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Online MPA in Sustainability Degree Courses

Curriculum Details

The online Master of Public Administration in Sustainability includes 10 courses grounded in competencies verified by our industry partners, alumni, and market data. Each competency area is designed to help you develop the specific skills you need to succeed in the sustainability management field. You can find more details about the MPA in Sustainability competencies by exploring each required course competency area on this page.

Required Courses

Competency: Manage budgets and mobilize private- and public-sector funding for sustainability initiatives.

Key Skills & Knowledge:

  • Identify principles and tools of financial management and accounting
  • Outline different budget management approaches and identify best practices
  • Define financial risk management and illustrate what it looks like in practice
  • Compare and contrast different funding methods
  • Describe the role of politics in public budgeting
  • Identify sources of public and private capital for climate and sustainability initiatives
  • Analyze public-private partnerships (PPP) that mobilize capital for climate change
  • Prioritize allocations of resources and identify tradeoffs between short-term benefits of resource allocations and long-term effects
  • Understand how carbon markets work and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses
  • Use financial reporting to inform decision making

Faculty: Gireesh Shrimali

This course offers you a meaningful learning opportunity to understand what it takes for organizations – a group of people with a shared goal – to work together and get things done to achieve sustainability goals. This presupposes a good understanding of human motivation and drivers of behavior and how to problem solve and make decisions in complex situations. These also happen to be the highest ranked among the 21st century skills. To learn about how organizations operate and how to lead them effectively, we will use readings, exercises, and case studies focused on sustainability initiatives among other learning methods. In addition, you will engage in analysis, diagnosis, and problem-solving exercises focusing on one organization of your choice.

Faculty: Mahabat Baimyrzaeva

This course presents an interdisciplinary approach to drive sustainability initiatives at any organization. We will explore fundamental environmental and social justice policies from a global, national, state, and local lens to provide a foundation for professionals to navigate, lead, and execute complex organizational change through storytelling, stakeholder mapping, policy analysis, and research. We will analyze a variety of sustainability initiatives as we focus on designing sustainability projects with a social justice lens that can drive change in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. You will be developing your own sustainability plan for an organization of your choosing across the span of the course.

Faculty: Erin Lannon

This course explores the main ideas and techniques for program management as part of good governance for sustainable development. The course is broken into seven modules covering key terms and important works; the role of different actors in public administration; methods for translating evidence to action in program development; building partnerships; program implementation; and processes for monitoring, evaluation, and scaling up programs. The course is focused on deepening your analytical abilities so that you can better understand the complexity of program implementation, place programs and policies in context, understand how interventions interact and affect stakeholders, and translate evidence to effective practice. Your main course deliverable will be to develop a management plan for a priority area of your choosing, focused on sustainability. By the end of the course, you will be prepared to manage programs that advance sustainable development for the environment, economy, and society.

Faculty: Scott Pulizzi

This course introduces you to analytic tools that are valuable for making sense of what are—all too often—complex problem situations and reaching data driven solutions. We start by exploring the art of deconstructing complex situations and structuring the potential problems that may be driving those problem situations. From there, you will be provided with a data set related to your topic and the course shifts to focus on a selection of foundational tools and techniques used to analyze the problems that you defined at the beginning of the course. Topics to be covered include data visualization, sampling, estimation, and a variety of hypothesis testing techniques. The course will also include an introduction to the use of the R software environment, using “R Commander” as a tool for data analysis.

Faculty: Phil Murphy

This course introduces you to the fundamentals of sustainability, focusing on climate science as one of its key optimization strategies. The first half of the course delves into the evolving history of sustainability concepts, global ecological trends and threats, various indicators of healthy ecosystems, and methods for achieving them. The second half of the course explores how the emerging solutions to climate change, viewed through the lens of a clean energy practitioner, can serve to enhance the built landscape, ecosystem health, and social justice. This course is focused on providing you with foundational knowledge and developing your ability to communicate that knowledge quantitatively, crisply and persuasively. Through targeted readings, written assignments and oral presentations, you will hone your expertise in sustainability and climate science for application in the corporate, governmental or NGO realms.

Faculty: Chris Calwell

This course offers an engaging opportunity to understand and apply sustainability and assessment within the overall sustainability management process. Building on the adage: “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, this course explores various methods of assessment, reporting and disclosure. Using industry-relevant tools, practitioner interviews and readings participants will be able explore the unique application of various assessments, such as materiality assessments, climate and life cycle assessments. Special consideration is given to explore how these processes could (and do) disproportionately impact disadvantaged populations. The disclosure and reporting process is critical to transparency and meaningful sustainability, this course will provide participants a strong foundation for future public sector roles.

Faculty: Lacey Raak

This course offers an approach to communicating sustainability positions in clear, effective, collaborative, and culturally sensitive ways. We will begin by cultivating an awareness of positionality and bias, and learning how to segment stakeholder and community interests. You will create your own organization and mission statement in order to tailor communications to the hypothetical organization’s mission. We will explore the fundamentals of effective communication and preparation, including research, ethical interviews, stakeholder segmentation, and communication plans. We will analyze real world examples of sustainability communication and the pros and cons of certain channels. Students will create and share sample communications as well as explore the possibilities of visual storytelling and collaborative partnerships. You will leave with transferable planning documents, writing experience, a refined editing practice, and tools for thoughtful collaboration.

Faculty: Megan McKennna and Megan Mayhew-Bergman

This course is designed for those who hold or will hold positions in organizations with responsibilities for mapping and managing sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues for an organization. These responsibilities can vary and may include: setting and tracking against sustainability goals, communicating progress towards targets, and engaging with stakeholders, including civil society organizations, suppliers, customers, and investors. The ultimate goal of this course is to empower students to develop, articulate, and execute comprehensive sustainability strategies and action plans in ways that further organizations to be a net positive influence on the environment and society.

To learn about how to evaluate, implement, and measure the effectiveness of an organizational sustainability strategy, students will consult readings and perform exercises focused on real-world sustainability and ESG scenarios. They will practice writing to key stakeholder audiences in appropriate ways to effectuate meaningful environmental and social change.

Faculty: Jessica Thurston

This course provides students with the opportunity to further develop or implement a prior course project. Students may also choose a new project or research topic that allows for additional application of knowledge and skills developed through the degree program. The practicum faculty will also help source projects for students through the Middlebury Institute network as needed.

This course gives you the space and structure to hone a specific skill area, revisit a competency you particularly enjoyed, and/or develop a project your organization or industry may need. What content did you enjoy and how might that shape your future career goals? While most leadership positions require some bit of all the content covered in your courses it is still worth envisioning whether you see yourself working more heavily on communication and outreach, research and analysis, assessment and evaluation, or training and organizational development in the near future?

Students will serve as and be paired with a peer mentor. The peer mentor will serve as a student reader and support their fellow student in developing and implementing the project. The course will include weekly activities that connect the student with their desired professional field of practice through sourcing a professional or alumni mentor, joining relevant associations, and developing a conference attendance or publishing plan. Students seeking to develop their own initiative or organization can also use the practicum course to incubate an idea or program. Practicum offers a supportive environment for you to test and implement your ideas. The course will conclude with a final deliverable, presentation, reflection, and professional development plan. Students will provide a 1-pager on their project idea two weeks prior to the start of the semester.

Faculty: Carolyn Meyer

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