Curriculum & Courses

36 points for degree completion On-campus instruction only
Part-time or full-time program* Spring and Fall intake
3-9 terms to complete  

* International students are responsible for ensuring they have read and understand the University’s student visa application eligibility and requirements. Please note that it is not permissible to enroll while in B-1/B-2 status. In addition, if studying on a student visa, you must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus.

The curriculum is designed and sequenced to develop a new generation of scientific leaders and a pipeline of skilled workforce in sustainability. Students have the flexibility to choose from a variety of courses in order to best prepare themselves for professional advancement.

The program requires the completion of 36 credits (12 courses) including three required courses. Courses are held primarily in the evenings and the degree can be completed without daytime courses. The program is designed to enable part-time students to maintain full-time employment while enrolled in the program.

The program’s coursework is organized by the following areas of study:

Area 1 – Integrative Courses in Sustainability Science (9 points)

Three courses in this area teach students the scientific underpinnings of the complex interactions between human beings and nature. The courses require that students integrate their knowledge of Earth observation, measurement, analysis, and modeling skills, as well as the use of scientific tools, to inform sustainability policy, management, and decision-making.

Required courses:

Sustainability Science
this survey course covers the fundamentals of sustainability science, including units on the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, the cryosphere, the anthrosphere, and the lithosphere. In certain units, students will utilize standard software environments for statistical analysis (e.g., R), in addition to several web-based program (e.g., Climate Explorer), to analyze and model real observations.

Capstone Workshop in Sustainability Science
Students study the sustainability science behind a particular sustainability problem, collect and analyze data using scientific tools, and make recommendations for solving the problem.

Sustainability Management
This course is designed to introduce students to the field of sustainability management. It is a practical course organized around the core concepts of management and the core concepts of sustainability.

Area 2 – Methods of Earth Observation and Measurement (9 points)

This area of study introduces students to basic scientific methods used in observing and monitoring natural systems. Students learn to apply these methods in assessing the condition of natural systems, and in making data-driven conclusions about their sustainability.

Understanding Current Environmental Conditions through Observation and Experiment
In this course, students will learn about how different observing technologies inform us about the environment on a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. Emphasis will be placed on remote sensing, large networks of tree-ring datasets, flux towers, ground-based radiation spectrometers, atmospheric chemistry instruments, and the global seismographic network. This course will also have an ongoing local-measurement component, where we make regular measurements on the university campus using hand-held wind and weather meters as well as infrared radiometers to record the data and track records over the course of the semester.

Other forthcoming electives:

  • The Physical Climate System

  • Earthquakes and their Interactions with Humanity

Area 3 – Analysis and Modelling Environmental Conditions and Impacts (9 points)

Courses in this area train students to analyze and model scientific data to understand current and future environments and their interactions with human systems. By learning analysis and modelling, students are better able to inform sustainability policy, management, and decision-making.

Understanding Human-Environment Interactions through Data
This course will introduce social and health science data and methods to those with natural science or engineering backgrounds, and environmental and engineering data and methods to those from the social and health sciences. Students will have the opportunity to work with a range of data types, with students from other disciplines, and with different analytic tools and approaches in tackling real-world research and applied problems.

Other forthcoming electives:

  • Climate Risk Analysis

  • Ocean Sciences

  • Ocean Health

Area 4 – Scientific Tools for Responding to Sustainability Challenges (6 points)

In this area, students learn how to use scientific tools in order to prevent, detect, respond and adapt to pressing sustainability issues, such as the loss of biodiversity, climate change impacts, soil and water contamination, and threats to populations.

Soil and Groundwater Remediation
The human footprint is extensive and covers every corner of the Earth. This course will examine the fundamental science behind the contamination of water systems, the atmosphere, and terrestrial systems. The course will examine the origins of contamination, the human and environmental risks of that contamination, and solutions to these environmental problems. This course will draw upon examples and datasets from both developed and developing nations. The central theme of the course is that it is necessary and possible to consider our environment within the context of globalization and development. This course will provide participants with the opportunity to learn how to measure the magnitude and extent of pollution, and to devise solutions that both solve existing problems and proactively minimize or prevent future contamination.

Other forthcoming electives:

  • Climate Measurement Reconstruction

  • Geoengineering

  • Disaster Preparedness and Responses

Area 5 – Sustainability Policy or Management (3 points)

Courses in this area examine the relationships among sustainability science, policy and management. Students learn about the socio-political and economic contexts in which sustainability science is practiced and the opportunities and obstacles for integrating scientific knowledge in decision-making.

Policy and Legal Context of Sustainability Management
This course is designed to provide the student with an overview of the development and present status of environmental law as it relates to sustainability management. The student should understand the evolution of environmental law as a complex body of statutes, regulations, guidance, administrative and judicial decisions that address environmental impacts arising from emissions, operations, and products. Further, the student should understand the interplay of various policy drivers in shaping the law, an understanding that is transferable to any area of sustainability practice.

Other available electives:

  • Sustainable Operations

  • International Environmental Law

  • Sustainability Communications Strategy and Reporting

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.