The Sustainability FYE-FRINQ

The First Year Experience (FYE) Sustainability Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) focuses on sustainable living as a core experience of living and learning at Portland State University. The Sustainability living-learning community provides students with practical and theoretical approaches to sustainability by integrating unique academic and field experiences based on course material with their living environment. The program design enhances students’ academic and social experience, fosters community participation, and develops student capacity for civic engagement.

To participate in this community, students will enroll in the FYE Sustainability FRINQ taught by Professor Estes. In addition to the seminar based class, students will engage in a variety of activities and programs outside of class to increase their understanding of local and global sustainability issues. Students will be housed on the same floor of the Broadway building residence hall, will attend course related community activities, and develop leadership skills through a variety of experiential learning programs.

Community Goals

  • Examining the philosophy and principles of sustainability.
  • Exploring of best practices and resources for sustainable living.
  • Discussing the interconnectedness and interdependence of the environmental, social, and economic elements of sustainability.
  • Collaborating with the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the PSU Office of Sustainability to create sustainability outreach projects. 
  • Living in a silver LEED certified building.
  • Applying what is learned in the classroom in the local community.
  • Bridging in class learning to residence hall living through additional themed programming.
  • Supportive learning environment enhanced through peer academic support and Learning Community Assistants.

About the Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) Sustainability Course

There is growing evidence that human activity is significantly transforming the natural systems that sustain us. Although we may often think of the natural world as something separate from our largely urban lives, our most basic needs such as nutritious food to eat, clean air to breath, and clean water to drink depend on the health of the natural systems of which we are a part. The focus of this course will be on exploring the possibility of maintaining a sustainable relationship between human communities and the natural world. To investigate this question we will explore the interconnectedness of global systems (including physical, ecological, cultural, social, and economic). We begin fall term by exploring food systems and how human activity affects them. In winter we look deeper into how social and cultural systems, both past and present, interact to create the problems facing us. Carrying forward the topics of fall and winter, in the spring we turn to issues of resilience and building student capacity to solve problems without creating new problems. Throughout the course students will develop their own areas of interest within the topic of sustainability. As a learning community, students are expected to come to class prepared and to support each other in the process of learning.

About the Freshman Inquiry Professor

JR Estes teaches and writes on issues related to environmental policy, sustainability, and the media, with a focus on public literacy of environmental policies. Her classroom goal is to foster students' abilities to form, connect, and communicate ideas in their areas of interest. She models this by sharing her own research process with her students. Professor Estes is currently working on a book chronicling the policy history of catastrophic oil spills in the U.S. and an article on the media coverage of climate change. Drawing on her experience as a first generation and multi-cultural student, Professor Estes provides her students with the tools they need to understand the language and expectations of university life at Portland State, from the first year through graduate study. Portland is her hometown and she enjoys traveling all over the state with her family.

If you have additional questions feel free to contact Courtney Sandler ( or JR Estes ( You may also contact Residence Life at 503.725.2450.