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

The Program

Cities are leading the transition to sustainable human development across the world. Many large cities have set ambitious decarbonization targets well ahead of their nations, while emphasizing the imperative for harnessing the energy technologies revolution to address issues of social equity and economic development.

Achieving these integrated objectives requires new, systemic knowledge and new ways to drive practice.

The SFI Global Sustainability Summer School (GSSS) provides an intensive two-week program on the leading role of cities as complex systems driving the global sustainability transition.

Participants will learn from leading international thinkers and practitioners about the state of the art in science, technology and policy creating systemic solutions.

All applicants are welcome. The school is especially well-suited for postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, early-career scientists, policymakers at agencies and foundations, and business professionals.

The Focus

The school is a unique immersive experience, located in the beautiful historic Santa Fe Institute campus. It provides participants with a deep and inspiring learning experience around systemic issues of cities and sustainable development.

The school balances fundamental science, technology and practice throughout its presentations and activities, targeted at a broad interdisciplinary audience. Participants will engage with the latest developments in urban science and with new opportunities for research and practice afforded by emerging data and technologies in light of the human experience of living in cities.

The program is organized around a set of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary lectures and discussions that focus on many interdependent aspects of cities as engines of change and development. 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 emissions, and characteristics of new technologies that may shift the balance between the benefits and impacts of development.

Particular challenges from leading cities, especially in the USA and India, will also be posed to participants who will develop their own approaches in short projects.

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 the Santa Fe Institute as part of the school.

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 uploaded to your application by your recommender. 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 application deadline.


To Apply

The application process has been closed. Global Sustainability Summer School has been canceled for 2020.

For further information, please contact


2020 GSSS Faculty

This section will to be updated with the 2020 Faculty as their attendance is confirmed.

Luís Bettencourt will serve as the 2020 GSSS Co-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.

Nicholas de Monchaux will serve as the 2020 GSSS Co-Director. He is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was formerly Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UC Berkeley and Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media.


2019 GSSS Faculty

If you would like to see who lectured last year, the 2019 faculty is listed here.

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.

Doug Arent, Deputy Associate Lab Director, Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (homepage)

Anni Beukes Institute Resident Fellow at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation
University of Chicago (homepage)

Christa Brelsford Liane Russell Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (GSSS 2016 video) (homepage)

Charlie Catlett Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, Founding Director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, UrbanCCD
Argonne National Laboratory,University of Chicago (homepage)

Danielle DuMerer CIO & Commissioner of the Department of Innovation & Technology
City of Chicago (homepage)

Christopher Kennedy Professor of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
University of Victoria (GSSS 2016 video) (homepage)

Audrey de Nazelle Lecturer in Air Pollution Management
Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London (homepage)

Dan O’Brien Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Northeastern University (GSSS 2016 video) (homepage)

Emily Talen Professor of Urbanism
University of Chicago (homepage)

Philip Enquist, FAIA and Consulting Partner
Urban Design and Planning, SOM Architecture (homepage)

Jagan Shah, Senior Infrastructure Adviser, Department for International Development, Government of UK, and former Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, Government of India. (homepage)

Mani Vajipey, Co-Founder and CEO
Banyan Nation (homepage)

Matt Petersen, President and CEO
Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) (CSSS 2016 video) (homepage)

Edward Mazria, Founder and CEO
Architecture 2030 (homepage)