SEAS Announces New Sustainability and Development Degree Specialization
The U-M School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) has received approval from the Rackham Executive Board to establish a new degree specialization focused on sustainability and development.
The Sustainability and Development (SusDev) specialization will help students understand, analyze, and address the most pressing challenges to human well-being, including poverty, hunger, climate change, biodiversity loss, access to clean water, and inequality, among others.
It is the eighth specialization for master’s students to be offered by SEAS.
Launching in Fall 2021, the SusDev specialization is thought to be the first of its kind among environmental schools in the United States, according to Dr. Arun Agrawal, the Samuel Trask Dana Professor at SEAS and the SusDev specialization co-coordinator.
“Sustainability and development pose unprecedented challenges for people and the planet,” said Dr. Agrawal. “By creating a new specialization dedicated to supporting research and curricular innovations at the intersection of sustainability and development, we will give concrete shape to the aspirations of our faculty and help support the professional ambitions and career placement of our students—including those who are already in residence and those who would be attracted to the proposed new field.”
The SusDev specialization aims to meet the substantial and growing need for trained professionals and researchers to address sustainability and development problems at local, national, and global scales. Instruction through the new specialization will emphasize collaboration across multiple disciplines, from the social and ecological sciences to engineering, public health, policy, education, and business.
With an in-depth focus on understanding the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which increasing numbers of global organizations and governments have adopted, the SusDev specialization will help students (1) develop expertise in conceptual and theoretical issues associated with sustainability and development, (2) understand the practices necessary to achieve sustainability transition through new institutions, policies, and behaviors, and (3) learn the methods and skills necessary to implement new visions and practices for greater sustainability and well-being.
“Humanity’s welfare will depend on our global ability to achieve and go beyond the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” Dr. Agrawal said. “To effectively meet sustainability and development challenges, students will learn how to identify decision-making priorities and design interventions that consider not only specific synergies and tradeoffs between sustainable development goals, but also how to implement them on the ground.”
Expected career opportunities for students graduating with the SusDev specialization include those in government in and outside the United States (local, state, and federal levels), non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, small companies and large corporations, think tanks and policy centers, management and consulting firms, and international and domestic civil society organizations.
In conjunction with the new SusDev specialization, U-M also is offering a Sustainability and Development MasterTrack Certificate on Coursera, the massive open online course provider. It is designed for global learners who are interested in knowing more about persistent global challenges and the best ways to address them. Students who complete the Certificate in Sustainability and Development will be able to apply six credits toward the SusDev specialization’s core Master of Science degree program.
“There is increasing urgency among practitioners and researchers to work collaboratively in solving sustainability and development problems as attention to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals grows,” said Jonathan Overpeck, the Samuel A. Graham Dean and William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor of Environmental Education at SEAS. “Our new specialization sharpens our focus on our international efforts, and what is required for humans around the globe to create a more just and sustainable world. The time is ripe for SEAS to position itself at the forefront of tackling these challenges. This is all about impact and making a difference in the world at both local and global scales.”