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.


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.

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 student's primary degree program. 

Interdisciplinary Seminar (3 hours): Choose one of the following
FOREST 8530Ecosystem Management: The Human Dimension3
AAE 7370Society, Environment and Natural Resources3
or NAT_R 7370 Society, Environment and Natural Resources
or SOCIOL 7370 Society, Environment and Natural Resources
AAE 8436Community, Natural Resources and Sustainability3
AAE 8510Interdisciplinary Quantitative and Mixed Research Methods3
or NAT_R 8510 Interdisciplinary Quantitative and Mixed Research Methods
Research Seminar (3 hours): Choose one of the following
AAE 8287Seminar on Sustainable Development3
or NAT_R 8287 Seminar on Sustainable Development
or SOCIOL 8287 Seminar on Sustainable Development
AAE 8448Society and Ecosystems Research Seminar3
or NAT_R 8448 Society and Ecosystems Research Seminar
Elective Courses (6 hours): Choose two of the following
AAE 8410Natural Resource and Environmental Economics3
AAE 8430International Agricultural Development Policy3
AAE 8444Agriculture, Food and Community3
AAE 8610Economic and Sociological Approaches to Collective Action3
ARCHST 7323Sustainable Technologies and Systems3
ARCHST 8887Environment and Behavior II3
BIOL_EN 7050Zero Hunger Challenge3
or F_S 7050 Zero Hunger Challenge
BIOL_EN 7560Observing the Earth from Space3
CV_ENG 7286Environmental Sustainability 3
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 Education 3
NAT_R 7353Natural Resource Policy/Administration3
NAT_R 8500Qualitative Analysis for Environment-Society Inquiry3
PRST 7250Parks, Health and Wellness3
PRST 7260Sustainable Tourism3
PRST 8436Visitor Behavior and Policy3
PUB_AF 7340Regional and Economic Development Policy3
SOCIOL 7335Social Change and Development3
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 degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students who have undergraduate-graduate training in natural and/or social sciences and have interest in interdisciplinary studies. The admissions process varies by whether a student enrolls in a degree program and seeks a certificate to enhance his or her degree program experience or whether the student is a certificate-only student. The University of Missouri Graduate School facilitates the admissions process.

Persons interested in the SSP should contact:

Hua Qin, Ph.D.
Director, 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 master's student advisory committee to be from different departments/units.

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