logo and main navigation container


LR’s MS degree in Sustainability Studies is offered on its Asheville campus. The 33-hour program furnishes students the opportunity to participate in an innovative program oriented to engaging some of the world’s most pressing needs. A changing world demands new knowledge and skill sets to address the sustainability challenges and opportunities of our time. We are faced with climate change, biodiversity decline, economic dysfunction, social injustice, community fragmentation, and many other challenges. At the same time, we have great opportunities to set our communities, businesses, and selves on new paths toward sustainability; the MS in Sustainability Studies is excellent preparation for an increasing number of sustainability-related professions.

Recognizing this growing job sector and the need for effective leaders, the MS in Sustainability Studies is preparing students with tools, insights, and strategies to help steer organizations and communities toward a more sustainable future. This interdisciplinary program offers skill sets to assist graduates working in sustainability-related jobs in businesses, non-profit organizations, hybrid organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions in rethinking and redirecting their efforts.

The program is designed with the working adult in mind. As a non-cohort program, students may begin any semester (summer, fall, or spring term) and can complete the curriculum at their own pace—full-time or part-time.

The program is delivered in a way that honors and supports the following principles of education, learning, community development, and environmental stewardship:

The Asheville area and the Western North Carolina region are partners in Lenoir-Rhyne's graduate education programs. As a result, we extend the classroom into the community through collaborative networks and community commitments. Examples include regular class visitors from the community (sustainability officers, elected officials, business owners and managers, non-profit program managers, scientists, etc), class projects in the community, and a capstone course that involves working with a community partner on an issue, idea, or challenge related to sustainability.

The program is interdisciplinary and incorporates a systems approach to problem solving. Intellectual, ethical and practical concerns of students serve as the framework for the structure of the program.

Learning in this program necessarily integrates theory and practice. Because "sustainability" is a developing topic and requires a dynamic and evolving approach in both content and practice, the MSSS program is constantly evolving and adapting to new understandings. This includes regular updates to the curriculum and merging methods that can move us toward sustainability.

The MSSS Program is designed to build on Lenoir-Rhyne University’s commitment to sustainability, as articulated by the university in the following statement:

Lenoir-Rhyne University recognizes that it is but one component of larger interconnected communities, each of which is impacted by personal and institutional choices. In order to foster understanding of and responsibility for these human and natural communities, the University encourages education and community outreach that provide students with knowledge and skills to conserve natural resources and to be environmentally responsible citizens. Lenoir-Rhyne endeavors to be a model of environmental stewardship by promoting care and concern for the environment in the daily lives of individuals and by striving for sustainability in our institutional operations.

Students will learn to search for the causes and impacts of environmental-related economic and social problems, while establishing the capacity to design, implement and advance initiatives that produce sustainable outcomes for current and future generations. Students who successfully complete the Master of Science in Sustainability Studies program will demonstrate:

  • Advanced ability to think systemically, identifying and analyzing the structural causes that underlie sustainability issues and problems.
  • Facility in seeking solutions to sustainability problems collaboratively, while striving to meet the expectations and needs of multiple stakeholders.
  • Capacity to examine and assess sustainability decisions and issues in terms of both their short and long-term consequences to stakeholders and the natural world.
  • Commitment to transparency and democratic processes for optimum sustainability solutions.
  • Skills in using systems theory concepts and tools.
  • An informed self-knowledge of their leadership potential and the capacity to author a personalized plan to further develop their leadership abilities.


LR’s Sustainability Studies program develops critical core knowledge of sustainability through science, business, economics, public policy, communication, and social justice. Hands-on experience in community planning, research, conflict management, communication, education, and project implementation integrates with learning in the classroom to furnish a rich and relevant preparation for professional opportunities across many fields.

Faculty and students engage in research, dialogue, and community projects to help restore and sustain the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, reduce society's impact on the environment, and work toward more resilient and regenerative communities. The curriculum also includes an experiential component in which the graduate student designs and completes a Master's Project experience with a community partner that seeks to advance relevant sustainability knowledge and contribute to a more sustainable future.

The 33-hour program includes a wide array of courses ground in interdisciplinary learning: analysis and assessment; theories of sustainability; project and resource management; economics and public policy; research methodologies; organizational development and behavior; energy and materials use; and a substantial capstone grounded in experiential learning.

Additionally, LR’s Reese Institute for Conservation of Natural Resources partners with the Sustainability Studies program. Graduate students in Sustainability Studies can apply for Reese Fellowships that engage them in advancing sustainability and simultaneously reducing their overall tuition costs. Other support funding is available through Reese Institute Master's Project Grants and travel funds. The Reese Institute was made possible by a generous gift from the estate of Tom Reese and functions on both the Hickory and Asheville campuses.

sustainability studies ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS
Sustainability Studies Major Requirements
Fellowship Opportunities


Program Contact

Dr. Keith McDade

Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies, Co-Director of the Reese Institute
Asheville Campus

Sustainability Studies Faculty

Dr. Melissa Booth

Titles: Adjunct Professor, Sustainability Studies

Dr. John Brzorad

Titles: Co-Director of the Reese Institute, Associate Professor of Biology
Phone Numbers:
School: 828.328.7606

Dr. Keith McDade

Titles: Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies, Co-Director of the Reese Institute
Phone Numbers:
School: 828.407.4276