EME 504
Foundations in Sustainability Systems

EME 504 Syllabus


EME 504 Syllabus (Fall 2023)

This syllabus is divided into several sections, as listed below. It is essential that you read the entire document.

  • Instructor
  • Course Overview
  • Course Goals and Outcomes
  • Required Course Materials
  • Assignments and Grading
  • Course Schedule
  • Course Reading List
  • Course Policies


Photo of E. Bazilevskaya
Ekaterina Bazilevskaya

Ekaterina Bazilevskaya, Ph.D.,
Lecturer, John A. Dutton e-Education Institute,
Pennsylvania State University
2217 Earth-Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16801

  • Course email: Please use the course email system (Inbox).
  • Personal email: eab204@psu.edu
  • Personal zoom room: katya.bazilevskaya (by appointment)
  • Availability: If you need to talk to me in person, please email me to schedule a zoom meeting or phone call. I will read and respond to email within 24 hours. If you have a question regarding a writing assignment due at 11:55 any evening, I will receive your question via Canvas Inbox no later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day. Queries sent afternoon, Eastern Time, on the date an assignment is due may not be responded to.

Course Author

Neyda Abreu, Ph.D.

Course Overview

Description: This course provides the theoretical background for the discussion and analysis of sustainability issues that range from energy and natural resources to biodiversity and global climate change. The course focuses on the following main aspects: (i) the definition of sustainability and sustainable method development including application of life cycle analysis, (ii) system thinking approach including mass balance, flow diagram and tipping point discussion, (iii) design of supply chains, networks, and to network optimization using examples of centralized and de-centralized infrastructures and resource management, (iv) political aspects in different regions and trends in global markets, and (v) ethical aspects and societal values in the context of sustainability. The students will look into interrelationships among natural, societal, economic, technological and political systems on the local and global scale. Big emphasis in this course is given to peer discussion and term paper on the topic of interest to enable students to develop an encompassing understanding of the challenges of sustainability and sustainability issues and to become successful sustainability leaders in their field.

Prerequisites: NONE.

What will be expected of you?

This course requires a minimum of 10-12 hours of student activity each week, depending on the speed at which you work. Included in the 10-12 hours each week is time to complete projects and related activities. Some weeks, you may spend less time than that, so keep this in mind in the tougher weeks (when you'll be making up the difference!). You'll be glad to know that you don't have to show up for the class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete each project before the published deadline at the end of the week.

You will need to check out the course discussion forums at least three times per week - ideally daily. That's where students and the instructors share comments, pose questions, and suggest answers. I strongly encourage you to get in the habit of logging in to the course website every day to check in on the class. With only occasional exceptions, I check message boards five days a week. You can be sure that I will read, but not necessarily respond to, every single message. If I anticipate not logging in for more than a day, I will let you know and also clearly state when you can next expect to hear from me.

How much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me as well as with your fellow students.

Course Goals and Outcomes

  • Develop an encompassing understanding of sustainability issues
  • Develop the ability for systemic thinking
  • Analyze how specific issues, such as particular renewable energies, are interrelated with other sustainability issues
  • Understand the embedment of sustainability issues in environmental, societal, and economic systems, and the relevance of the conditions, interrelations, and dynamics of these systems
  • Do basic systemic analyses, such as material and energy flow analyses
  • Understand the political and global aspects relevant to specific sustainability issues and do analyses of the political background for specific projects
  • Understand and interpret the normative dimension of sustainability and its implications for dealing with specific sustainability issues, and do integrated ethical analyses for specific issues or projects
  • Become critical and proactive thinkers and, with this, successful leaders in the field

Required Course Materials

All materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the ITS Help Desk [4].

Using the Library

Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student, you have a wealth of library resources available to you!

As a user of Penn State Libraries, you can...

  • search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text)
  • request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically
  • borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep
  • access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve
  • talk to reference librarians in real-time using chat, phone, and email
  • ...and much more!

To learn more about their services, see the Online Students Use of the Library page.

Weekly Assignments and Grading

Assignment Percentage of Grade
Discussions 40%
Case Study 1 30%
Case Study 2 30%

The course has 12 modules. There is no final exam. In each of the modules, to reach course objectives, students will complete the readings, read the lecture notes, participate in online discussion forum and produce two term projects on their topics of choice on sustainability issues.

The readings are critical to successfully complete this course. The instructor will provide a brief outline at the beginning of each lesson to help the student discover key concepts and make the reading more proactive.


Letter grades will be based on the following percentages (percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student):

Letter Grades and Percentages
Grade Percent
A 92.5 - 100%
A- 89.5 - 92.4%
B+ 86.5 – 89.4%
B 82.5 – 86.4%
B- 79.5 – 82.4%
C+ 76.5 – 79.4%
C 69.5 – 76.4%
D 60.0 – 69.4%
F < 60.0%


Typical Weekly Schedule:

Lessons begin

Initial Discussion Posts Due

Assignments due by 11:55 pm

Comments on Discussion Posts Due

There will be assignments to complete in each module. The assignments will be "turned-in" via Canvas.

It is recommended that the first thing a student does before beginning module readings is to review the week's materials and assignments.

EME 504 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule
Module Deadline Assignment Type Description Points
Course Assignments 
Orientation/1 See Canvas for Dates Discussions Introductions to classmates
1. Hidden Costs
2 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
Case Study 1
2. Measuring Weak Sustainability
Topic Selection for Case Study 1
3 See Canvas for Dates Discussion 3. System Architecture 30
4 See Canvas for Dates

Case Study 1

4. Life Cycle Analysis
Draft of Introduction for Case Study 1


5 See Canvas for Dates Discussion 5. Types of Tips 30
6 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
Case Study 1
6. Design for Environment
Working Draft for Peer Review
7 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
Case Study 1
Case Study 2
7. Centralized and Distr. Energy Sys.
Peer Review for Case Study 1
Topic Selection for Case Study 2
8 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
8. Creating Value
Mid-Point Survey
9 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
Case Study 1
9. Ethics and the Tardis
Case Study 1 Final Version
10 See Canvas for Dates Discussion 10. Integrating the Social Component 30
11 See Canvas for Dates Discussion 11 Sustainability and Decision-Making 30
12 See Canvas for Dates Discussion
Case Study 2
12. Patterns of Consumptions
Presentation for Case Study 2
Peer Questions/Comments
Thanksgiving Week
Last Week of Class See Canvas for Dates Case Study 2 Replies to Peer Qs/Comments for Case Study 2 80

As the schedule may change, please be sure to check it often! If you have a question about when something is due, ask me!

A Note About Activities:

If you have a question regarding an activity due at 11:55 one evening, I must receive your question via Canvas Inbox later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day. Queries sent after noon, Eastern Time, on the day an assignment is due may not be responded to, so please don't procrastinate!

Course Policies

Late Homework

Late homework accepted under the following circumstances: (1) if prearranged with the instructor; (2) if the result of a documented emergency; or (3) if documented illness (see the Attendance section below). The assignment/exam will be a zero unless these conditions are met. Other excuses are not valid.


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as email and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette [13]" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Make-up Exam Policy

There are no exams in this course.


For information about curved grades, please contact the instructor.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training for Students

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.