainability Office
for a login code


Test your knowledge and help us build a community-literacy survey on sustainability! A free and open-source version of the Mission: Sustainability course is available for anyone at Cornell University.

Mission Sustainability Data Analysis

Summary analysis of student beliefs, Fall 2021

Of the 3,800 student respondents in 2021, and approximately 1,100 consented to have their responses included in our research data.

  • The majority of Cornell's incoming students were concerned about environmental, planetary, and climate-related issues and see these as a priority challenge for themselves and others.

    As part of the survey, students were asked "How concerned are you about the state of the natural environment?" Of total repondents:

    • 98.5% (9 out of 10) students were concerned about the state of the environment to some extent

    • 94% (9 out of 10) of students were moderately, very, or extremely concerned about the state of the natural environment. Less than 2% of new students are "not at all concerned", and 7 out of 10 new students were very or extremely concerned.

  • In general, new students underestimate the level of concern of their peers have about environmental and sustainability issues.  This may lead to a lack of dialogue or common sense of purpose in our campus community.  

    Students were asked to "...think about the average Cornell student. In your best guess, how concerned do you think they are about the state of the natural environment?"

    • Collectively, new students guess only 5% of their peers are extremely concerned, whereas 27% were extremely concerned.

    • Collectively, new students guess only 40% of their peers are moderately or extremely concerned, whereas 67% are moderately or extremely concerned