MS-ESM Courses

All M.S. in Environment and Sustainability Management (MS-ESM) students take the same courses in the same order as part of our cohort model. Preliminary course descriptions for your courses are available below.

MS-ESM Course List:

The Environmental Challenge: Program Introduction

Students will be introduced to the requirements and opportunities of the MS-ESM, the coursework, and the professors and the staff of the program. They will learn who is who in the program and where to find answers to anticipated questions. In addition, because of the cohort nature of the program, they will have a chance to meet their peers with whom they will spend the coming year.

Environment, Business, and Sustainability Management: Incorporating Ethics, Equity, and Justice 

(3 credits)
This course serves as a starting point for the MS-ESM coursework by introducing students to the topics of sustainability and equipping them with a strong foundational knowledge of the theory of sustainability and the balance between environmental, social, and economic systems. The focus of this course is organizational sustainability in a variety of organizations (for-profit businesses, nonprofits, foundations). Through an immersive case study, students work on real-life challenges in groups to identify the issues, problems, and solutions required at the intersection of business and the natural environment. In addition, this course provides a primer to ethics, equity, and justice issues.

Environmental Science I: Earth Systems and Natural Processes 

(3 credits)
This interdisciplinary two-course sequence (Environmental Science I and II) explores methods of linking critical disciplinary perspectives for defining and solving environmental and sustainability challenges. In the first part of this course sequence, students learn to articulate the boundaries of science, explain how science differs in content and methodology, and describe the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science. Through the lenses of climate change, business, and urbanization, this course covers fundamental aspects of earth system interactions including biology, biodiversity and conservation, ecology, climate modeling, atmospheric sciences, physics, oceanography, human population, and environmental health. The course also teaches students how to think critically regarding whether an environmental condition is or is not a problem and use basic mathematics, science language, and tools to describe environmental variables and conditions. This includes concepts such as environmental ethics, deep ecology, risk, conditions vs. problems, and overpopulation.

Accounting Fundamentals 

(1.5 credits)
This course provides an overview of financial reporting by both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and how differences between the two can meet the needs of different constituents. The course discusses two types of non-financial reporting important for sustainability professionals: corporate social responsibility reporting and sustainability accounting (which focuses on environmental, social capital, human capital, business models, and leadership/governance). Students in this course learn to better understand the financial and non-financial information reported by their future employers and their suppliers, customers, competitors, and strategic partners.

Finance Accounting for Sustainability Management 

(1.5 credits)
This course develops the basic analytical capabilities for making financial decisions in corporations and nonprofits. It includes decision analysis to estimate and determine interest rates and internal rates of return. Elementary calculus and simple Excel modeling are applied to determine financial decisions in two dimensions. The course focuses on the following topics:

Climate Change Impact and Measurement

(1.5 credits)
Global greenhouse gas emissions are now at a record high, and the world’s scientific community agrees that continued unabated release of greenhouse gases will have catastrophic consequences for species and the planet. Many efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, both public and private, have been underway for decades, yet it is now clear that collectively these efforts are failing. Critical to any attempt to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions is a clear, accurate understanding of the sources and levels of greenhouse gas emissions and of the methods for measuring and modeling climate change. This course addresses all facets of greenhouse gas emissions accounting and reporting and will provide students with the tangible skills needed to direct such efforts in the future.

The Economics of Climate Change 

(1.5 credits)
This course focuses on the economic characteristics and policy context of climate change. Students learn economic tools to evaluate different climate change policies at an organizational, local, or global level. The course also discusses a variety of domestic and international policy designs, implementation issues, and the strengths and weaknesses of different policies and carbon pricing models, such as emissions trading systems and carbon taxes. Students will be equipped to understand the cost and benefits of different mitigation, adaptation, and reduction strategies, as well as learn about the current regulatory and policy landscape. Students are prepared to become informed and critical practitioners of climate policy for their organization.

Using Data and Analytics to Lead Change 

(1.5 credits)
This course focuses on developing the quantitative skills necessary for identifying and analyzing key environmental data. Students learn basic methods to understand, obtain, and build databases. They also study the basics of descriptive and inferential statistical methods, including exploratory data analysis estimation with correlation and basic regression. Introductions to experimentation, hypothesis testing, and analysis of variance complement the development of analytical skills. The course provides students with experience in the application of statistical methods and the use of statistical software. Students also learn the importance of using such analytics to lead change in the context of an original research project and for the capstone.

Environmental Science II: Human and Social Dimensions of Natural Resource Use 

(3 credits)
The second part of this interdisciplinary, two-course sequence (Environmental Science I and II) examines the relationship between natural and human systems in different regions of the world and in different temporal aspects. Students will focus on in-depth analysis of both past environmental controversies (e.g., DDT, acid rain, ozone hole, etc.), as well as current and future ones (e.g., fracking, geoengineering, monocultures, drought, urban heat island effect, the impact of pandemics on climate and energy, etc.). Topics include water, land, food, energy resources, and climate change. Via case studies, students learn key problem-solving elements used in environmental science: systems theory, communications, engagement, framing, uncertainty management, decision analysis, cognitive mapping, and skills for multi-constituency problem-solving. This includes concepts such as tragedy of the commons, precautionary principle, systems thinking, and sustainability. Of central importance are the personal and social dimensions of natural resource usage and the impact on the environment. Students also learn the importance of engaging and communicating in the social debate about environmental problems with data-supported insights via the many forms of communication (interpersonal, group, public, organizational, mass media, and social media) with which they can be engaged.

Sustainable Operations, Supply Chains, and Marketing 

(1.5 credits)
This course utilizes a business-oriented perspective by focusing on voluntary or economically motivated sustainability considerations and initiatives. It covers various tools and frameworks that can aid managerial decision-making in this context and introduces a broad range of environmental issues faced by businesses today. Students focus on the environmental dimension of sustainability but also discuss the social dimension when relevant. Current issues such as global warming, e-waste, and social responsibility are discussed in the context of a number of cases. Students learn how to analyze product and process performance through life-cycle thinking and learn how to assess different types of sustainability initiatives; analyze how product design, operations, and supply chains have environmental consequences that can enhance or hurt a firm’s economic performance; understand how managers can create value by making their operations, supply chains, and marketing efforts more environmentally sustainable; and analyze new business models that utilize product and process innovation to enhance environmental and economic performance.

Principles, Applications, and Impacts of Energy Technology 

(1.5 credits)
This course integrates the scientific principles of energy production and transmission with the impact of various technologies on humans and the environment. The application of many technologies and their integration in a coordinated fashion expose the challenges of transitioning to renewable energy, increased energy storage, and scale. The course also examines the environmental and societal impact of this transition from traditional energy technologies, such as oil and gas, coal, and nuclear, to renewable ones, including wind, wave, tidal, current, solar, and hydrogen. Students familiarize themselves with the role of utilities, government regulations, and public preferences for advancing to alternative energy technologies and sources.

Environmental Visualization and Storytelling with Data 

(1.5 credits)
In this course, students learn how to effectively explore, identify, and communicate key insights from environmental data to diverse audiences through data visualization and presentation. This course teaches best practices in data visualization, developing and interpreting different charts and graphs with various software tools, and visualizing and interpreting spatial data. Classes consist partly of short lectures on key principles of effective communication, data management, and visual design, coupled with discussions, peer critiques, and hands-on visualization activities. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to interpret findings in terms of an emerging story that the data reveal about the core research questions addressed and the decisions that can be communicated to motivate others to action.

The Business of Sustainable Energy 

(1.5 credits)
This course surveys how economic value is created in the energy industry across a wide spectrum of sectors, including oil and gas, transportation, and electricity generation. The main objective is to familiarize students with the evaluation of economic and environmental implications of traditional and innovative business models in the energy industry. The course focuses on the challenges and opportunities associated with the transformation to a renewable energy future using innovative business models that are both economically and environmentally beneficial. As such, the course investigates business models for renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, as well as for urban mobility, such as electric vehicles.

Firm Analysis and Strategy 

(1.5 credits)
This integrative course provides a conceptual foundation in strategic analysis and design. It introduces frameworks, tools, and concepts that enable practitioners to effectively think and act strategically when making critical business decisions. The course foundations are drawn from the field of microeconomics and applications to competitive strategy. Realizing most business organizations operate in competitive markets, this course enables managers to develop business and marketing strategies that enhance an organization’s performance over that of its rivals and position the firm for long-term success.

ESG Finance and Impact Investing 

(1.5 credits)
The purpose of this course is two-fold: to provide a conceptual and theoretical foundation for corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies and actions and investors’ preferences regarding such policies and actions, and to show how such policies and actions affect firm performance and investor reactions. Using a blend of readings, cases, discussions, and a major research project, students learn to critically assess the actions of investors and corporations with regard to ESG policies, including the potential motivations and resulting consequences (i.e., the valuation effects and externalities). In addition, the course covers topics on impact investing, which has emerged in recent years as a high potential approach to long-term sustainable social and financial value creation. Although its basic business and investment theories do not differ substantially from those of established capital markets, there are unique and specific challenges to successful investment in social ventures. This finance course provides a detailed introduction to this developing sector of impact investing, equipping students with vital, practitioner-focused skills. It targets students seeking careers in financial services who want to better understand the interaction of capital markets and policy issues.

Leadership Communication

(1.5 credits)
Effective leadership requires people to be self-aware and able to understand, motivate, and influence others. This is increasingly complex in organizations today that work with diverse people across cultures, via technologies, and in an environment of increased change. This course focuses on developing students’ social intelligence by developing the self as leader, understanding culture and interpersonal differences, and leading change in the organizational context. Social intelligence skills are crucial for influencing, persuading, motivating, and leading people and change. They predict performance and career success and have a potent effect on the performance and wellbeing of others around you.

Capstone Course 

(3 credits)
The capstone course, which spans Modules 4 and 5, provides students with a practical understanding of environmental and sustainability challenges in an organizational setting. Organized in teams, students work with a real organization to gain experience in identifying opportunities and solving challenges related to sustainable business, communication, and implementation, while also flexing their problem-solving, analytical, synthesis, and communication skills.

In the first part of the course, students are introduced to the clients and the projects, focusing on developing consulting skills and frameworks to help them successfully deliver on these projects in the second part of the course. Students work in their teams to conduct open and initial research into their projects, including interviewing their clients. Consistent with the mission and values of Georgetown University, this course helps develop students to be ethical leaders: women and men who act with integrity and have well-deserved reputations for assiduously managing the social and environmental impacts of their organizations.

Capstone Presentations and Program Conclusion Day

The capstone course concludes with a presentation, where teams share the project description and scope and outline an action plan and the resources and data required for the project execution. Students should be prepared to answer questions by the representatives of their project organizations, who will be invited to this important, program concluding event.