Program Structure and Curriculum

Program Structure and Curriculum

The Master's in Leadership for Sustainability is a two year, 30 credit program that combines in-person residential experience, and engaging online classroom zoom sessions with professional affiliates and your batchmates.

Our Curriculum

Our core curriculum and innovative pedagogy are grounded in the belief that the changes we create in the world are reflective of the changes and conditions we cultivate in ourselves.  Our programmatic aspiration, essential questions, theory of change, and core practices, principles and values are described below.

Program Aspiration

To participate in creating conditions for all life to thrive over the long-haul.

*Thrive: to grow, develop and blossom in a way that attends to individual & collective well-being, relationship, learning, and love.

Programmatic Essential Questions

  • How can we create conditions for the full scale of life to thrive? 
  • How can our leadership practices and structures authentically reflect the wisdom of nature? 
  • How can we unlearn dominant/colonial patterns of leadership that are perpetuated in many well-meaning change-making initiatives?  
  • How can we do this in a way that holds love, relationship and well-being at the center?

Our work occurs in a complex ecosystem rooted in relationship, well being, learning and love.

  • By inviting students into a dynamic, diverse, and thriving MLS ecosystem, we focus on fostering ecological principles that support the learning community to: 
  • develop meaningful relationships (interdependence), 
  • express each person’s unique potential (differentiation), and 
  • explore new territory and realize new possibilities through ongoing learning, change, and creativity (self-organization) 

The MLS ecosystem has three central learning goals: 

  • Leadership inspired by the wisdom of Nature:  Deepening our relationships with and understanding of ecological systems, patterns, processes, and organizing principles that can inspire our leadership, design, and change-making processes;
  • Challenging structures of domination and oppression: Enhancing our ability to critically examine and transform dominant mindsets/worldviews and shift inequitable systems, patterns and structures of power and privilege;
  • Practice: Deepening leadership practices (see below) that enhance our capacity to draw on multiple ways of knowing, stay centered, catalyze change, advance the work of our communities and professional organizations, and create conditions for life to thrive over the long haul.

Core Practices  

  • Sovereign Logic & Self-Determination
  • Awareness
  • Critical Inquiry
  • Working with Difference, Multiplicity, Ambiguity, & Incommensurability
  • Relationship Building
  • Systems/Relational/Ecological Thinking
  • Conscious Communication
  • Creativity, Improvisation, & Play
  • Integrity/Accountability

Core Coursework 

NR311: Leadership for Sustainability Residential Intensive and Course (3 credits) Fall Semester 1 
This course begins with a week-long residential intensive in Vermont with a focus on building relationships and a variety of foundational leadership practices. 

Essential questions include:

  • How can we participate in creating conditions for the full scale of life to thrive?
  • How can our leadership practices and structures authentically reflect the wisdom of nature?
  • How can we unlearn dominant/colonial patterns of leadership that are perpetuated in many well-meaning change-making initiatives?

NR312: Being and Building Beloved Community Residential and Course (3 credits) Winter/Spring Semester 1 

  • This course involves a week-long remote residential intensive (January 2021) and ongoing semester-long coursework in the Fall semester.  Essential questions include:
  • How can we build our capacity to work with power, privilege, difference, multiplicity, tension, and incommensurability?
  • What skills, practices, and frameworks might support us in our efforts to intervene in systems and structures of domination and oppression?

NR389: Ecological Leadership Practicum Residential Intensive and Course (3 credits)

This course involves a weeklong remote residential intensive, dates TBD, and ongoing semester-long coursework to support the development of the Master's Capstone project.  This experience will explore the operationalization and embodiment of leadership practices in our lives, organizations and institutions.  

Essential questions include:

  • How can we more fully express and embody our core leadership principles and practices in our organizations, communities, relationships, and all aspects of our work/lives?  How might this shift our approach to catalyzing change? What are the challenges associated with doing this?
  • How can we practice rigor, discernment, and accountability more fully in our lives/work?

NR388: Ecological Leadership Seminar Interactive Online Course (6 credits over 2 semesters) Fall and Spring Semester 1 

In this online course we engage with 7 different learning modules. Every two weeks, we will explore a new set of themes, practices, and frameworks that build on each other and invite us to think about and practice leadership differently.  Many of these modules are designed and stewarded by MLS professional affiliates and topics may include sovereignty, relational leadership, solidarity, wisdom of nature, cosmologies and ways of knowing, creating conditions, decolonization, creativity, awareness practice, power & privilege and more.

Capstone Coursework 
NR392: Master's Project
(6 credits over 3 semesters) Fall and Spring Semester 2 

The Capstone Project is an opportunity for second-year students to design a project that rigorously integrates key learnings and leadership practices while strengthening relationships, building systems of accountability, and engaging complexity in ways that are deeply aligned with the student’s core values and principles.  The project is an opportunity to address pressing challenges/opportunities in their own home community/organization and is supported through a combination of online modules, coaching, feedback and assessment.  Students are required to develop a project proposal; implement project activities; complete a culminating final report; and present their Capstone project at the annual Leadership for Sustainability Summit.

Elective Courses and Areas of Specialization

Students take 9-credits of elective courses throughout their second year of the program. These courses can support the development of a unique area of specialization or allow students to explore multiple topics.  Students can select courses from MLS program offerings, engage in independent study, or choose other UVM courses (learn more here).  Students can also transfer up to 9 graduate-level courses from other accredited universities (these cannot have counted for other degree/certificate programs).

Elective course offerings change from year to year, but examples of are included below:

  • Storytelling and Communicating for Change Interactive Online Course (3 credits)
  • Power, Privilege, and Partnership:  Practicing Philanthropy and Supporting Grassroots Social Change
  • The Art of Leadership
  • Poetry off the Page
  • Education, Equity and Learning
  • Ecological Economics Theory
  • Agroecology