Sustainability Curriculum

Full-Time, Part-Time, & Evening Course Options Available

The Master of Arts in Sustainability course offerings are designed to give students an interdisciplinary overview of sustainability practice.

Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainability students will take the core curriculum courses except for the applied sustainability practicum course.




(1 credit) Effective, persuasive communication requires clarity, engaging language, sound reasoning, and an informed appreciation of audience. To that end, this workshop seeks to equip students as change agents that can effectively articulate a vision for ways to invest in and contribute to creating a sustainable future. Specifically, the Communication Skills Workshop teaches you how to apply such concepts to forms of written (e.g., memos) and oral (e.g., PowerPoint presentations) communication typically found in business and non-profit organizational settings. The workshop includes numerous interactive lessons that focus on the essentials of dynamic and economical writing, argument and evidentiary analysis, engaging and well-researched oral presentations, and audience adaptation.


(1 credit) This workshop will support students in understanding and developing the skills required to be thought leaders in the sustainability field. Learning will focus on leadership skills required to create meaningful change in various organizational settings. Topics include influencing others, collaborating in teams, managing conflict and working across cultures. To enhance self-awareness we will employ self-assessments and the creation of a program-long development plan.


(1 credit) In this course we will focus on the nature of scientific inquiry, and explore how it is pursued, reported, and applied. In particular, we will focus on the intersection of climate science and the scientific study of attitudes/beliefs about climate science. We will also explore the projected impacts on and policy responses from the state of North Carolina.


(1 credit) This workshop introduces the concept of Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital Valuation in theory and practice. It focuses broadly on the concept of natural capital and the process of valuing ecosystem services, and more closely on how the process is working at multiple scales in policy, markets and projects. Ecosystem services is a new and rapidly growing field that crosses science, policy and management. Practitioners have varied expertise; from spatial modelers, research scientist, and economists, to policy makers and social scientists. We will cover some of the historical development and current state of the ecosystem services markets specifically for carbon and water. Critical spatial tools of GIS and spatial modeling of ecosystem services are also introduced.



(3 credits) Sustainability is a human term with context specific connotations—in other words deployments of the term in the public sphere often tell us more about the perceptions and values of those utilizing the term than they do about what is central to achieving sustainability. In this course we will interrogate the ways in which uses of this human term intersect with earth systems and politics. Students will gain a basic understanding of earth systems science, gather historical data related to human impacts on earth systems, and study human values as they relate to the other-than-human entities with which they share their habitats. Fundamentally, the goal of this course is to go beyond the traditional disciplinary divides (natural science, social sciences, and humanities), to begin to sketch the outlines of each of these areas while highlighting important convergences and differences.


(3 credits) Are organizations part of the problem or part of the solution – or both? What practices will produce desirable organizational outcomes and improve the environment? This course will provide information to address these questions. It will include an overview of the presence and impact of sustainable practices in private and public sector organizations. The course information and experiences will equip participants with the ability to think critically about the trade-offs inherent in the relationship between certain organizational decisions and sustainability best practices.


(3 credits) Students will explore qualitative and quantitative chemical and physical aspects of sustainability for waste, water, air, and energy. The course provides an in-depth scientific understanding of the most important nonrenewable and renewable energy sources. Students will study the world’s present and future energy needs, focus on energy production, consumption, and environmental impact, and explore ways in which these principles relate to sustainability. The sustainability and environmental trade off of different energy systems will be studied.


(3 credits) To understand how we can move toward sustainability domestically and abroad, we must understand how and why law and policy are developed, challenged, and changed. This course will look at the historical development of environmentalism and the movements that provided the impetus for modern environmental legal regimes, as well as case studies illustrating contemporary environmental issues. We will cover common law and statutory remedies for private citizens, principles of federalism and separation of powers, agency rulemaking, the role of the judiciary in environmental law and policy, and international environmental law.


(4 credis total) Contextualizing the material covered in the workshops and core courses, this course will provide opportunities for students to develop skills to meet the needs of the marketplace and to experience sustainability in action. In addition to regular classroom lectures and guest lectures by topical experts, students will work on client-based practica in areas like energy production and procurement, land conservation, and/or community advocacy. Learn more about Applied Sustainability Client Projects.

Dr. Ron Von Burg Associate Professor, Department of Communication Wake Forest University


SUS 691 Special Topics: Coasts and Climate Change

(1.5 credits) This trip will focus on the impacts of climate change and sea level rise along the coast of North Carolina. We will visit what some land managers call the “frontline” of climate change, and see firsthand how sea level rise and salt water intrusion are changing the natural ecosystems. We’ll meet with land managers and engage conservation organizations working on this front line and learn about their strategies to mitigate impacts. We will also meet with local business people learning to live with changing landscapes and hear how they are planning for the future.

SUS 691 Special Topics: Environmental Finance

Instructor: Michael Curley, Esq., Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute

(2 credits) This course provides an introduction to the basics of sustainable financing for environmental projects and is adapted from training used for professionals in both the United States and abroad. It covers how to measure income, basics of loans, how to value projects, how to examine financial feasibility and alternative finance options, sources of funds for such projects, cost/benefit analysis, tariff designs, and the use of subsidies. The principles in this course can apply to both public and private sector projects and at almost any scale. By the end of this course, students should be able to understand and/or develop the most cost-effective ways to finance programs to improve the quality of life.

This course is available to both Sustainability graduate students as well as graduate and upper level undergraduate students. Maximum enrollment is 20.

SUS 691 Special Topics: Policy Making: The Fight Over Climate Change

(1.5 credits) “Policymaking: The Fight Over Climate Change,” is an opportunity for graduate students in sustainability, law students, and undergraduates to meet with policy advocates, environmental regulators, and legislative staff in Washington, D.C. who are involved in environmental protection and sustainability. The seminar will focus on the policy process and how the advocates and government officials with whom they are meeting fit into that process. The seminar will also acquaint students with how they can use their interest and education in environmental protection to pursue a career in policy advocacy or to have a role in environmental public policy while pursuing other careers.

SUS 710: Sustainable Urban Planning and the Built Environment

(3 credits) This course will explore the tenets of sustainable construction and high performance building practices and prepare students for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Associate Exam. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. Sustainable architecture and construction seek to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space. This course widens the conversation to include how buildings and other community planning impact urban environments. The focus of this planning is to satisfy construction and design goals with sustainable outcomes.