Minor Accomplishment

A minor does matter. Adding a second concentration adds complexity and breadth to studies, offers the chance to explore another topic, fulfills an additional passion, and helps shape a student’s future and path beyond UCLA.

The Minor in Environmental Systems and Society is designed for undergraduate students who wish to enhance their major program of study. Courses in the minor address the relationship between environmental science and associated issues. The minor seeks to impart a deeper understanding of environmental systems related to air, land, water, and biological resources. A main goal of the program is to provide students with a foundation for sound decision making as a professional and citizen of the world.

Two of the over 100 undergraduates currently enrolled in the Minor in Environmental Systems and Society are senior Kimberly Duong and junior Robert Nguyen. Word of mouth led both students to investigate this academic offering. Kimberly discovered the minor through a teaching assistant and Robert learned about it through a resident advisor. 

Kimberly, a Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences major, felt divided between her interests in meteorology and environmental sustainability. A teaching assistant recommended Kimberly visit the Institute. Initially she was hesitant to add to her academic work load. She eventually “tested the waters” with a class and since then has enjoyed learning about a broad range of topics from energy to urban planning to municipal water management.  Kimberly feels her major and minor complement each other well and make for an interesting pair.

“I came to realize the minor provided me a balance between the scientific study in my major and the real world policies of environmental topics. It has diversified my academic portfolio and as a result I have a well-rounded educational outlook that incorporates science with application,” said Kimberly.

Robert, a Department of Computer Science major, has always been involved in the green movement. In high school he served as president of the school’s environment club and since entering UCLA has continued that leadership streak with an internship at Alliance To Save Energy. Robert feels his major and minor are complete opposites. 

“Computer science can be lonely as you program on your own in front of a monitor for hours at a time. This minor allows me to get outside and work with people—especially when I engage in environmental crusading,” he said.

He continued, “I feel as though I make more of a difference by actually affecting people’s day-to-day lives.  I still love programming but I think that everyone needs balance.  I use the activism aspect as the equalizer to my intensive computer science courses.”

Environment M153 – Introduction to Sustainable Architecture and Community Planning has been Kimberly’s favorite class so far.  “Learning how environmental considerations are input into the structure and design of a building, neighborhood, or other structured landscape made me realize that we have a moral obligation to ourselves and future generations to design long-lasting sustainable options for the world around us. If we are to build homes and offices that displace natural landscapes, then they should be incorporating elements that keep us integrated with the natural world, not separate from it,” she said.

Robert is looking forward to taking Environment 185 – Education for Sustainable Living.  “I like the Action Research Team component because it provides hands-on experience in green activism.  It also helps build leadership as you work in a team to complete a goal,” he said. 

Both students hope to translate their major and minor studies into a profession that blends both passions.  Kimberly’s career aspirations are intertwined with both academic areas. “I am very interested in meteorology and climate science, as well as sustainability in various sectors such as energy, water, waste, and land use. Something I would like to do might integrate different components of my learning, such as being a meteorologist for a solar panel company,” she said.

Robert also hopes to find a profession that links both interests. “Ultimately I would like to work with a technology start-up and use my environmental knowledge to help green the company,” he said.

To learn more about the Minor in Environmental Systems and Society click here. To enroll in the program contact the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability Student Affairs Officer at or (310) 206-9193.