General

Program Title
Sustainability Science and Practice (MS)
Degree Type
MS - Master of Science
Undergraduate/Graduate
Graduate
Department(s)
Sustainability Science and Prc
Program Overview

The Sustainability Science and Practice program (SUST for short) is an interdisciplinary coterminal master's program hosted by the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. The goal of the program is to prepare leaders to radically accelerate the transition to a sustainable and just society. As the global human population climbs toward 11 billion, consumption demands increase, and disparities in wealth and opportunity persist, society must learn to equitably meet existing human needs 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. Transforming these challenges into powerful opportunities requires a new kind of leader — one who can both envision a prosperous future for all and who can design practices and cultivate partnerships essential to building that future. The SUST program equips students with the theoretical and conceptual knowledge and the mindsets and practical skills needed to advance sustainability, securing human well-being around the world and across generations.

The curriculum covers three main elements:

Element 1: 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 impact.

Element 2: 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 approaches of transformative leaders and examine effective strategies for advancing sustainability across sectors. Students develop skills in decision making in complex and uncertain contexts, use metrics and evaluation approaches aligned with sustainability goals, cultivate leadership orientations, and practice effective communications and storytelling approaches.

Element 3: 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.

Sustainability Leadership Practicum

To integrate and internalize core lessons from the SUST curriculum, each student completes a 120-hour practicum project of their own design, collaborating on a complex sustainability challenge with an outside partner and working through the types of constraints often faced by decision makers and leaders. Students apply the leadership mindsets, knowledge, and skills from the curriculum to this practical experience and present their final analysis and reflections to faculty and peers.

Program 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 cultivate partnerships and design innovations with potential for impact at scale.

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 can be made to system dynamics in a way that supports sustainability goals, and how to engage with others to design new ways of managing these systems.


External Credit Policies
-

Degree Requirements

Each coterm candidate must devise a program of study that includes a robust set of courses appropriate to the master’s level, as determined in consultation with program staff and the applicant’s master's advisor.

Students without prior coursework in Earth systems are strongly encouraged to take EARTHSYS 10: Introduction to Earth Systems prior to applying to the SUST coterm. Foundational coursework in economics, sociology and psychology is also recommended.

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

  • A minimum of 45 units of coursework.

  • 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 coursework must be at the 100 level or above.

  • All courses for the master’s program must be taken for a letter grade if a letter grade is offered. Exceptions to this requirement must be approved by the program.

  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.

  • The majority of the student’s 45 units must be designated as “science” units. Arts and science designations for courses can be viewed on the SUST Course Requirements and Electives spreadsheet.

  • Elective courses for the master's program must be selected from the program's pre-approved list, which is available in the 2nd tab of the SUST Course Requirements and Electives spreadsheet. Students may request approval for other elective courses via the program's course petition process.

  • If courses required for the master’s degree have been completed in the undergraduate career, students may, after consulting with program staff, pursue additional electives to fulfill the 45 units required for the master’s degree.

Required Courses

Units

SUST Core

Required for all SUST coterms:

course

Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems

3

course

Case Studies in Leading Change for Sustainability

3

course

Introduction to Systems Transformation

1

course

Sustainability Leadership Practicum

4

Understanding Earth Systems: Social Interactions

Required for all SUST coterms:

course

Human Society and Environmental Change

4

Understanding Earth Systems: Biophysical Interactions

- Path 1 -

Required for students who have not completed EARTHSYS10: Introduction to Earth Systems:

course

Biology and Global Change

4

Understanding Earth Systems: Biophysical Interactions

- Path 2 -

Students who have completed EARTHSYS10 may take one of the biophysical science courses below as an alternative to EARTHSYS217. Course must be taken at the 200+ level. Some courses have prerequisites. Choose one of the following:

course

Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions

3-4

course

Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: The Atmospheric

Circulation

3

course 

Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics: the Ocean Circulation

3

course

Coastal Contaminants

3-4

course

Air Pollution Fundamentals

3

course

Biological Oceanography

3-4

course

Marine Chemistry

3-4

course

Introduction to Physical Oceanography

4

course

Water Resources and Hazards

3

course

The Water Course

4

course

Conservation Biology: A Latin American Perspective

3

course

Ecology and Evolution of Animal Behavior

3

Psychology / Understanding Behavior

Choose one of the following:

course

Mind, Culture, and Society

3

course

Public Policy and Social Psychology: Implications and Applications (not offered in AY21-22)

course

Wise Interventions

4

course

Social Psychology and Social Change

4

Decision Making

Choose one of the following:

course

Problem Solving and Decision Making for Public Policy and Social Change

4

course

Problem Solving for Social Change

3

course

Art and Science of Decision Making

3-4

course

Decision Science for Environmental Threats

3-5

course

Environmental Decision-Making and Risk Perception (must take for 3+ units)

3

Design and Innovation

Choose two of the following:

course

Design for Advocacy (formerly Design for Impact in Social Systems)

3-4

course
course

Design for Extreme Affordability
and Design for Extreme Affordability

(See extreme.stanford.edu. Students who complete this sequence do not need to take a 2nd design and innovation course)

8

course

d.Leadership: Leading Disruptive Innovation

3-4

course

Justice by Design

3

course

Inventing the Future

4

course

Design Thinking Studio

4

course

Innovations in Inclusive Design in Tech (formerly Beyond Pink and Blue: Gender in Tech)

4-5

course

Oceans by Design

3

course

Forget all the Jargon, Let's Innovate

4

course

Designing the Taboo

3

course

Designing Futures of Work in a Time of COVID 19

3

course

Designing for Communal Safety

3

course

Designing Courageous Conversations For Impact

4

course

Redesigning Post-Disaster Finance 

3-4

course

Designing Healthcare For Social Justice: Telehealth Design and Access

3

Notes:

  • Most d.school classes (typically denoted as DESINST) have limited enrollment and a competitive application process. SUST students must apply through the d.school's course application process to be considered for one of the limited spots.

  • The d.school determines its course offerings on a quarterly basis, and some courses on the above list may not be offered in AY21-22. As new offerings become available throughout the year, the SUST program may approve additional options and will add them to this list.

Mathematics and Statistics Prerequisite

The Master of Science in Sustainability Science and Practice requires additional coursework in mathematics and statistics. Although students are encouraged to complete these courses prior to applying to SUST, the coursework may be taken after admission to the program. The mathematics and statistics coursework may not be counted toward the 45 units required for master's degree completion. These courses do not have to be taken for a letter grade.

Mathematics

One of the following:

course

Linear Algebra, Multivariable Calculus, and Modern Applications

course

Vector Calculus for Engineers

Statistics

One of the following:

course

Introduction to Statistical Methods (Postcalculus) for Social Scientists

course

Statistical Methods in Engineering and the Physical Sciences

course

Theory of Probability

course

Introduction to Probability

course

Introduction to Probability for Computer Scientists

course

Probabilistic Systems Analysis

course

Introduction to Probability and Statistics for Engineers

Ethics Course Recommendation

All Sustainability Science and Practice students must complete at least one ethics course during their time at the University. Students who have satisfied the Ways-Ethical Reasoning undergraduate requirement are not required to take an additional ethics course. Those who have not yet satisfied this requirement are encouraged to consider one of the recommended ethics courses listed below.

course

Ethics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals

course

Introduction to Global Justice

course

Introduction to Environmental Ethics