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Sustainability and Sustainable Development

The MPA concentration in sustainable development focuses on the balancing of human needs with the protection of the natural and social environments so that these needs can be met in the present and also into the indefinite future. Future generations ought not to be made worse off because of actions taken in the present.

As the Brundtland Commission (formally, the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) envisioned the concept, sustainable development is development that “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The logical components of a sustainable development strategy encompass environmental, economic, social, and political elements.

Students who complete the concentration are expected to work for governments, private businesses, and special interest organizations that seek to sustain and improve both current and future conditions for life on earth. The concentration seeks to provide them with both skills and perspectives that will serve the development of their own rewarding careers in this field.

Careers in Sustainability & Sustainable Development

Careers in this field will be found in all sectors: from public to private and from city, state, national or international perspectives. Some possible career options may include jobs at:

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and similar such departments in other countries
  • Departments of natural resources in the different states in the US
  • City and state departments of sustainability and environmental management
  • Private agricultural and resource management firms
  • A major non-profit organization such as World Resources International, World Watch, World Wildlife Fund
  • A major think tank such as Resources for the Future, Competitive Enterprise Institute, or The Carter Center
  • International organizations, such as the World Bank or United Nations (focusing on water, agriculture, resources, food, energy)
  • Financial markets focusing on carbon permits and other pollutants.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Curriculum

All MPA students develop needed technical tools with the MPA core competencies (18 credit hours).

A concentration in Sustainability and Sustainable Development is comprised of 18 credit hours.  The concentration includes two required courses:

  • Sustainable Communities (V 515)
  • Sustainable Development (V 596)

Students select two courses from a listing of classes that examine specific contexts for sustainability.  Students are encouraged to take courses that lead to expertise in a particular context.  These courses may be chosen from one of the two categories:

Development, Policy, and Entrepreneurship:

  • Human Behavior and Energy Consumption (V 511)
  • Energy Policy (V 550)
  • Principles and Practices of Social Entrepreneurship (V 559)
  • Approaches to Development (V 576)
  • Seminar in Urban Economic Development (V 622)
  • Environmental Economics and Policy (V 625)
  • Natural Resource Management and Policy (V 643)
  • Economic Development, Globalization, and Entrepreneurship (V 669)
  • Topics in Public Policy: International Environmental Policy (V 710)

The Natural Environment:

  • Fisheries and Wildlife Management (E 460)
  • Urban Forest Management (E 522)
  • Forest Ecology and Management (E 528)
  • Introduction to Applied Ecology (E 532)
  • Restoration Ecology (E 534)
  • Lake and Watershed Management (E 545)
  • Conservation Biology (E 557)

Students must also select two courses to develop a set of analytical tools:

  • Application of Geographical Information Systems (E 529)
  • Environmental Risk Analysis (E 560)
  • Benefit-Cost Analysis of Public and Environmental Policies (V 541)
  • Negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution for Public Affairs (V 547)
  • Public Program Evaluation (V 562)

Additional Options:

Graduate courses that address issues in sustainability are offered in other units such as the Departments of Anthropology and Geography, and the School of Informatics.  Students may elect to take one of these as an elective with the approval of a faculty advisor.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Learning Outcomes

To understand and explain sustainability and sustainable development and integrate sustinability concepts into initiatives and programs using analytical and management tools.

  1. An ability to examine and evaluate programs and policies with regard to sustinability.
  2. An understanding of the analytical and management tools that can be used to evaluate sustainability outcomes of proposed environmenta, economic, and social initiatives.

Faculty Expertise

SPEA faculty are involved in meaningful research in numerous aspects of public policy analysis, economic development, environmental science, and natural resource management and publishes in the leading scholarly journals. In addition to their academic accomplishments, our faculty bring a rich set of policy and management tools based on real-world, hands-on experiences. They frequently serve as consultants to a broad range of environmental activities on the local, state, and national levels.

Dual Concentrations

Dual concentrations with Sustainability and Sustainable Development and other concentrations offered by SPEA—such as Economic Development, Policy Analysis, and Public Financial Management —offer unique advantages for those wanting to make a difference in particular areas of public affairs. Our faculty work to accommodate these specialized professional interests in the design of student programs.

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