Core Courses that are required for all participating trainees include:

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Future (SDG:4000; 3 sh): This team-taught course will establish baseline competencies among students from diverse backgrounds, introduce the UN SDG framework, and cover foundational concepts for sustainable development (e.g., life-cycle analysis, systems thinking, data processing and visualization, etc.).
  • Skills for Future Leaders in Sustainable Development (SDG:5100; 3 sh): This course focuses on competencies necessary to help students translate their training and research into action for social good. Among the topics covered are Ethics, Cultural Competency, Collaboration and Team Science, Use-Inspired Design, and Engagement.
  • Communicating Data through Stories (SDG:5225; 3 sh): How to communicate science effectively and responsively with multiple audiences from peers and professors to potential employers, policymakers, and the lay public; focus on speaking about science clearly and vividly in ways that can engage varied audiences, especially those outside the student's own field; connecting and finding common ground with an audience, defining goals, identifying main points, speaking without jargon, explaining meaning and context, using storytelling techniques and multimedia elements.
  • Sustainable Communities Lab (SDG:6000; 6 sh). This is a problem-centered class which will engage students in individual and group projects at the community level.  The primary purpose of these projects will be to move a community partner toward increased realization of one or more of the UN SDGs. 

Additional courses taken by participating trainees include analytical and methods focused courses and SDG electives.

  • Analytical and Methods Focused Courses: All trainees are also required to select from a list of approved courses two analytical and methods focused courses offered by supporting programs (SPPA, GSS and CEE). The intent of these analytical and methods courses is to provide students training in analytical competencies necessary for sustainable development including spatial analysis, statistics, informatics, data management, and decision analysis.
  • SDG Electives: To complete their coursework requirement, students complete elective courses structured around the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Students are required to focus on one SDG and take three elective courses in that SDG area to provide depth in one area of specialization.


The Master of Science program in Sustainable Development requires a minimum of 30 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. With the approval of their faculty advisors, students develop a study plan that satisfies the requirements of their chosen curriculum.

All students must successfully complete the core courses for the Sustainable Development program. Students must also take two analytical and methods focused courses, and elective coursework that is focused around one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A thesis option is available for the MS in Sustainable Development, which requires the completion of a project with a program partner (e.g., a community, NGO, public agency or private sector partner) and culminates in a required project portfolio.