Tufts to Offer Master’s Degree in Sustainability

The new multidisciplinary program will begin in the fall of 2019, with full-time and part-time options
a rooftop with solar panels
The rooftop of Sophia Gordon Hall. Sustainability is “about making decisions now that don’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and wants,” said Ann Rappaport. Photo: Tufts University
October 22, 2018

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Tufts has announced a new graduate program as part of its commitment to building a more sustainable and equitable planet. The Master’s of Science in Sustainability, offered by the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), will begin in fall 2019.  

Ann Rappaport, EG92, UEP faculty member and co-chair of the university’s Sustainability Council, said the program recognizes the urgent and increasing need for sustainability experts to ensure a healthy, livable planet.

“More and more businesses, communities, and organizations recognize the importance of building resilience and sustainability—and a commitment to equity and social justice—into who they are and what they do,” she said. “Sustainability professionals can help them take that longer view.”

“We know that reactive responses to crises, or to resource scarcity, work only in the short-term,” she added. “The core ideas of sustainability guide actions with future generations in mind—and not simply thirty or forty years ahead. We need to get everybody engaged in this kind of long term thinking, and with programs emerging at Tufts and across the country, we can make progress.”

The multidisciplinary Tufts program can be completed in a year by full-time students, and allows students to connect their sustainability studies to their interest in fields such as economics, biology, and public health.

The program differentiates itself through its commitment to social justice and by being housed within UEP, which was established 45 years ago and has graduates in government, nonprofit organizations, citizen advocacy groups, international NGOs, and the private sector. 

Existing UEP programs, such as the interdisciplinary M.S. in Environmental Economics and Urban Planning, have long recognized the importance of quantitative and analytical skills to address complex environmental challenges, said Rappaport. Three new courses for the new master’s degree will include those perspectives: Socio-ecological Systems Thinking for Sustainability, Sustainability Analytics, and Sustainability Metrics and Decision Tools.

“You can define sustainability as a concept fairly easily. It’s about making decisions now that don’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and wants,” said Rappaport. “But it’s much more difficult to operationalize. We need to give our students the tools and skills to be articulate and be knowledgeable about solutions that may not be popular, but that are grounded in solid research and metrics.”

The program comes about as sustainability becomes more important worldwide, with mounting awareness about the long-term ecological consequences of pollution and non-biodegradable waste, said Rappaport. She cited how, for instance, Lego is looking for new ways to design blocks without using plastic and how the United Nations is calling for a sustainability agenda.

The thirty-six-credit program is designed for full-time completion in twelve months, although students may also pursue the program part-time. Most core courses and electives build on extensive offerings within UEP, but the program will also encompass sustainability related courses throughout the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering.

Students can pursue a sustainability solutions approach or a natural systems emphasis, or craft a program that includes elements of both.

The sustainability solutions model favors green design, governance and policy, humanities, natural resources, sustainability, business, project management, social research, public communication, anticipatory thinking, and literature research. The natural systems plan focuses on natural sciences, ecology, interdisciplinary communication, analysis, and field research.

The program complements other sustainability-related programs offered at Tufts. They include a Master of Science in Sustainable Water Management, offered through the Tufts Institute of the Environment; a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Urban Justice and Sustainability (a post-master’s program for working professionals); an online graduate certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and a joint master’s degree offered by UEP and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the School of Engineering.

Learn more about the M.S. in Sustainability and how to apply online. The deadline for applications for fall 2019 is January 15, 2019.

Laura Ferguson can be reached at laura.ferguson@tufts.edu.