Program Structure and Curriculum

The Master's in Leadership for Sustainability is a two year, 30 credit program that combines week-long remote learning intensive experiences, and engaging online classroom zoom sessions with professional affiliates and your batchmates. 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, 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.

Programmatic Essential Questions

  • How can our leadership practices and structures authentically reflect the wisdom of nature? 
  • How can we unlearn and transform dominant/colonial patterns of leadership that are perpetuated in many well-meaning change-making initiatives?  
  • How can we deepen leadership practices that draw on multiple ways of knowing, help us stay centered, advance the work of our communities, organizations, and social movements, and participate in creating conditions for life to thrive over the long haul?
  • How can we do this in a way that holds love, relationship and well-being at the center?

Values and Principles

We practice creating conditions to support a complex learning ecosystem rooted in the values of relationship, well being, learning and love.  We focus on fostering and aligning with ecological principles that support this learning community to: 

  1. Develop meaningful relationships (interdependence), 
  2. Express our differences (differentiation), and 
  3. Participate in generating 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 our more-than-human kin and the ecological systems, patterns, processes, and organizing principles that can inspire our leadership and change-making processes;
  • Transforming 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, organizations, and social movements and participate in creating conditions for life to thrive over the long haul.

Core Practices  

  • Sovereign Logic, Sovereignty, & Self-Determination
  • Awareness
  • Inquiry
  • Working with Difference, Multiplicity, Tension, Ambiguity, & Incommensurability
  • Relationship Building & Reciprocity
  • Systems/Relational/Ecological Thinking
  • Solidarity
  • Creativity & Play
  • Integrity & Accountability

Core Coursework 

NR 6110: Leadership for Sustainability Learning Intensive and Course (3 credits) Fall Semester:  August 19-23, 2024
This course begins with a week-long remote learning intensive 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?

NR 6120: Being and Building Beloved Community Learning Instensive and Course (3 credits) Winter/Spring Semester:  January 6-10, 2025
This course begins with a remote week-long learning intensive and ongoing semester-long coursework in the spring semester.  Essential questions include:

  • What practices support being and building beloved community?
  • What practices and frameworks might support us in our efforts to intervene in and tranform systems and structures of domination and oppression?
  • How can we build our capacity to work with power, privilege, difference, multiplicity, tension, and incommensurability?

NR 6890: Ecological Leadership Practicum Learning Intensive and Course (3 credits):  June 2-6, 2025
This course involves a week-long remote learning intensive, 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 relationships, communities, organizations, institutions, 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?

NR 6880: Ecological Leadership Seminar Interactive Online Course (6 credits over 2 semesters): Year 1, Fall and Spring Semester
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.  Each 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, systems thinking/change, and more.

Synchronous course meetings occur on bi-weekly Tuesdays, from 7:00-8:30pm ET. 

Capstone Coursework 

NR 6392: Master's Project (6 credits over 3 semesters): Year 2 Fall, Spring, Summer Semester
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 
  • Ways of Knowing
  • Creativity, Leadership and Poetry
  • Education, Equity and Learning
  • Ecological Economics Theory
  • Agroecology
  • Independent Study