Research in Engineering and Aviation

Creating an Interdisciplinary Master of Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities

October 2012

Author(s):  Gharabagi, R.Woolschlager, J.

Presented to AASHE 2012 Annual Conference.


A two year Master of Sustainability (MOS) program accepted its first group of students in the fall of 2010, leading to the first graduating class in May of 2012. The MOS program integrates knowledge on sustainable business practices, effective public policy, and innovative design and engineering approaches. The rigorous coursework and field training offered enables program graduates to confront sustainability related issues with a systems approach. In its initial phase, the program required a common first year of foundational core courses that covered general sustainability topics across the degree’s integrated disciplines: Business, Engineering, Public Policy, Social Work, and Environmental Sciences. Students progressed through these first-year courses together as a team. The second year was originally structured around tracks, where students had the opportunity to focus in one of the disciplines introduced in the first year. The MOS uses two comprehensive, multi-faceted program assessments, one at the end of the first semester of the program, and one at the end of the first year, resulting in significant changes to the curriculum. In its second phase, the program had eliminated the cohort model as well as the second year focus tracks to allow greater flexibility for students and faculty mentors. The first year remains focused on delivering a broad, foundational understanding of sustainability across multiple disciplines. Also unchanged are the Capstone requirement and a field experience. Continuous assessment is an integral part of the program to ensure its quality and continued updates.