UC Berkeley launches Master's in Sustainability

May 04, 2010
By José Rodríguez, UC Berkeley Marketing & Communications


Recognizing the proven leadership of campus faculty and students in addressing climate change, poverty and public health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today (Tuesday, May 4) selected the University of California, Berkeley, as one of 10 universities worldwide to launch a new master’s degree program in development practice.

UC Berkeley and UC Davis were the only two U.S. universities given MacArthur grants this week to set up the program. They and the eight foreign universities also selected are now part of a global network of 20 schools offering advanced degrees in sustainable development practices. Last year, five U.S. and five foreign universities became the first to join the network. The MacArthur Foundation gave grants today totaling $5.6 million; UC Berkeley will receive $800,000 to support this program.

The UC Berkeley program will provide rigorous, cross-disciplinary professional training for future leaders in sustainable development, enrolling 50 students in a two-year master’s degree program that will welcome its first 25 students in fall 2011. It will be housed in the College of Natural Resources and combine the work of faculty across the campus in fields including engineering, business, public health and public policy.

The campus’s success in establishing innovative programs and institutes that cut across diverse disciplines — including the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program and the Blum Center for Developing Economies — coupled with the strong interest of about 200 UC Berkeley faculty and hundreds of students in pursuing sustainable development studies, contributed to its selection by the MacArthur Foundation, said David Zilberman, professor of agricultural and resource economics in the College of Natural Resources. Zilberman helped spearhead the effort to establish the program on campus.

“Berkeley is already a leading center of education and research on development and the environment, and always has been a ‘world’ university with concern and emphasis on global issues, the future of humanity, the future of the planet, issues of justice and sustainability,” Zilberman said. “The MDP will take advantage of the resources of the campus and provide an effective avenue to educate the environmental and development leaders of the future.”

The program will give students managerial and leadership skills, as well as a broad understanding of natural and human systems, so they can pursue development projects in a sustainable way.

Because UC Berkeley will be part of a worldwide network of universities providing this graduate degree program, students here will be able to collaborate with others around the globe and participate in projects in different countries. These include the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (Costa Rica), the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study in Agriculture (the Philippines), and St. Petersburg State University (Russia).

About 50 UC Berkeley students a year will work in internships as part of the program, gaining a hands-on, “real-world” foundation in sustainable development projects.

The MacArthur Foundation selected UC Berkeley through a competitive process that included reviews by experts outside the foundation. Universities were selected based on five criteria, including support from top university leadership, excellent infrastructure and academic programs, and the ability to serve as regional hub; geographic representation among students and exceptional faculty across the four core competencies of the natural, health, and social sciences and management; and a timeline and business plan for financial sustainability when funding ends in three years.

To learn more about the other universities around the world that will also launch this exciting program click here