MA in Sustainability Leadership

View of Lake Ontario.

In this 30 to 31-credit MA program, students will master the knowledge and techniques required to work in a wide range of professional sustainability positions. The program can prepare students for further graduate work (PhD) or research, teaching and administrative positions in both the public and private sectors as well as academia. Other positions/careers that this program is well suited to prepare students for include: sustainability consultancy, sustainability management, and sustainability-related analysis. The following describes a typical MA student’s program.

Students graduating from the Masters of Sustainability Leadership program will take coursework centered on the following learning outcomes, providing students with the ability to:

•    Define sustainability and identify major sustainability challenges
•    Identify and analyze environmental and ecological dimensions of sustainability
•    Identify and analyze social dimensions of sustainability, including ethical and justice considerations
•    Identify and analyze economic dimensions of sustainability
•    Communicate about issues of sustainability to diverse audiences
•    Analyze qualitative and/or quantitative data for making key decisions about sustainability
•    Investigate sustainability problems from a multi-disciplinary and systems perspective to inform decision-making and leadership

Dr. Susan Clark ( in the Department of Environment and Sustainability can provide guidance and administrative support to individuals admitted to the proposed new degree program in Sustainability Leadership.


The MA degree requires a combination of coursework and the completion of a project, over a minimum of three semesters. Coursework from the Advanced Sustainability Certificate  may be applied to the MA.  Both programs can be taken at the student’s own pace.

In collaboration with the program Director, Dr. Susan Clark, students will customize a set of courses based on educational or work experience, professional aspirations, and project content. Each semester a list of courses offered across the University related to Sustainability will be provided to help students choose courses for the upcoming semester.

In addition to (SSN501) The Fundamentals of Sustainability, (SSN601) Professional Skills Capstone, students choose one course, out of a menu of courses , in each of the below topic areas:

•    Environmental/ Ecological
•    Social/ Cultural/ Human
•    Economics/ Business
•    Tools and Data Analysis
•    Leadership
•    Communication

It is highly recommended that students take SSN 501 in their first semester. SSN501 Fundamentals of Sustainability is only offered in the Fall semester. Students must complete the Fundamentals of Sustainability before they will be permitted into SSN601, the Professional skills Capstone Course, which is only offered in the Spring semester. Finally, students must complete both 501 and 601, as well as have a signed proposal from the student’s Project Advisor before being permitted to enroll in the Project Course (EVS 695).

Advisory Committee

For the final project, Master’s students have the opportunity to investigate across a wide variety of disciplines and propose solutions to real-world socio-ecological problems. Students have the choice of working independently or as part of a team. See the section below entitled, ‘The Project’ for more details.

Students will seek out a Project Advisor in their area of interest and at least one other committee member to guide them through the process of completing the final project. The Project Advisor and committee members may represent a diversity of departments across UB. Changes in Committee membership require EVS Departmental approval. 

It is highly recommended that students find a Project Advisor and committee member(s) by the end of their second semester (especially for full-time students). We encourage students to begin corresponding with potential Advisors during their first semester to determine whether the Advisor has the ability to chair or serve on a new graduate student’s committee.

The Project

Every MA student is required to complete a 6-credit project. Master’s students have the opportunity to investigate across a wide variety of disciplines and propose solutions to real-world socio-ecological problems. The project is developed in consultation with their Advisory Committee and ranges from individual research to the work of small groups interacting with governmental, non-governmental, or private entities. Students have the choice of working independently or as part of a team. They also can choose to complete all 6 credits in a single semester or complete the project over the course of 2 semesters (with approval of their Advisory Committee).

Before being enrolled in the project course (EVS 695), the student must submit a project proposal that is approved by their Advisory Committee. The project proposal must have a clear research question or questions, a work plan or tasks outlined to answer these questions, and contain an anticipated timeline to complete the project. Students will exhibit critical thinking and an understanding of the major steps of the scientific approach and research design, before starting the research and no later than the end of the semester before they plan to graduate.  This written proposal should begin with an abstract of no more than 300 words and should describe the anticipated research in no more than 7 pages including figures and references. In it, the student will present the problem and discuss the plan, objective, approach, and scope of the proposed project. In considering the proposal, the faculty will also consider whether the student is adequately prepared for the proposed research. Revisions may be requested at this time. The proposal assures that both the student and the advisory committee know and agree upon the nature and scope of the research project.  To complete the MSL Project Proposal Form, click here. 

Once the project proposal has been approved, the student will be enrolled in the project course for the upcoming semester. Typically, the student will have regular meetings during the semester with their major advisor and other members of their committee as appropriate for completing the project. Upon completion of the project, the student’s Project Advisor must submit a ‘Project Completion Form’ by emailing it to

Program Admission

Application Deadline: January 31st is the application deadline for the M.A. in Sustainability Leadership. Applications received after January 31st will be considered on a rolling basis. To maximize your chances for admission, please submit your application prior to January 31st.

Admission Requirements: A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a GPA (or equivalent) of 3.0 or above unless a compelling explanation justifies a lower GPA.