Leadership Inspired by the Wisdom of Nature

                                                     Challenging Systems of Domination and Oppression

                                                                                          Participating in Creating Conditions for All Life to Thrive

The Masters of Professional Studies in Leadership for Sustainability is a practice-based program designed for diverse leaders across a wide array of fields and sectors. This program is rooted in leadership practices that are inspired by the wisdom of nature and challenge forces of domination and oppression.  Offering an innovative blend of remote learning intensives, interactive online courses and coaching, this two-year program is anchored by an incredible network of faculty and professional affiliates. At its heart is the dedication to cultivate a non-extractive, reciprocal and solidarity-based learning ecosystem rooted in love and relationship.  


Is this program for me?

The Leadership for Sustainability program is grounded in the belief that the changes we create in the world are reflective of the changes and conditions we cultivate in ourselves. 

This masters program is an invitation to deepen awareness of our social conditioning and to bring rigor, discernment, and accountability to our practice: aligning our actions, responses, strategies, and formations more fully with the values and aspirations for the world we want to create. The program is designed for practitioners from a wide array of fields and sectors who are willing to focus on their own learning and are committed to participating in a learning ecosystem centered around well-being, reciprocity, and relationship. The program workload and schedule is designed for leaders who work full-time (although this is not a requirement and that work can take many forms) and is intended to support learning that can immediately be applied to the work students are doing in their communities, organizations, institutions or other initiatives.

What’s Distinct?

Our core curriculum and practice-based approach is grounded in the offerings and generosity of our incredible professional affiliates: a network of brilliant and experienced practitioners who embody leadership and creative practices rooted in culturally grounded traditions/lineages; ecological, creative, and indigenous principles; and multiple ways of knowing.  These affiliates contribute to the curriculum by designing/supporting learning modules and coursework, and providing direct mentoring, coaching, and guidance to students throughout the program and capstone projects.   

The MLS program is committed to creating a relational, reciprocal, and non-extractive learning ecosystem rooted in principles of differentiation, interdependence, self-organization, invitation, permission, and more.  We are not creating a new model of leadership nor using tools of coercion or assimilation.  Instead, we aspire to create conditions that support rigorous learning in service to differentiation. We invite participants to focus on their own learning, and not to carry responsibility to teach/show other students. Offerings from our affiliate community members are intended to inspire students to find/remember their own center and leadership pathway forward.  They are not shared as a source of cultural practices, cosmologies, or tools to be taken, claimed, or appropriated.  While meaningful relationships often develop organically through the learning experience, the program does not support transactional or extractive dynamics (e.g., networking, claiming a special relationship, etc.). Students are supported in rooting down into their own deep wells of creativity, courage, and intelligence as part of a larger exploration of what one’s role might be in creating conditions for all life to thrive.   

The program has three central learning goals:

  • Leadership inspired by the wisdom of Nature:  Deepening our relationships with and understanding of the 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 mindsets rooted in domination and shift inequitable systems, patterns and structures of power and privilege;
  • Practice: Deepening leadership practices that enhance our capacities 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.

The University of Vermont has gained a national reputation for leadership in sustainability

Our learning ecosystem is rooted in:

Instruction, Coaching and Facilitation from Distinguished Professional Affiliates:  Experienced practitioners and creative thought leaders are the heartbeat of this program.  They facilitate and instruct intensives, design and deliver learning modules, and provide direct coaching and guidance to students as they embark on their year-long Capstone Project. Affiliates ground theoretical approaches in practice and share insights from cutting edge organizations and initiatives.

Practice-based:  Program coursework provides meaningful and individualized application of learning throughout the program. The culminating Master's Capstone Project is an opportunity for 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.  

Multiple Ways of Knowing: This program maintains a foundational commitment to multiple ways of knowing, being, and leading in the world. We believe that the wisdom needed for these complex times can be rooted in rigorous inquiry, creativity, spiritual practice and wisdom traditions, solidarity and survivance, and relationships with our more than human kin. 

Networked Distance Learning:  With our online approach, students stay rooted in their home community, while benefiting from a supportive learning container and cohort built on a strong network of student-colleagues, faculty, and seasoned professionals. Week-long remote learning intensives are complemented by ongoing online courses that emphasize relational learning and include regular synchronous meetings.

Areas of Specialization:  In addition to our core curriculum, The Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability is designed so students are able to create their own area of specialization with the selection of 3 elective courses that are specific to their goals and learning edges. 


PhD Track and Certificate Programs

Building on the Master's in Leadership for Sustainability Program’s successes, we launched a new PhD program in 2022. The Transdisciplinary Leadership, Creativity and Sustainability (TLCS) is designed for leaders, organizers, and practitioners who are interested in meeting the complexity and uncertainty of this moment with a sustained practice of knowledge production that is rooted in transdisciplinarity, creativity and applied leadership in service to a sustainable and equitable future. This distance-learning program is for community-based practitioners and organizational and social movement leaders who are committed to applied scholarship at the intersection of environmental/social issues. The program centers applied leadership and creative practices within a core curriculum that focuses on decolonial, practice-based research methods that draw from and engage with critical theories across arts, humanities, social science, and sustainability fields.  The program’s design is anchored by a deep analysis of power, privilege and systems of oppression/domination, ecological and systems thinking approaches, and a solid grounding in theories and practices relating to sustainability, systems change and leadership, and creativity. 

Outside of our degree programs, we have received multiple requests to create new credentialing opportunities that are culturally sustaining and led by a diverse group of leaders/practitioners.  In response to these requests we are working with UVM's Professional and Continuing Education department, and long-time partners, Gathering Power, Moon Jaguar Strategies, The Academy for Systems Change, and Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition (MAWOCC) to create a series of programs focused on systems change, the practice of circle, transforming societies and institutions, and leadership rooted in Indigenous and ecological principles.  These programs are rooted in relationship, reciprocity, solidarity and a foundational commitment to multiple ways of knowing.  These offerings are collaboratively offered/led by Tribal and BIPOC leaders/practitioners with deep bodies of work and practice within their respective fields, communities, and cultural lineages/lifeways. Our programs also support leaders across many sectors (environment, education, justice, and more) and emphasize the importance of intersecting and collaborative efforts to address the health and well being of our communities and this planet.


Interested in exploring similar topics in a Leadership for Sustainability Fellowship Program? The Fellowship program can be tailored to 1 or 2 years (see details here).

Interested in exploring the possiblity of a PhD track or certificate program?

To learn more about the Fellowship, PhD, and certificate offerrings, please contact Lauren Akin at lauren.akin@uvm.edu or inquire below for more information.