Master of Arts in Sustainability

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  • Course description
    The M.A. program in Sustainability addresses some of the most pressing concerns of the 21st century. Students learn innovative approaches to understand, research, and provide solutions to complex sustainability challenges. Although the graduate-degree programs emphasize the integration of a broad range of expertise in student training, the M.A. degree (vs. the M.S. ) is best suited to students inclined towards social sciences, humanities, planning, and related fields.

    Learning Outcomes
    M.A. graduates will be able to think in a holistic way about different types of sustainability problems using a dynamic systems framework. They will have the technical skills to formulate and solve problems at the appropriate scale, and the breadth of vision to recognize the interconnectedness of coupled social and environmental systems. They will also be able to produce policy-relevant results. In addition to the common learning outcomes, M.A. students will be able to:
    • Understand the concepts and methods of environmental economics, sociology, anthropology, environmental politics, ethics, design, and human geography relevant to the sustainability of environmental resources and social institutions.
    • Lead others in applying these concepts and methods to developing sustainable institutions for water, land, air, and urban management at the local and global level.
    Required Core Courses (15 hours)
    The required core courses will bring students together in an integrated learning environment to form a cadre of diverse backgrounds. The core courses are designed to provide students with methods and theory appropriate to the study of sustainability. They will explore the link between concepts of sustainability and systems approaches to knowledge, and will develop the integrative methods needed to work across the disciplines on sustainability problems.
    • SOS 510 Perspectives on Sustainability (Required for all students)
    • SOS 511 Quantitative Methods in Sustainability (Required for all students)
    • SOS 512 Sustainable Resource Allocation
    • SOS 513 Science for Sustainability
    • SOS 514 Human Dimensions of Sustainability
    • SOS 515 Industrial Ecology and Design for Sustainability
    • SOS 516 Science, Technology, and Public Affairs or SOS 591 Uncertainty and Decision Making
    • SOS 591 Sustainability and Enterprise
    Required Challenge Area Seminars (3 hours for thesis option or 6 hours for non-thesis option) Challenge area seminars are designed to provide students with a strong substantive foundation (content knowledge, big theory, and big studies) of the main themes of the School.
    • SOS 530 International Development and Sustainability
    • SOS 532 Sustainable Urban Dynamics
    • SOS 533 Sustainable Water
    • SOS 534 Sustainable Energy and Material Use
    • SOS 598 Food System Sustainability
    Required Solutions Workshops (3 hours for thesis option or 6 hours for non-thesis)
    Solutions workshops are designed to provide students with experience solving real-world problems that involve multiple sustainability challenges. As such, they will be problem-based, and not specifically attached to one of the main themes. Please check with Advising for a current list of workshops that are being offered.

    Elective Courses (6 hours)
    Subject to satisfying pre-requisites and co-requisites, students can select a minimum of 6 semester hours from the Graduate Electives List (document). With permission from the student's supervisory committee, other electives (not included in this list) may be selected.

    Thesis Option

    A thesis is optional. If students elect to do a thesis they will be required to devote six (6) hours to writing a thesis (SOS 599). Once approved by the faculty advisor, students may also register for research hours (SOS 592), but these hours are not necessary for the Program of Study. All Master's degree candidates must also be enrolled for at least one semester hour of credit within the academic unit (i.e., the School of Sustainability) during the semester or summer session in which the thesis is defended.
    • SOS 592 Research
    • SOS 599 Thesis
    Non-Thesis Option
    If students choose the non-thesis option, they will be required to complete an additional three (3) semester hours of challenge area seminars and an additional three (3) semester hours of solutions workshops described below. The thesis substitute can be an individual applied project/product related to one of the workshops. The student's supervisory committee must approve the project/product in advance.
    • Evaluate the sustainability of environmental institutions, legal frameworks, property rights, and culture.
    • Research particular problems in the sustainability of social institutions.

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