Ecological Leadership

Students in this track will engage with advanced leadership practices that reflect ecological patterns, processes, and organizing principles that have evolved over billions of years.  Additionally, we will rigorously examine the structures, systems, strategies, mindsets, and ideologies of different leadership and change-making approaches to reveal how we might be more effective and innovative in our change-making initiatives.

This concentration is an even deeper dive into the core curriculum focus areas and provides advanced leadership training for individuals who are interested in working across traditional boundaries to catalyze collaborative change-making initiatives. This concentration will serve practitioners from a wide variety of professional fields (we welcome professionals who work in/across fields of social justice, environment/natural resources, education, as well as NGO, non-profit, public, or private sectors).

Key areas:

  • Adaptive and emergent leadership approaches
  • Visioning and strategy formation
  • Organizational learning and learning organizations
  • Regenerative design
  • Stakeholder engagement, networking, group process, and facilitation




Year One


  • Residential Retreat: Leadership for Sustainability

    • August: 7-day residential
  • NR311: Leadership for Sustainability (online, 3 credits)
  • NR388: Ecological Leadership Seminar I (online, 3 credits)


  • Residential Retreat: Power, Privilege, and Catalyzing Change
    • Early January: 7-day residential
  • NR312: Power, Privilege, and Catalyzing Change (online, 3 credits)
  • NR388: Ecological Leadership Seminar II (online, 3 credits)
  • Master’s project proposal due


  • Residential Retreat: Ecological Leadership Practicum
    • Late July: 7-day residential
  • NR389: Ecological Leadership Practicum (online, 3 credits)

Year Two


  • Elective (online, 3credits)*
  • Comprehensive Exam
  • Master’s Project, (3 credits)
    • 1st Formative Assessment (September)
    • 2nd Formative Assessment (December)


  • Elective (online, 3cr)*
  • Master’s Project, (3 cr)
    • Summative Assessment (March)


  • Elective (online, 3cr)*
  • Sustainability Leadership Summit: Student Presentations and Assessments.
    • Late July/Early August: 2-day residential

*Students choose the timing of electives based on course offerings, individual time management, and possible financial aid requirements.

“The major problems of the modern world are a result of the difference between how nature works and how people think.”

- Gregory Bateson

Required Leadership for Sustainability Core Courses

Leadership for Sustainability – 3 credits

This summer residential/online hybrid course addresses fundamental competency areas common to all Leadership for Sustainability students and will focus on three central themes: 1) Ecological/systems thinking, 2) Sustainability, and 3) Leadership skills. The cornerstone experience of this course is a week-long residential program at Vermont’s Shelburne Farms that will provide an experiential and theoretical orientation to foundational practices, principles, skills and questions at the heart of this program.

Power, Privilege & Catalyzing Change – 3 credits
This winter residential/online hybrid course focuses on frameworks and intercultural skills for actively engaging with issues of diversity, power, and privilege as leaders in organizational and community-based settings. As the course unfolds, we will turn our attention toward processes, frameworks, and practices for catalyzing and facilitating change at individual, community, organization, and larger system levels. Course content will be actively applied to each student’s home community/organization and will support the development of their Masters project concept and proposal.

Required Ecological Leadership Courses

Fish school

Ecological Leadership Seminar – 6 credits over 2 semesters

Ecological Leadership is a continually evolving field based on the idea that efforts to create a healthy future for our planet will necessitate mindsets, leadership skills, and strategies that reflect ecological realities, relationships and understandings.  This online course explores emerging topics and themes related to the theory and practice of Ecological Leadership over three semester-long sections via content areas outlined below.  Content includes:  nature connection and place-based literacy; paradigms, worldviews, mindsets, and ways of knowing; ecological and regenerative design; neuroscience of leadership; contemplative practices and leading from within; working with tension and peacemaking practices; self-organization, creativity, and innovation; networking and scaling; organizational learning and learning organizations; and integral theory and leadership development.

Ecological Leadership Practicum -- 3 credits                                                                                                                                 The cornerstone experience of this course is a week-long residential program that will provide a suite of experiential learning opportunities to practice and integrate more advanced ecological leadership practices, principles, skills, and theoretical frameworks into your educational approach.  Throughout the week, students will engage with innovative sustainability organizations, learning how a variety of different leadership approaches and initiatives have catalyzed systems change.  Working in teams, students will practice their own leadership skills through a small-scale project. 


Competency Areas

Students can meet required competency areas as well as pursue coursework in areas where they seek additional training through elective coursework. Content and competency areas that must be met by electives and/or previous training:

  • Applied ecology – advanced understanding of ecological principles and systems
  • Applied social processes (some course/experience that provides advanced understanding of social principles and systems)
  • Epistemology and ways of knowing and making meaning


Example Elective Courses

  • CDAE295: Leadership Practicum
  • NR242: Advanced Geospatial Techniques
  • NR327: Human Dimensions of Land Management
  • NR328: Law & Policy, Land Conservation
  • NR329 Ecology for Sustainability
  • NR341: Ecological Economics Theory
  • NR342: Ecological Economics Methods
  • NR385: Systems, Sustainability, and Landscapes
  • PA385: Human Resource Management
  • PH303: Biostatistics I: Applied Research
  • PH304: Environmental Public Health
  • PH311 Global Public Health
  • PH312: Food Systems and Public Health
  • PH314: Environmental and Risk Communication
  • WFB352: Population Dynamics and Modeling

Additional electives are currently being developed in partnership with many of our professional affiliate organizations and will be co-taught by instructor practitioners who are on the front lines of many innovative change-making initiatives.  For more information about electives under development, please contact us!