Published: May 18, 2010

Being green: MSU offers sustainability specialization

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Media Communications office: (517) 432-0920 cell: (517) 281-7129, Geoffrey Habron Fisheries and Wildlife office: (517) 432-8086

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University students majoring in packaging, business, anthropology, or a host of other disciplines will now be able to earn a specialization in sustainability, something that could increase their postgraduation job prospects.

The program is the first in the country that will use what’s known as a “competency-based curriculum,” which will demand more from its students than just the taking and passing of classes. This educational approach reflects the growing scholarship on teaching and learning as well as the call for more accountability in higher education, said program director Geoffrey Habron.

Being offered through a number of MSU colleges, the specialization will provide students with the practical experience they will need in an ever-greening world.

“Students earn the specialization when they have provided evidence they’ve met the competencies and documented it in an e-portfolio,” said Habron, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife, and sociology. “Some of the opportunities for gaining these skills can include doing service/learning projects, conducting undergraduate research, leadership of a student organization, or producing an educational video.”

Sustainability, Habron said, is more than just saving energy.

“Going through this program, students will not only have an understanding of how to better protect the planet,” he said, “they will also have a better feel for how sustainability directly affects people, economics, business and how interdependent they are.”

The specialization will require 18 credit hours of study that will appear on students’ official transcripts and complement their majors.

“We’re meeting the needs of industry,” Habron said. “We’re seeing more and more employers who want students who are trained in sustainability.”

Habron said the specialization, three years in the making, was a student-driven process. He said he and colleagues were constantly approached by students who were working on sustainability projects – both in and out of the classroom – and felt they “wanted to get something on their transcripts to show that they know this material.”

MSU units involved in the program are the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Social Science, Natural Science, Eli Broad College of Business, Arts and Letters, and James Madison College.

Classes for the specialization will begin in the fall and students can sign up now. More information is available here. For more information on MSU’s sustainability efforts, go here.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.



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