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Courses offered by the Sustainability Science and Practice program are listed under the subject code SUST on the Stanford Bulletin’s ExploreCourses website.

Mission of the Coterminal Program in Sustainability Science and Practice.

The Sustainability Science and Practice program is an interdisciplinary program hosted by the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. As the global human population climbs toward 11 billion this century and consumption demands increase, we must find ways to meet the needs of people in ways that do not forgo possibilities for future generations. These sustainability challenges are marked by extreme complexity, urgency, conflicting demands, and often a paucity of resources or political will to address them.

The program integrates theoretical and conceptual knowledge with practical skills and tools to prepare students to both envision a prosperous future for all, and know how to design the practices and cultivate partnerships essential to building that future.

The curriculum covers three main elements:

Understanding complex social-environmental systems

Students develop a “systems perspective”, deepening their awareness of the dynamic and interrelated nature of social-environmental systems. They explore tools to measure, map, and model five capital assets – social, natural, human, manufactured, and knowledge capital – and their complex interactions in order to recognize potential feedbacks, thresholds, and unintended consequences, as well as to identify leverage points and opportunities for interventions that can have transformative leaders, and examine business, government and non-profit strategies for advancing sustainability. Students develop a range of skills, including decision-making in the context of complexity and uncertainty, the application of holistic metrics and evaluation tools, and communication and stakeholder engagement.

Understanding decision making and developing strategies for change

Students examine the roles of diverse actors who influence change in social-environmental systems and explore strategies to align decision making and behavior with sustainability. They explore mindsets and attributes of transformative leaders and their organizations while building a range of skills, including decision making, the use of inclusive metrics and evaluation approaches, and communication approaches.

Designing innovations with impact at scale

Students develop understanding of how to intervene in complex systems for transformative impact by exploring frameworks and tools from systems thinking, design thinking, social cognitive theory, behavioral economics, and partnership strategies. They develop practical skills in mapping complex systems and designing creative, high-leverage interventions that realign systems with the goal of intergenerational well-being.

In addition, students complete a 4-unit (120 hour) practicum placement, which provides an opportunity to apply the leadership mindsets, knowledge and skills from the curriculum to a practical experience working on complex sustainability challenge with a partner organization.

Learning Outcomes

The Sustainability Science and Practice program integrates theoretical and conceptual knowledge, mindsets and practical skills to enable students to understand and manage complex systems, understand decision making and develop strategies for change, and develop partnerships and design innovations with potential for large scale impact.

The program prepares students to become effective participants and agents of change as individuals and within organizations across all sectors of society, contributing to the advancement of the goal of sustainability – i.e. the well-being of people around the world and across generations. Using a conceptual framework that connects human well-being with key underlying assets, students learn how social-environmental systems work, how decisions are and can be made to influence system dynamics in a way that supports sustainability goals, and how to engage with others to design new ways of managing these systems.

Coterminal Master’s Degrees in Sustainability Science and Practice

The Sustainability Science and Practice program offers current Stanford University undergraduates the opportunity to apply to a one-year coterminal master’s program. Sustainability Science and Practice offers both a coterminal Master of Arts (M.A.) and a coterminal Master of Science (M.S.) degree.

Application and Admission

The Earth Systems Program has quarterly coterminal degree application deadlines: November 6, 2018; February 19, 2019; and May 14, 2019. To apply, students should submit an online application. The application includes the following:

To apply, students should submit an online application. The application includes the following:

  • The online Stanford coterminal application
  • A statement of purpose
  • A resume
  • A current Stanford unofficial transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from the master’s advisor (who must be an Academic Council member)
  • Master's program proposal (link): a list of proposed courses that fulfill degree requirements, signed by the master's adviser.

Applications must be submitted no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the bachelor’s degree (and within quarterly application deadlines). An application fee is assessed by the Registrar’s Office for coterminal applications once students are matriculated into the program.

Students applying to the coterminal master’s program must have completed a minimum of 120 units towards graduation with a minimum overall Stanford GPA of 3.4.

All applicants must devise a program of study that shows a level of courses appropriate to the master’s level, and determined in consultation with the master's advisor.

The student has the option of receiving the bachelor’s degree after completing the degree’s requirements, or receiving the bachelors and masters degrees concurrently at the completion of the master's program.

 If accepted, the student must submit a Graduate Authorization Petition through Axess; a $125 fee applies to a successful Graduate Authorization Petition.

University Coterminal Requirements

Coterminal master’s degree candidates are expected to complete all master’s degree requirements as described in this bulletin. University requirements for the coterminal master’s degree are described in the “Coterminal Master’s Program” section. University requirements for the master’s degree are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

After accepting admission to this coterminal master’s degree program, students may request transfer of courses from the undergraduate to the graduate career to satisfy requirements for the master’s degree. Transfer of courses to the graduate career requires review and approval of both the undergraduate and graduate programs on a case by case basis.

In this master’s program, courses taken during or after the first quarter of the sophomore year are eligible for consideration for transfer to the graduate career; the timing of the first graduate quarter is not a factor. No courses taken prior to the first quarter of the sophomore year may be used to meet master’s degree requirements.

Course transfers are not possible after the bachelor’s degree has been conferred.

The University requires that the graduate adviser be assigned in the student’s first graduate quarter even though the undergraduate career may still be open. The University also requires that the Master’s Degree Program Proposal be completed by the student and approved by the department by the end of the student’s first graduate quarter.

Master of Arts in Sustainability Science and Practice

Degree Requirements

The following are required of all M.A. students:

  • A minimum of 45 units of course work.
  • At least 34 units of the student’s course work for the master's program must be at the 200 level or above.
  • All remaining course work must be at the 100 level or above.
  • All courses for the master’s program must be taken for a letter grade; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the master’s adviser.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • Remaining units to meet the 45 unit minimum must be designated as 'arts' units. Course coding can be viewed here: Master Course List

For the Master of Arts in Sustainability Science and Practice, an ethics course must be taken if not completed in the undergraduate degree program. This course does not have to be completed before applying to the coterm program. It can be taken as an elective.

Required Courses 

Ethics

Select one of the following:

Units
ETHICSOC 234REthics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals3
EARTHSYS 136/236The Ethics of Stewardship2-3
or approved alternative

The following courses are required for the Master of Arts in Sustainability Science and Practice. If required courses have been taken in the undergraduate career, students pursue additional electives. 

Units
SUST 210Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems3
SUST 220Case Studies in Leading Change for Sustainability3
SUST 230Innovating Large Scale Sustainable Transformations3-4
SUST 240Sustainability Science and Practice Practicum1-4
EARTHSYS 111Biology and Global Change4
EARTHSYS 112Human Society and Environmental Change4
Minimum 1, Maximum 2 of the following:
ME 206A
ME 206B
Design for Extreme Affordability
and Design for Extreme Affordability
8
EARTHSYS 289FEED Lab: Food System Design & Innovation3-4
ME 377Design Thinking Studio4
Minimum 1, Maximum 2 of the following:
PSYCH 215Mind, Culture, and Society3
PSYCH 216Public Policy and Social Psychology: Implications and Applications4
PSYCH 265Social Psychology and Social Change (Must be taken for 3 units)3
One of the following:
LAW 7508Problem Solving and Decision Making for Public Policy and Social Change4
GSBGEN 367Problem Solving for Social Change (Limited Enrollment-Check course description for details)3
SUST 261Art and Science of Decision Making3-4
ENVRES 240Environmental Decision-Making and Risk Perception (Must be taken for 3 units)3

A current list of electives  can be found on the program's spreadsheet.

Master of Science in Sustainability Science and Practice

Degree requirements

The following are required of all M.S. students:

  • A minimum of 45 units of course work.
  • At least 34 units of the student’s course work for the masters program must be at the 200 level or above.
  • All remaining coursework must be at the 100 level or above.
  • All courses for the master’s program must be taken for a letter grade; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the master’s adviser.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • Remaining units to meet the 45 unit minimum must be designated as 'science' units. Course coding can be viewed here: Master Course List
  • For the Master of Science in Sustainability Science and Practice, the following courses must be taken if not completed in the undergraduate degree program. These courses do not have to be completed before applying to the coterm program. The ethics course can be taken as an elective. The Math and Stats courses may not be counted as part of the 45-unit master's degree.

Required Courses

Ethics

Select one of the following:

Units
ETHICSOC 234REthics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals3
EARTHSYS 136/236The Ethics of Stewardship2-3
or approved alternative

Mathematics

Select one of the following:

Units
MATH 51Linear Algebra, Multivariable Calculus, and Modern Applications5
CME 100Vector Calculus for Engineers5

Statistics

Select one of the following:

Units
ECON 102AIntroduction to Statistical Methods (Postcalculus) for Social Scientists5
STATS 110Statistical Methods in Engineering and the Physical Sciences4-5
STATS 116Theory of Probability3-5

Required Courses

The following courses are required for the Master of Science in Sustainability Science and Practice. If required courses have been taken in the undergraduate career, students pursue additional electives.

Units
SUST 210Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems3
SUST 220Case Studies in Leading Change for Sustainability3
SUST 230Innovating Large Scale Sustainable Transformations3-4
SUST 240Sustainability Science and Practice Practicum1-4
EARTHSYS 111Biology and Global Change4
EARTHSYS 112Human Society and Environmental Change4
Minimum 1, Maximum 2 of the following:
ME 206A
ME 206B
Design for Extreme Affordability
and Design for Extreme Affordability
8
EARTHSYS 289FEED Lab: Food System Design & Innovation3-4
ME 377Design Thinking Studio4
Minimum 1, Maximum 2 of the following:
PSYCH 215Mind, Culture, and Society3
PSYCH 216Public Policy and Social Psychology: Implications and Applications4
PSYCH 265Social Psychology and Social Change (Must be taken for 3 units)3
One of the following:
LAW 7508Problem Solving and Decision Making for Public Policy and Social Change4
GSBGEN 367Problem Solving for Social Change (Limited Enrollment-Check course description for details)3
SUST 261Art and Science of Decision Making3-4
ENVRES 240Environmental Decision-Making and Risk Perception (Must be taken for 3 units)3

A current list of electives can be found on the program's spreadsheet.

Graduate Advising Expectations

The Program in Sustainability Science and Practice is committed to providing academic advising in support of graduate student scholarly and professional development. When most effective, this advising relationship entails collaborative and sustained engagement by both the adviser and the advisee. As a best practice, advising expectations should be periodically discussed and reviewed to ensure mutual understanding. Both the adviser and the advisee are expected to maintain professionalism and integrity.

Faculty advisers guide students in key areas such as selecting courses, designing and conducting research, developing of teaching pedagogy, navigating policies and degree requirements, and exploring academic opportunities and professional pathways.

Graduate students are active contributors to the advising relationship, proactively seeking academic and professional guidance and taking responsibility for informing themselves of policies and degree requirements for their graduate program.

For a statement of University policy on graduate advising, see the "Graduate Advising" section of this bulletin.

Director: Pamela Matson

Executive Director: Julia Novy-Hildesley

Affiliated Faculty and Lecturers:

  • Kevin Arrigo (Earth System Science, Earth Systems Program)
  • Nicole M. Ardoin (Education)
  • Shilajeet Banerjee (Professor of Practice, Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources)
  • William Barnett (Business)
  • Sally Benson (Energy Resources Engineering)
  • Paul Brest (Law)
  • Marshall Burke (Earth System Science)
  • Gretchen C. Daily (Environmental Science)
  • Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Rob Dunbar (Earth System Science) 
  • Zephyr Frank (History)
  • Pamela Hinds (Management Science and Engineering)
  • Rob Jackson (Earth System Science)
  • James Holland Jones (Earth System Science)
  • Jeffrey R. Koseff (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Eric Lambin( Earth System Science)
  • Hazel Markus (Psychology)
  • Pamela Matson (Earth System Science)
  • Rosamond Naylor (Earth System Science)
  • Julia Novy-Hildesley (Professor of the Practice, Sustainability Science and Practice)
  • Burke Robinson (Management Science and Engineering)
  • Jenny Suckale (Geophysics)
  • Barton Thompson (Law)
  • Peter Vitousek (Biology)
  • Jeremy Weinstein (Political Science)
  • Mikael Wolfe (History)

Courses

SUST 210. Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems. 3 Units.

This course provides a systems framework for understanding and managing social-environmental systems, with the ultimate goal of intergenerational well-being. It explores the role of natural, human, social, technological and knowledge capital assets in determining sustainability, and their trade-offs, feedbacks, non-linearities and other interactions within complex systems. Through case study analyses, the course illustrates why complex systems approaches are important and some of the failures that occur without them, and provides an overview of the tools, approaches, and strategies that assist with management of assets for sustainability goals. The course draws on readings from a variety of on-line sources as well as chapters and case studies provided in the required text.

SUST 220. Case Studies in Leading Change for Sustainability. 3 Units.

This course focuses on the practice of leading change for sustainability. It uses analysis and evaluation of case studies to explore different modes of leadership and processes that have allowed companies and organizations to pursue sustainability in their business models. Topics include complex systems and leadership orientations, systems thinking, decision-making under uncertainty, negotiation, circular economy, social enterprise, stakeholder engagement, multi-stakeholder partnerships, resilience theory, metrics of progress beyond GDP. The course builds understanding and capacity to lead change through conceptual frameworks, hands-on exercises, class discussion and interactions with transformative leaders. Course materials include scholarly articles in behavioral psychology, resilience theory, systems analysis, as well as business school case material and tools developed by exemplary organizations leading change for sustainability. Consent of instructor required. Please email Julia Novy-Hildesley (julia3@stanford.edu) with the answers to these 3 questions: 1. Why are you interested in this course? 2. What would you like to get out of this course? 3. What will you contribute? Permission code will be given upon review of answers.

SUST 230. Innovating Large Scale Sustainable Transformations. 3-4 Units.

This class establishes innovation of systemic transformations as a crucial leadership modality. It gives students the mindsets, theoretical framework, and hands-on experience in shaping innovative interventions that bring about scaled and profound transformations in the face of complex multi-factorial challenges. Students are immersed in the Deep Change Methodology, which combines systems thinking, strategy, design thinking, behavioral sciences, resilience theory, diffusion theory, decision theory, and a theoretical framework around scaled multistake-holder interventions. Tools and theories introduced in class will be used to structure large-scale transformations that simultaneously create sustainability and resilience on environmental, societal, and economic fronts. This project-based team-based class challenges students to find solutions for complex real world challenges. Consent of instructor required. Class meets Fridays starting week 2 (April 13th), for 8 weeks at 9.30am - 4.20pm. Week 9 presentations (June 1st) 3.00pm - 8.00pm.
Same as: ENVRES 380

SUST 240. Sustainability Science and Practice Practicum. 1-4 Unit.

The Practicum Program is designed to serve as a platform that will enable students to exercise and internalize the principles of social-environmental systems, leading change and innovating systems transformations. The theories, models, and methods presented during coursework ultimately should lead to a deep reflection on and development of the student's identity as a transformative leader. The practicum is designed to give students a chance to practice and embody this new leadership identity through action. Total units allowed for this course is 4.

SUST 261. Art and Science of Decision Making. 3-4 Units.

Common-sense rules and decision-making tools to achieve clarity of action for important decisions, from personal choices to organizational decisions about business strategies and public policies. The art of qualitative framing and structuring as well as the science of quantitative modeling and analysis. The essential focus, discipline, and passion needed to make high-quality decisions, and thereby increase the probability of desired outcomes. Effective normative techniques and efficient management processes for both analyzing complex decisions and implementing them in the face of an uncertain future world.nLecture topics include practical ways to: interact collaboratively with stakeholders, craft an inspirational vision, create viable alternatives, assess unbiased probabilistic information, clarify tangible and intangible preferences, develop appropriate risk/reward and portfolio models, evaluate strategies and policies across a realistic range of uncertain scenarios, analyze key sensitivities, appraise the value of gathering additional information, and build widespread commitment to implementation plans. nStudent teams present insights from their analyses of real decisions currently being made by business, nonprofit, and government organizations. Case studies about: energy economics, mine remediation, ocean resource preservation, bison brucellosis, nuclear waste storage, hurricane seeding, electric power production, environmental risk management, venture capital investments, and oil & gas options trading.