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About Coterm Masters

Master's Program Overview 

The School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences offers current Stanford University undergraduates the opportunity to apply for a one-year coterminal Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Sustainability Science and Practice. This interdisciplinary degree program equips students with the knowledge, mindsets and practical skills needed to understand and intervene in complex systems to advance sustainability – securing human well-being around the world and across generations.

Core Curricular Elements

The Sustainability Science and Practice program (“SUST” for short) emphasizes three core curricular elements. 

Element 1: Understanding Complex Social-Environmental Systems

Students develop a “systems perspective”, deepening their awareness of the dynamic and interrelated nature of social-environmental systems. They explore tools to measure, map, and model five capital assets – social, natural, human, manufactured, and knowledge capital – and their complex interactions in order to recognize potential feedbacks, thresholds, and unintended consequences, as well as to identify leverage points and opportunities for interventions that can have transformative impact.

Element 2: Understanding Decision Making and Strategies for Leading Change

Students examine the roles of diverse actors who influence change in social-environmental systems and explore strategies to align decision making and behavior with sustainability. They explore mindsets and attributes of transformative leaders and the strategies and approaches of organizations advancing sustainability across sectors. Students develop skills in decision making in complex and uncertain contexts, use metrics and evaluation approaches aligned with sustainability goals, cultivate leadership orientations, and practice effective communications and storytelling approaches.

Element 3: Designing Innovations with Impact at Scale

Students develop understanding of how to intervene in complex systems for transformative impact by exploring frameworks and tools from systems thinking, design thinking, social cognitive theory, behavioral economics, and partnership strategies. They develop practical skills in mapping complex systems and designing creative, high-leverage interventions that realign systems with the goal of intergenerational well-being.

Sustainability Leadership Practicum

To integrate and internalize core lessons from the SUST curriculum, each student completes a 120-hour Practicum project of their own design, collaborating on a complex sustainability challenge with an outside partner and working through the types of constraints often faced by decision makers and leaders. Students apply the leadership mindsets, knowledge and skills from the curriculum to this practical experience and present their final analysis and reflections to faculty and peers.