Graduate Certificate in Society and Sustainability

Understanding the complex and dynamic interactions between human activities and the natural environment is essential for achieving sustainable development. Developing this understanding in the next generation of scientists, educators and resource management professionals is the primary goal of the University of Missouri's interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in Society and Sustainability.

The Society and Sustainability Program (SSP) is a unique interdisciplinary program that prepares students for careers with private and public organizations through advanced graduate level training and research. The certificate program is designed for students with undergraduate-graduate training in agriculture, biology, business administration, economics, engineering, fisheries and wildlife, forestry, geography, geology, sociology and related disciplines. Students who are in a graduate or professional program in their area of specialization take four integrated courses and complete a thesis or dissertation that applies more than one discipline. The program is designed to enhance the student's familiarity with disciplinary and interdisciplinary concepts and principles from the social and natural sciences and humanities.

The goal of the program is to develop critical thinking and analytical skills related to:

  • sustainable natural resource and environmental management and planning,
  • dynamic interactions between social, economic and ecological systems,
  • quantitative-qualitative analysis of individual and social behavior,
  • cultural interpretations of natural resource and environmental issues, and
  • application of knowledge gained in the above areas to the evaluation of public policy.


Students must be enrolled in a regular academic department and working toward completion of a graduate degree in a sustainability-related discipline. All students are required to take the following core courses: a) a three-credit interdisciplinary course on sustainability and sustainable development, b) a three-credit research seminar in Society and Sustainability, and c) six credits of approved elective courses from a department/unit other than the one in which the student is enrolled.

The interdisciplinary course examines the sociocultural, economic, ethical and biophysical aspects of sustainability with emphasis on the human dimension. It is normally taken during the student's first year. The primary objective of this course is to develop a student's appreciation of: a) major issues in the society-sustainability nexus, b) roles of various disciplines in understanding and resolving socioeconomic-ecological issues, and c) integrative analysis. A course requirement is for students to work in interdisciplinary teams to evaluate human effects on and responses to contemporary societal-environmental issues at the local, regional and global scales.

The research seminar exposes students to interdisciplinary research on the interactions between social, economic and ecological systems. Emphasis is placed on the complexity and multiplicity of sustainability and sustainable development.  Speakers for the research seminar include faculty, students, visiting scholars, and private and public officials. Students are expected to present their thesis or dissertation research at the research seminar. Thesis and dissertation research must be conducted on a topic related to the social, economic, environmental, and policy aspects of sustainability. Students completing the SSP receive a certificate in Society and Sustainability. Recognition of the certificate appears on the student's transcript.

Program requirements: 12 credit hours of coursework, all of which may double count toward a students' primary degree program. 

Interdisciplinary Seminar (3 hours): Choose one of the following
FOREST 8530Ecosystem Management: The Human Dimension3
RU_SOC 7335Social Change and Development3
or SOCIOL 7335 Social Change and Development
RU_SOC 8436Community, Natural Resources and Sustainability3
Research Seminar (3 hours): Choose one of the following
RU_SOC 8448Society and Ecosystems Research Seminar3
RU_SOC 8287Seminar on Sustainable Development3
Elective Courses (6 hours): Choose two of the following *
AAE 8410Natural Resource and Environmental Economics3
AAE 8430International Agricultural Development Policy3
AAE 8610Economic and Sociological Approaches to Collective Action3
or RU_SOC 8610 Economic and Sociological Approaches to Collective Action
ARCHST 7323Sustainable Technologies and Systems3
BIOL_EN 7560Observing the Earth from Space3
CV_ENG 7286Environmental Sustainability3
ENV_SC 7400Environmental Law, Policy, and Justice3
F_W 7220Human Dimensions of Fish and Wildlife Conservation3
FOREST 7385Agroforestry I: Theory, Practice and Adoption3
GEOG 7770Migration and Immigration3
GEOG 7560Resources and Indigenous Peoples3
IMSE 7720Introduction to Life Cycle Analysis3
JOURN 8044Strategic Conflict Management3
MAE 7355Industrial Energy Analysis3
NAT_R 7024Foundations of Environmental Education3
NAT_R 7353Natural Resource Policy/Administration3
PRST 7250Parks, Health and Wellness3
PRST 8436Visitor Behavior and Policy3
PUB_AF 7340Regional and Economic Development Policy3
RU_SOC 7325American Community Studies3
RU_SOC 7370Environmental Sociology3
RU_SOC 8444Agriculture, Food and Community3
RU_SOC 8435Political Ecology3
RU_SOC 9480Community Survey Research3
SOCIOL 9350Graduate Seminar in Environmental Discourses3
T_A_M 8130Supply Chain Management in the Global Softgoods Industry3
Select Departments 7001/8001 Advanced Topics Courses3


Admission to the SSP is open to students who have been admitted to a graduate or professional program in the University of Missouri-Columbia, have undergraduate-graduate training in natural and social sciences, and have interest in interdisciplinary studies. Persons interested in the SSP should contact the Coordinator.

Hua Qin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Society and Sustainability Program
228 Gentry Hall
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Telephone: 573-882-1640

Advisory Committee

The student's plan of study and research topic are selected in collaboration with an advisory committee established in accordance with the requirements of the student's department/unit and the Graduate School. The advisory committee includes at least one faculty member affiliated with the SSP. Graduate school permission is required in cases where it is highly desirable for the three faculty members comprising a masters student's advisory committee to be from different departments/units.

back to top