Sustainability Studies, M.S.


Become a change agent. Transform your future and community.

You’re passionate about environmental and social justice. We’re passionate about helping you prepare for a career in sustainability.

A changing world demands new knowledge and skillsets to address the sustainability challenges and opportunities of our time.

Take your career to the next level with Lenoir-Rhyne's 33-credit hour Master of Science in Sustainability Studies, which will prepare you with the tools, insights and strategies needed to help steer organizations and communities toward a more sustainable future.

With our interdisciplinary approach, you finish the program highly qualified for a range of sustainability related jobs in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

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Take the next step toward completing your Masters in Sustainability Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

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Take the next step toward completing your Masters in Sustainability Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Take the next step toward completing your Masters in Sustainability Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

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Designed for Working Professionals


Balance work and life with your studies on the path to completing your degree. As a flexible, non-cohort program, you can begin your coursework in any semester and complete the program at your own pace. Convenient class schedules are provided for working professionals with distance, online, hybrid and evening classes available at our Asheville campus.

Program Highlights


  • Hands-on experience
  • Professional opportunities across many fields
  • Caring community committed to the work
  • Connect with community stakeholders
  • Enhance your professional network in Asheville and Western NC
  • Scholarships and fellowships available

Students engage in meaningful research, rich dialogue and valuable community projects to build more resilient and regenerative communities now and into the future.

  • Community Partnerships

    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, nonprofit 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.

  • Interdisciplinary Approach

    The Sustainability Studies program incorporates a systems approach to problem solving. Your intellectual, ethical and practical concerns serve as the framework for the structure of the program. You will develop 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.

  • Dynamic & Evolving Curriculum

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

Larissa Lopez MS'21

I was able to explore a wide range of interconnected concepts related to human well-being and environmental health, fostering my creativity and critical thinking toward transformative change.

Larissa Lopez MS'21

Program Requirements

Offered in Asheville
Dr. Keith McDade, Program Director

The Master of Science in Sustainability Studies program is designed for professionals who seek to develop or advance their career in a broad variety of business, management and advocacy professions. By completing this program, graduate students will develop critical core knowledge of science, business, communications, and public policy within the sustainability field. The program focuses on the intersections of an interdisciplinary core that combines business, science, communications, and policy while allowing students to specialize in their primary interests to develop leading practitioners in the emerging field of sustainability. It also includes experiential/service learning components in which the graduate student participates in a project with a community partner.

The MSSS Program is designed to build on Lenoir-Rhyne University's commitment to sustainability, as described 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."

Therefore, Lenoir-Rhyne's MSSS program is focused on preparing business, science and policy professionals to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations and to work toward a world where everyone might flourish. Faculty and students will engage in research, dialogue, and community projects to help restore and sustain the global ecosystem, foster healthy living, address social injustice, and reduce society's impact on the environment.

Building on this vision, the MSSS program has been developed and 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.
  • The MSSS program is interdisciplinary, supporting our recognition of the interconnectedness of community and a systems understanding of knowledge.
  • Courses and materials are issue-based rather than centered on traditional disciplines. Our students and faculty focus in-depth on a particular issue or the intersection of several issues.
  • As a learner-centered program of study, the intellectual, ethical and practical concerns of students serve as the framework for the structure of the program.
  • Learning in this program is based on an intentional, integrative link between theory and practice. In recognition that "sustainability" is a developing topic and requires a dynamic and evolving approach in both content and practice, the MSSS program will feature curricular and methodological flexibility.

Program Objectives

The Master of Science in Sustainability Studies is designed to prepare leaders of educational and community development initiatives to enhance environmental understanding, reform traditional economic development into sustainable development, and increase awareness of the importance of sustainability in all human systems. 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.
  • Abilities to conceptualize, initiate, and lead change programs that enhance sustainable human systems.

Program Admission Requirements

Visit Graduate Admission for the most current Program Admission Requirements.

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