The summer school is presented by the Santa Fe Institute and the University of Chicago Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation.


The Program

The Global Sustainability Summer School (GSSS) provides an intensive two-week program on urban sustainability. This school is available for postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, early-career scientists, policymakers, and business professionals. The school is for participants who seek background and hands-on experience to help them prepare to conduct interdisciplinary research in areas related to urban sustainability.


The Focus

Economic growth and human development are properties of urbanizing human societies. But cities also concentrate most of the world’s human population and present strong challenges to local and global sustainability, related to increased resource consumption, pollution, wastes, and many forms of impact on biodiversity, both within and beyond urban areas. Thus, it is often said that the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost in cities.

The 2019 Global Sustainability Summer School will focus on cities, urbanization and their connection to problems of global sustainability. The school will provide an empirically-based assessment of the challenges to sustainability in light of urbanization and will ask what is necessary for emerging scientific perspectives and technologies to solve the issue of sustainable development.

The school is organized around a set of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary lectures and discussions that focus on many interdependent aspects of cities. These include the nature of social and economic networks in cities, their role in economic growth and human development, their demands on resource consumption, and characteristics of new technologies that may shift the balance between the benefits and impacts of development.


More Information

All activities will be conducted in English. Participants are expected to attend the entire session.

Applicants are welcome from all countries. Women and members of underrepresented groups, regions, and institutions are especially encouraged to apply. Enrollment is limited.

Proposed Topics

  • Civic Tech and Urban Analytics
  • Urban Sensing and Air Quality
  • Urban Architecture and Design
  • Innovation in Energy Technologies
  • Neighborhood Effects and Big Data
  • Technology and Social Dynamics
  • Ecological Networks
  • Energy Transformation in Buildings
  • Climate Change and Urban Policy
  • Water Systems
  • Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Cities



Tuition for the program is $1,700 and is inclusive of participation and course materials. Participants will need to arrange and pay for their own travel, accommodations, and the meals not offered at Santa Fe Institute.

SFI will provide a shuttle from downtown Santa Fe to the Santa Fe Institute each morning and a return shuttle from the Institute to downtown at the end of each day. Students are also encouraged to share rooms and can let us know if they are interested in finding a roommate in the application form.

Limited scholarship support may be available for students with exceptional need who have demonstrated a substantial effort to obtain outside support. Support will be determined after acceptance into the program.



Applications are accepted from postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, early-career scientists, policymakers, non-profit and business professionals. Proficiency in English is required.

Application Requirements
In addition to completing an online application:

- A current CV. Include a clear description of your current educational or professional status, and a list of publications, if any.

- A statement of your current research interests and comments about why you wish to attend the school (suggested length: one page).

- One letter of recommendation. The letter should be sent independently of your application. Please inform your recommender that an email from "" will be sent to them with their password and instructions for uploading their letter of reference into your application file. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the letter has been submitted by the March 1, 2019 deadline.


To Apply

The online application site will be open from November 15, 2018, through March 1, 2019. The deadline for letters of recommendation is March 1, 2019. No late applications will be accepted. Applicants will be notified by e-mail regarding the status of their applications in mid-to-late March 2019.

For further information, please contact


2019 GSSS Faculty

This page will be updated with the 2019 Faculty list as soon as it is confirmed.

Luís Bettencourt will serve as the 2019 GSSS Director. He is the Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago and External Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute.


Below is the list of the GSSS Faculty from 2016, illustrative of the types of researchers and practitioners who lend their expertise to the program. Included are links to a brief video introduction by most of the faculty to their lecture. Titles reflect the presenter’s position at that time of the 2016 summer school.

Luis Bettencourt, Cities
GSSS Director and Santa Fe Institute Resident Faculty (link)

Dan O’BrienSociology and Big Data
Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University (link)

Kathleen CagneyHealth and Sociology 
Professor of Sociology, The University of Chicago (link)

Sean GreenTechnology and Social Dynamics 
Interim CEO of the Waste to Resource Fund (link)

Christopher Kennedy, Urban Metabolism
Professor and Chair - University of Victoria Civil Engineering (link)

Jennifer Dunne, Ecological Networks in the Arctic 
Professor, Vice President for Science, Santa Fe Institute

Khoo Teng Chye, High Liveable and High Density Urban Development – A Singapore Story
Executive Director, Centre for Liveable Cities, Singapore
Adjunct Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (link)

Jessika Trancik, Evolution of technology and its impact on climate change
External Professor, Science Steering Committee, Santa Fe Institute 
Assistant Professor in Energy Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division (link)

Edward Mazria, The Energy Transformation Necessary for Buildings
Founder/CEO, Architecture 2030 (link)

Christian Casillas, Tutorial: the Challenge of Estimating Community GHG Emissions
Freelance educator and energy and sustainability policy consultant, Santa Fe, New Mexico (link)

Matt Petersen, Reducing the environmental footprint of cities
Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Los Angeles (link)

Marion Dumas, Cities and Governance
Santa Fe Institute Postdoctoral Fellow

Christa BrelsfordWater and Socioeconomics 
Santa Fe Institute Postdoctoral Fellow (link)

Audrey de NazelleAir Pollution in Cities and Impacts on Health 
Lecturer, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London (link)

Peter NewmanUrban Sustainability 
Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University

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