Green Mountain College’s online Master of Science degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities (MRSC) uses GMC’s groundbreaking bioregional approach to prepare students to meet current and coming challenges in their own communities.
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The Master of Science degree in Resilient and Sustainable Communities (MRSC) is the first program of its kind in the nation. A two-year program accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the MRSC featured writer and climate-change activist Bill McKibben as its Visiting Scholar in residence in February, 2015.
This program adopts GMC’s groundbreaking bioregional approach to distance learning, in which students apply what they learn in each course to their local communities. MRSC students research regionally specific examples of land-use planning, economic development, energy production, food systems, and social justice, while developing skills in leadership, group organization, and conflict resolution.
As in the College’s other online graduate programs, students complete their coursework at times that best fit their personal and professional lives. Because class sizes are small, students experience meaningful interactions with their classmates and individual attention from instructors. The program prepares students for a rapidly expanding range of careers in sustainability and resilience emerging from municipal agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
“The MRSC program is comprehensive and well thought out,” said Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of eleven books on energy and climate change. “Rather than being just another generic sustainability program, it provides a systemic context for understanding the modern world’s environmental crises, and offers practical skills–such as an elective in Emergency Management and Communication–to prepare students for the challenges we will face in an energy-constrained, climate-disrupted world. Anyone wanting to build a sustainable and resilient community would do well to start here.”
The MRSC Program
From urban areas to small towns, citizens are rethinking traditional approaches to providing food, energy, transportation and effective governance in response to rapid environmental and economic changes. As we adapt to conditions brought about by a changing climate, depletion of fossil fuel supplies, and growing inequalities in wealth and access to vital resources, the MRSC program gives students the skills to develop, advocate, and implement fundamental changes in how communities function.
At the heart of this program is the understanding that sustainability depends on creating resilient communities, which can adapt to changing conditions in ways that allow them to evolve without losing their fundamental identities. In this program students synthesize knowledge about land-use planning, economic development, energy production, food systems, and resource management, while developing skills in leadership, group organization, and conflict resolution.
Our online MRSC program consists of 39 credits. Each 3-credit course is just six weeks in length, followed by a one-week break before the start of the next course. We cap each course at 20 students, but our typical class size is 10-18 students: perfect for individualized attention and quality group discussion.
The MRSC program, unique in its design and approach, strives to help students apply what they learn in each class to their own communities, wherever they may live, and to hear from classmates how the same concepts may take different forms in various settings. The applied emphasis of our online graduate programs is a natural expression of our college, which features a culture and curriculum deeply rooted in social, environmental and economic sustainability. Typically, students progress through the program one class at a time, sequencing the core requirements prior to the elective options. Students complete projects and assignments by connecting the program’s teaching with their own real-life experiences, while engaging with colleagues and instructors in asynchronous discussions.
The MRSC program consists of 30 credits of core requirements and 9 credits of elective course options.
- RSC 5010 A Bioregional Approach to Communities
- RSC 5020 Climate Change and Resource Impacts
- RSC 5030 Sustainable Economic Development
- RSC 5040 Energy and the Environment
- RSC 5050 Theories of Sustainability and Resilience
- ENV 6077 Land Use Planning and Policy
- RSC 5060 Regional and Community Food Systems
- RSC 5070 Leadership and Organizational Transformation
- RSC 5080 Social Justice and Community Mobilization
Students will culminate the MRSC program by choosing one of three options:
Thesis; Capstone Portfolio; or Applied Professional Project.
- BUS 5020 Sustainable Organizational Management
- BUS 5030 Organizational Behavior in Sustainable Organizations
- BUS 5045 Operations Management and Systems Thinking
- BUS 5050 Sustainable Marketing
- BUS 5060 Statistics & Quantitative Methods for Sustainable Organization Management
- BUS 6010 Leadership, Values, and Decision-Making
- COM 6040 Environmental Communications
- COM 6070 Grant Writing Workshop
- COM 6079 Online Content Creation
- COM 6081 Media Advocacy Workshop
- ENV 5011 Environmental Law and Policy
- ENV 5020 Environmental Leadership and Community Involvement
- ENV 5070 Regional Analysis of Global Environmental Issues
- ENV 6050 Environmental Administrative Law
- NRM 6050 Geographic Information Systems
- RSC 6000 Community, Arts, Recreation, and Public Spaces
- RSC 6005 Transportation and Infrastructure
- RSC 6010 Community Health
- RSC 6015 Emergency Management and Communication
- RSC 6020 Dispute Resolution, and Creative Problem-Solving
- RSC 6025 Topics in Green Design
- SFS 5010 Contemporary Food Systems
- SFS 6010 Contemporary Food and Agriculture Movements: Regional, National, and Intl
- SFS 6020 Food Law and Policy
- SFS 6030 Agriculture and Energy
- SFS 6050 Sustainable Organization Management
The MRSC is designed for individuals who already have some relevant work experience, as well as those preparing for a career in one of the rapidly expanding sustainability fields. It serves people from varied backgrounds who want to help prepare our communities for the changes we face, including people interested in the following professions:
- sustainability directors
- resilience analysts
- community development directors
- local government administrators and planners
- parks and recreation officials
- nonprofit organization professionals
- planning commission members
- engaged citizens and community leaders
- grassroots activists
- community organizers
Coursework in this program prepares students for jobs in urban and regional planning departments at the local, state, or federal level. Agencies at all levels of government need employees with the background necessary to understand the challenges and opportunities facing communities in the 21st century. The MRSC program is designed to emphasize skill development and practical application of new ideas leading to the development of more sustainable and resilient communities. State and municipal agencies increasingly have offices devoted to sustainability or community development. Some larger cities are even beginning to create and staff Resilience Offices.
In addition to working in the public sphere in the US and abroad, students will also be prepared to work in the private sector. A growing number of architectural, engineering, and consulting firms hire professionals to serve as community development associates and community planners who specialize in sustainable and resilient community development. Businesses are increasingly aware of the need for sustainable and resilient community planning when conducting their operations and providing goods and services to the public, and entrepreneurs are seizing opportunities to fill emerging sustainable niches in the marketplace. The MRSC program will help prepare students for these important kinds of work.
There are many non-profit organizations that work on sustainability-related issues and are looking for employees with the skills and knowledge that prepare them to work in community development. The number of these kinds of positions is increasing around the country and GMC’s national reputation as a leader in sustainability will help our graduates become competitive candidates for these kinds of jobs.
The program will not only prepare students for domestic community development work, but also to apply their skills and knowledge in international contexts. For example, students will be qualified for positions such as a Sustainable Development Officer with the United Nations or with international NGOs. The program would also be excellent preparation for people interested in working for the Peace Corps, or for those who have completed international service and want to translate that experience into a trajectory for new professional opportunities.
Sustainable community development is a relatively young field. Sustainable and resilient community development is even newer. Our innovative MRSC program prepares students for new kinds of positions that deal with how communities and organizations adapt to the inevitable challenges associated with climate change, resource scarcity, and the social consequences of a growing disparity in access to wealth and opportunity.
The GMC Advantage
Here are some attributes that make Green Mountain College’s MRSC program so distinctive:
- Leading Faculty: MRSC faculty members are nationally known as leaders in their fields and have in-depth experience as teachers, researchers and practitioners. More than a dozen full-time faculty members, joined by professionals in the field who teach as adjunct instructors, contribute their expertise to the MRSC program. Collectively they provide a broad interdisciplinary education that combines perspectives from economics, ecology, resource management, sociology and public policy.
- Place-based, Bioregional Approach: Our students span the United States and the globe, providing a breadth of perspectives and experiences not typically found in master’s programs that draw most students from the same geographic area. This means students learn a great deal from the research of their classmates about how communities function in other regions, and from the comparisons between these different policies and approaches. As you establish a portfolio of original research and professional projects rooted in the place you call home you will also be making connections with professionals in local agencies and organizations, building networks for future consultation or collaboration.
- Integration with Other Graduate Programs: After ensuring that all students share a complex understanding of how and why their communities are structured as they are, as well as evaluating their potential for greater resilience and sustainability, we encourage students to choose the electives that best suit their interests – not only from the MRSC program, but from graduate programs in Sustainable Business, Environmental Studies, and Sustainable Food Systems.
- Flexibility: You’ll engage with their professors and classmates virtually, at times that best suit your own schedule. This allows our students to find balance between their course requirements and various professional and personal commitments. You’ll be encouraged to attend one residency each year at the campus in Poultney, VT. These residencies typically last three days and provide an opportunity to build relationships with fellow students, faculty, and Visiting Scholars. At the same time, our distance model means that students spend less time away from work and family.
- Proven Online Learning System and Small Classes: Green Mountain College was an “early adapter” to online learning at the graduate level, beginning with our Sustainable MBA and MS in Environmental Studies programs introduced in 2006. With experience comes expertise, so you can focus on your coursework instead of grappling with technological glitches. Because we keep our class sizes small—normally, no more than 20 students per course—you will experience meaningful and lasting interactions with their classmates and individual attention from instructors.
- Recognized for Sustainability Leadership: Sustainability has been the organizational principle of Green Mountain College for more than two decades, and the College has built a national reputation for teaching sustainability in higher education. GMC has received a perfect green rating from The Princeton Review’s Best 378 College’s Guide four years running, and is one of just four higher education institutions to land on Sierra Magazine’s top 10 “Cool Schools” list more than 5 times, earning the #1 spot for the second time in 2018. For the last two years, The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has ranked GMC first among more than 900 other institutions as best in the nation overall and for sustainability curriculum.