By Daniel Schemer, November 2010
With Sustainability being made an official academic unit at UMass Dartmouth earlier this year, student and faculty interest has expanded and measures have succeeded in refining course offerings and programs offered, such as the minor and undergraduate certificate. Well, new programs are on the horizon; in the very near future, the Sustainability Studies Department will be offering a Master’s of Science in Sustainable Development and Graduate Certificate.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have student interest even before the programs exist. If you have the programs and no one wants to sign up, it kind of defeats the purpose,” said Kaisa Hollaway Cripps, Special Project Analyst for the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability, who’s been involved with much of the research, evaluation, and the drafting of proposals associated with their creation.
Both the Graduate Certificate and Master’s programs will be fully online, administered through Professional and Continuing Education, and have faculty from every College at UMass Dartmouth represented. “Sustainable development is an international issue, so having them online opens them up to the rest of the globe. It will allow us to foster conversations and perspectives from every continent.”
The Graduate Certificate (GC), consisting of 12 credits, is considered a stepping stone for the Master’s program and will provide an overview of sustainable development. The Master’s of Science in Sustainable Development (MS-SD), consisting of 36 credits, will have a core curriculum crossed with an interdisciplinary collection of electives and tracks. “Sustainable development as a field is still a developing paradigm because it is interdisciplinary. Something we had to do was to reinvent the wheel,” said Mrs. Cripps. Students will begin with the foundations, principles and research methods for Sustainable Development, and then splinter off to pursue their individual tracks, such as Engineering, Policy Studies, Business Management, and other fields. Other requirements include service-learning projects, independent thesis research, and capstones where students work in groups to accomplish a final trans-disciplinary project.
The process of creation has been ongoing for the last 2 years. This has entailed bringing together faculty, engaging student interest, course development, rigorous faculty and academic reviewing committees, lots of paperwork, and drafting proposals. In addition, Sustainable Development programs from other universities were evaluated to determine what is feasible for this university and in what format (online, in class, or blended) it should be presented. “Everything must fit with the University’s goals as a whole, as well as with the Sustainability Studies Department’s Strategic Plan.”
Like the Minor and Undergraduate Certificate, the GC and Master’s program aren’t geared towards any specific majors. “Sustainability is multidisciplinary, so it is not excluded to specific fields. It is for people who want to use sustainability as a catalyst for their own careers.” The Minor and/or Undergraduate program aren’t requirements for enrollment in the MS-SD or GC, but they are good places to start since the curriculum will be more advanced.
Pending final approval from all necessary sources, the Sustainability Studies Department hopes to have the Graduate Certificate program ready for the spring semester; the Master’s will hopefully begin next fall. All details will be posted on Sustainability’s website, www.umassd.edu/sustainability, once everything is finalized. For more information, email email@example.com.