ENS 399: Independent Readings/Research

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program encourages and supports students who wish to conduct independent research, working closely on a project of their own design with a faculty member as mentor or co-investigator. ENS 399: Independent Readings/Research allows students to earn up to 6 credits for this activity. 

Research projects may concern any area of ecological literacy and sustainability and will generally fall under areas such as sustainable food systems, energy and climate change, water quality, and the cultural and built environment. Proposals often build upon research that was initiated in a previous course. With approval, ENS 399: Independent Readings may count as an upper-level elective for the minor.

For guidance or questions related to ENS 399, contact ENS Director, Dr. Amy McFarland, at [email protected] or (616) 331-8156.

Proposing a Project and Registering for ENS 399

Before submitting a proposal for ENS 399, you should meet with an ENS faculty member to discuss your project and to ensure that the faculty member is willing and able to supervise it. 

Students submit their proposal, also considered a contract, online through the ENS 399/491 Proposal Form. The ENS Program requests that students aim to submit their proposal a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the date they intend to begin the course. On the form, you will be asked to provide:

  1. A descriptive title
  2. A summary of the proposed practicum project 
  3. A schedule of communication/meetings with the faculty supervisor
  4. A list of proposed readings
  5. Course requirements (exams, papers, reports, presentations, etc.)

Once your ENS 399 proposal is submitted online, it will be forwarded to your faculty supervisor and to the ENS Program Director. The faculty supervisor and Program Director may offer feedback on suggested changes. If modifications to the practicum are requested, as determined by the faculty supervisor, the revised proposal should be forwarded to the ENS Office at [email protected].

Once approved, you will then submit a request in Banner for a registration permit to enroll in ENS 399. To initiate the registration permit request in Banner, follow these Instructions for submitting registration permits.

The section number of ENS 399 you register for should correlate with the number of credit hours you indicated on your ENS 399 Proposal Form. If you're completing ENS 399 during the spring/summer semester, be sure to check the start and end dates of the section you're registering for to confirm that it aligns with your project plans (i.e. spring term/1st six weeks, summer term/2nd six weeks, or full 12 weeks). If you do not see a section number worth the appropriate number of credit hours you're pursuing, contact the ENS Office, and a new section can be added to Banner.

Your grade for ENS 399 will be based on the degree to which you complete your readings/research, as evaluated by your faculty supervisor. You will receive a grade of "credit" or "no credit," as opposed to a letter grade (A-F). 


The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS) offers services and guidance to promote undergraduate research, such as the Undergraduate Research Fair in fall semester, and Student Scholars Day in winter semester. Explore the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship here. ENS students may be particularly interested in one of the Sustainable Agriculture Place-Based Project Grants.

Page last modified May 3, 2024