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Interdisciplinary Courses – 6 credits
Environment, Business, and Sustainability Management (3 credits)
This course serves as the starting point for the MS-ESM curriculum, introducing students to the topics of sustainability and building a strong foundational knowledge of the theory of sustainability and the balance between environmental, social, and economic systems. The course will focus on a variety of organizations (for-profit businesses, nonprofits, foundations) and understanding different approaches to sustainability management. Through immersive case studies, students will identify issues, problems, and solutions at the intersection of business, natural environment, science, and policy regulation. This course also provides a primer to equity and justice issues surrounding sustainability. Topics covered span the breadth of current sustainability challenges, from agriculture to climate change and pollution. Overall, this course will prepares students with the knowledge needed to tackle sustainability issues and make their organization more successful.
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. Working in teams, students engage 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.
Environment Courses – 12 credits
Environmental Science I: Earth Systems and Natural Processes (3 credits)
This course is the first of a two-course sequence (Environmental Science I and II). It explores the scientific principles, concepts, and methods required to understand critical disciplinary perspectives and interrelationships of the natural world. We will identify and analyze environmental and sustainability challenges and evaluate potential solutions. Students will learn to articulate the boundaries of science and describe the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science. This course covers fundamental aspects of earth system interactions including biodiversity and conservation, ecology and evolution, population dynamics, nutrient cycling, and ecosystem resources. Students will be required to think critically regarding the scope of environmental conditions in terms of basic mathematics, accurate scientific language, and tools that can be used to describe environmental variables and conditions.
Environmental Science II: Natural and Human Interactions (3 credits)
This second part of the two-course sequence (Environmental Science I and II) focuses on the science-based yet interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues such as water resources and water pollution, air pollution, food and agriculture, waste management, mining and extraction of natural resources, and environmental health and toxicology. Students will focus on in-depth analysis of environmental controversies (e.g., pesticide use, hydraulic fracturing, monocultures, urban heat island effect). Through case studies and other interactive modes of learning, students learn key problem-solving elements used in environmental science including uncertainty management, decision analysis, and skills for multi-constituency problem-solving. These elements include concepts such as tragedy of the commons, precautionary principle, and systems thinking. Students will consider multi-disciplinary problems and solutions of natural resource usage and the impact on the environment. Students also learn the importance of engaging in the debate about environmental problems with data-supported insights via many forms of communication.
Climate Change Impact and Measurement (1.5 credits)
Climate change may be the most important and defining environmental issue of the 21st century. Throughout the course, students will cover the scientific basis for climate change and its uncertainties. We will discuss global greenhouse gas emissions, which are now at a record high, their sources, and their subsequent consequences for species and the planet. 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 aims to address the science of climate change and will provide students with tangible skills needed to direct such efforts in the future.
Using Data and Analytics to Lead Change (1.5 credits)
This course focuses on developing the quantitative skills necessary for identifying and analyzing socioenvironmental data. Using a hands-on, experiential approach, students learn basic methods to build and manage databases. They also study the basics of descriptive and inferential statistical methods, including exploratory data analyses, and basic linear and logistic regressions. Introductions to multivariate analysis and model selection complement the development of analytical skills. The course provides students with experience in the application of statistical methods and the use of open-source statistical software, R. Students also learn the importance of using such analytics to lead change in the context of an original research project and for the Capstone.
Energy Transitions (1.5 credits)
Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – a target set by scientists and adopted internationally by businesses and governments – requires a complete transformation in how energy is produced, distributed, and consumed at an unprecedented speed and scale. In this course, students will gain an understanding of the characteristics and drivers of past and current energy transitions and survey disruptive trends in the energy sector and other energy-dependent ones. We will examine the principles, applications, and impacts of various energy technologies and the associated environmental, political, and socioeconomic challenges with the transition to a renewable energy future. Through case studies, readings, and guest speakers, students will learn about the role of industry developments, government policies, and public attitudes in deploying alternative energy technologies.
Environmental Visualization and Storytelling with Data (1.5 credits)
In this course, students learn how to effectively identify, explore, 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 open-source software tools. Classes consist of short lectures on key principles of effective communication and data management, 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.
Business Courses – 12 credits
Accounting for Sustainability Management (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 (CSR) 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 for Sustainability Management (1.5 credits)
This course develops the analytical capabilities for making financial decisions in corporations and nonprofits. The course focuses on the following topics:
- The mathematics of time value of money and discounted cash flow analysis
- The decision rules that corporations can use to determine which projects to accept
- The tradeoff between risk and return and the fundamentals of portfolio theory.
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 (ETS) 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.
Environment, Sustainability, Operations & Business Models (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.
Firm Analysis and Strategy (1.5 credits)
This 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.
Business of Sustainable Energy & Technology (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.
ESG Investing (1.5 credits)
We will examine issues related to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing. Topics covered include:
- ESG Performance – What has been the historical risk and return of incorporating ESG factors? Are there costs to ESG investing?
- ESG Ratings – Who are the different raters? How are ratings estimated? What do the ratings measure? What are the similarities and differences between the ratings?
- Investors – Why have investors become interested in ESG? How do institutional investors consider the tradeoff between fiduciary responsibility, performance, and other factors?
- ESG Factors – How are ESG factors incorporated in investment and portfolio decisions? How do they impact performance? What is the role of active managers versus passive indexing?
- Companies – How are companies responding and incorporating ESG?
- Do investors vote with their feet (portfolio composition) and/or vote with their voice (proxy voting and engagement)?
- Policy and Regulatory Issues – Is ESG disclosure by companies needed? If yes, what form should it take?
Leadership Communication (1.5 credits)