In Search of Hygge Through Design and Sustainability in Scandinavia (SUS 249)

Don’t just see the world. Make it better.

Planet Earth is an amazing place, but it’s far from perfect. When you travel with Dr. Schwarte and Dr. O'Gorman, you will focus on doing good, giving back more than you take away.

Denmark public square

Term To Be Offered: January / May 2017 

SUS 249 will be offered in January 2017 (3 credits)

Travel component of the course to Denmark/Sweden will take place in May 2017 ( for an additional 1 portfolio credit) ~ May 26 - June 4th, 2017



Dr. Adrienne Schwarte
Associate Professor of Art
Clayton Center for the Arts

Dr. Mark O'Gorman
Professor of Political Science
Coordinator of Environmental Studies Program
Thaw Hall

Course goals:

Students will learn about concepts and styles of architectural design, industrial design and ecological design theories, with specific comparison on Danish and Swedish design components.  Sustainability concepts, theory and history will be taught to students, and reinforced via immersion in two of Europe’s most sustainable countries.  Student exposure to less-tourist-traveled nations like Denmark and Sweden (compared to other European nations) will provide immersion in European cultures that are progressive, yet still rich in history.  The program will enrich students’ ability to “reflect on one’s own values and ideas,” (Maryville College Study Abroad web site).

Students from ALL MAJORS are invited to take the course.  This course is designed to be interdisciplinary with concepts from the following major/minor areas of study: sustainability studies [SUS], art and design [ART] and environmental studies majors [ENV].  Selected learning outcomes from those majors helped guide the course, including:

  • Design [ART]: 

    Understand the philosophy of sustainable design and how it informs professional design practice; 

    Understand major art historical movements, including the history of design, and the broad historical and cultural contexts in which they occurred;

  • Environmental Studies [ENV]: 

    Explore the social and physical dimensions of sustainability from multiple North American and non-Western viewpoints; 

    Show capacity to synthesize interdisciplinary environmental issues, based upon a knowledge base of multiple disciplines;

     Sustainability Studies Minor [SUS]:
    (learning outcomes adopted from the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development:

    Each student will be able to define sustainability; 

    Each student will be able to explain how sustainability relates to their lives and their values, and how their actions impact issues of sustainability;  

Course Description:

How does sustainable development impact human behavior, the environment surrounding us, and ultimately, how does it influence one’s personal environmental ethic? Learn about the designed and urban environment in Copenhagen, including both medieval and contemporary sustainability-focused features.  More specifically, the course will immerse students in the process of understanding sustainable urban development and planning by participating in the infrastructure as other Scandinavians do, by riding bicycles on a daily basis within the city.  This course will address socio-economic, mobility, ecological and aesthetic issues surrounding a city that utilizes sustainable urban planning to unify spaces.   

Tentative Costs: $3,700 per student 


Price includes:

Roundtrip airfare, local transportation, accommodations, field trips, some meals, international travel insurance, application fee, and deposit


Not included:

Passport, immunizations, some meals & personal expenses.

*Please note that prices are tentative and may fluctuate based on variation in exchange rates, number of participants, price fluctuations in actual airfares and fuel surcharges, or administrative overhead

  • Highlights:

3-week course in J-term, with 10-12-days in Denmark/Sweden in May
  • Enjoy human-powered transportation in a city designed for biking, where 55% of Copenhagen residents commute on bikes.  Imagine a day where your carbon footprint can actually be zero and you can breathe some of the cleanest air on the planet. (Copenhagen)

    Dig for actual fossils along the beach of chalk cliffs formed millions of years ago after the last ice age in a location so picturesque it’s been the subject of numerous famous landscape painters from the Danish Golden Age.  (Cliffs of Moen)

    Think you’ve had a Danish before?  See what REAL Danish pastries taste like in Denmark! (And, yes, they are delicious!) Oh, and you should try the pickled herring too! (All of Denmark!)

    Visit one of the best preserved medieval cities in all of Europe in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan which became the capital in 1252 (Stockholm)

    See the longest art gallery in the world in Stockholm’s subway (Stockholm)

    Tour the Vasamuseet, a Swedish royal warship built in 1628 which sank less than a mile away from shore on it’s maiden voyage, but has been restored to 95% of its original form (Stockholm)

    Spend 48-hours on an island powered entirely by wind-energy and consume Danish cuisine from a growing number of organic farms on the island. (Samso Island)

    Experience the beauty of Scandinavian design, which is highly functional, minimalistic and accessible in the design and photography museums all throughout Denmark and Sweden.  Think IKEA…yeah, we will visit one of those in Sweden too! (Denmark & Sweden)
  • And - since your parents will ask - tell them you will be visiting two of Europe’s most historic nations.  Their capital cities of Copenhagen and Stockholm have been must-visit sites for world travelers for centuries, and these nations set the standard for happy living, rich culture and energy efficient lifestyles.   Remind them you are heading to the land of LEGO and Hamlet (Denmark) and ABBA (Sweden). 

Apply for J-Term Programs »