Building a Sustainable World

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Ensuring Ecological Viability

Certificate Program Director: Kathia C. Laszlo, Ph.D.

Sustainability is the global issue of the 21st century; as our planet faces unprecedented ecological threats, our cultures are being asked to change in potentially difficult ways. Whether your role is in a corporate boardroom, the office of a community organization, or around the kitchen table on a rural family farm, you must learn to act with conviction and clarity to alleviate suffering today and ensure viability tomorrow. 


The certificate in Building a Sustainable World, co-sponsored by the Department of Leadership and Management and the Transformative Social Change Specialization within the Department of Humanistic and Clinical Psychology, consists of four 3-credit courses, a 3-credit practicum, and a 1-credit integrative paper. Required courses: TSC 7077, ORG 7078 or TSC 7079, and two approved electives.

Practicum: A practicum equivalent to one month of full-time effort is required. While you are responsible for creating your own practicum, Saybrook faculty members are available to provide ideas and guidance. The practicum must be directly involved with enhancing sustainability.

Your practicum section, which will be planned with an advisor, is tailored to your professional needs. For example, a seasoned professional might design a practicum to build cross-institutional or international program affiliations; a mid-career learner might implement the first phase of a program or provide consultation to an existing program; an entry-level learner might assess the suitability of a particular sustainable practice based upon his or her learning in the program and personal skill set.

Integrative Paper or Project: The last activity in the Certificate program is writing a final paper that integrates what you've learned from the four courses and the practicum. This culminating assignment also gives you an opportunity to assess your strengths, identify further learning needs, and develop a specific plan for continuing your personal and professional development in the area of sustainability.

Learning Objectives

Upon completing this certificate, you will:

  • Understand the breadth and depth of contemporary global challenges to a sustainable world.
  • Be able to critically evaluate existing theories and models of sustainability.
  • Be able to work with some of the tools, techniques, and practices now available.
  • Have an enhanced capacity to guide successful change efforts.
  • Be more skilled and knowledgeable about your chosen approach for making your contributions to a sustainable world.
  • Appreciate the cultural, ethical, and psychological aspects of transformation and be able to apply your work with compassion and respect.

Learning/Teaching Approach

You may complete a Certificate in Building a Sustainable World with a team of co-learners who work together on various aspects of the certificate (the preferred method) or in an independent study format. 

Team Format: Learners in the team format complete the two core courses together in a virtual classroom. For each core course, this entails reading the assigned texts, spending an hour per week online adding to the team conversation, and writing and posting a minimum of one paper for other team members to comment on.

Independent Study Format: Learners in the independent study format download a syllabus, complete the assigned reading, and write three essays for each course.

Learners then come together at a Saybrook Residential Conference to create a "think-and-do" tank. As part of this Residential Conference, you'll meet in smaller groups with faculty and students who share similar interests. These interests might include educating consumers, permaculture, sustainability in corporations, international environmental policy, or health care delivery. Together this smaller group of students begins the second series of content-specific courses.

The Practical Value of Sustainability Studies

Making the transition from an environmentally-destructive society to a sustainable one is the most important challenges facing the world today. Training in environmental psychology, organizational systems, and social transformation can help professionals in various fields play a key role in this transition.

Professionals with specialized training in sustainability might hold the following jobs:

  • executive director of an environmental non-profit
  • transportation coordinator for a city or county
  • pastor for a green congregation
  • corporate vice president for environmental concerns
  • psychotherapist leading vision quests
  • consultant for a change project
  • land-use mediator
  • environmental educator
  • researcher for a government department