Online Master’s in Professional Science

A degree with a business focus

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August 28, 2017

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M.S. in Professional Science : Sustainability Science

Combining science with organizational and communication skills, the Unity College Master’s in Professional Science (M.S.) will give you the training and credentials you need to advance in your career path.

  • A concentration in Sustainability Science
  • 100% online. Sustainability Science students who take a full course load can complete the degree requirements in as few as 12 months!
  • World-class faculty experienced in online teaching.
  • Small class sizes allow for personalized attention. That’s something you won’t find at larger, online universities!
  • Affordable and flexible. Take the classes whenever works for you. We offer five start dates per year!
  • Unlike similar programs, no GRE is required.

Sustainability science is a problem-based, solution-oriented framework for creating a resilient civilization. The framework combines technical sustainability with skills based in the social sciences and humanities to create effective change agents who can work within the context of political, economic, and cultural concerns. Mitigation and adaptation to climate change is emphasized along with biodiversity conservation, resource conservation, and mitigation of pollution. Students within this track should expect to explore, debate, and research possible solutions to climate change from a variety of viewpoints.

Who should pursue an M.S. in Professional Science?

The M.S. in Professional Science: Sustainability Science track, is aimed at:

  • new graduates
  • career changers
  • …and those interested in pursuing sustainability roles within their current organizations.

It is a great choice for graduate students who have a degree but want to complement their current skill set with training in business, management, and communications, as well as professionals who already have a job in the environmental field or at a business and want more experience in the tenets of sustainability.

Government workers who want more experience and knowledge about sustainability, and current sustainability coordinators seeking to upgrade their skills en route to a promotion, will also find this degree instrumental.

Student Outcomes

Graduates of the Master’s in Professional Science : Sustainability Science track will be able to:

  • Develop mitigation, adaptation, and resilience strategies that account for the ethical, scientific, and cultural dimensions of climate change
  • Demonstrate an applied understanding of the physical, biological, social, and economic realities of climate change

Job Outcomes

Graduates of the M.S. in Professional Science: Sustainability Science track at Unity College can become:

  • sustainability coordinators
  • sustainability directors
  • program directors at non-profits
  • community organizers
  • project managers in any field
  • municipal employees
  • entrepreneurs
  • independent consultants
  • environmental policy practitioners

Degree requirements:

30 credits earned
3.00 minimum cumulative graduate-level grade-point average

Professional Skills Core:

MPS 5023 Strategic Management of Innovation

Course Description:

The course is designed to help students understand the strategic, organizational and human issues that can either help or hinder you (and the organizations, both private and public, you work for) in efforts to develop and implement science-based solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges. It combines the study of those principles needed to manage scientific innovation with an emphasis on how environmental innovation fits within an organization’s strategy and business model, and why they matter, and how one creates an innovative learning organization, drives change within an organization, and drives the adoption of the innovations the organization creates.

Student Outcomes:

Students will:

  • Understand the critical components of an organization’s business model, key strategies, and commercialization of new products.
  • Critically analyze and assess how organizational culture, structure, and customers contribute to an effective learning organization.
  • Understand the role of the leader/manager and the application of personal strengths in leading change and/or innovation within an organization.
  • Develop effective strategies to integrate employees, suppliers, customers, and collaborators into an organization’s innovation efforts and processes.
MPS 6013 Communication for Science Professionals

Course Description: 

This course will provide students the opportunity to develop vital professional skills in oral and written communication while preparing them to communicate clearly about science, policy, and technology issues with demographically diverse and geographically dispersed audiences. Content will address mass media and public understanding of science; organizational communication issues such as structure and communication networks; rhetoric, advocacy, and strategic message development; the role of public opinion and public policy; innovation and decision making; crisis communication and conflict management; emerging communication technologies; and inter-organizational and cross-disciplinary communication.

Student Outcomes:

Students will:

  • Understand core communication concepts so as to effectively communicate science, technology, and policy messages to demographically diverse and geographically dispersed audiences in a variety of contexts.
  • Produce a professional-quality portfolio that effectively demonstrates facility in producing written materials for internal and external media audiences.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of self, professional relationships, and diverse global perspectives by critically analyzing materials in scientific and popular science texts, and by considering the significance of audience analysis in science and business communication contexts.
  • Practice using effective communication techniques and civility to strike a balance between freedom of expression and tolerance of dissent, an appreciation for diverse perspectives, and expression of personal and professional convictions.
MPS 6023 Ethical Practice and Policy

Course Description: 

This course will investigate some of the ethical dimensions of a life in professional science, examining dimensions of environmental and natural resource science and policy in the context of globalization, global change, and climate change. The course builds on the communications skill set of the science communication course by including a module on the role of science in society. Students critically evaluate the ethical dimensions of common scientific practice and policy issues related to sustainability and natural resources.

Student Outcomes:

Students will:

  • Understand their role as a citizen scientist, with an emphasis on contributing to their communities.
  • Appreciate and develop a distinctly ethical perception through analysis of ethically salient aspects of the events and scenarios one encounters.
  • Examine the idea that developing these skills of ethical self-reflection and perception can help one be a better scientist, and challenge the thought that the ethical dimension of the life of a professional scientist is extrinsic and optional to her or his work.

Environmental Science and Sustainability Core:

MPS 5113 Thinking in Systems

Course Description:

Ecological, economic, and social systems have complex interactions which can make management inherently difficult. Students will examine examples of these systems from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective. From a top-down perspective, student will use statistical tools to mine information about systems, as understanding system patterns and measures can help managers anticipate how systems will change under natural or artificially applied modifications. In some cases, modifying these interactions (due to variation in environment or natural or applied pressures) can produce unexpected results. Therefore, students will also examine systems from a bottom-up perspective, using quantitative tools to model systems and examine their responses under changing conditions.

Student Outcomes:
By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of theory, methodology, and application to systems of modeling and data analysis.
  • Evaluate and interpret current sustainability science literature, and critically review assumptions and results of systems thinking and analysis.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in using technological tools used in modeling and data analysis.
  • Conjecture and implement data-based decision making based on knowledge of the system interactors and anticipatory thinking.
  • Synthesize economic, ecological, and social impacts to make decisions about sustainability.


MPS 5123 Climate Dynamics

Course Description:

Climate change is the defining environmental issue of the 21 st century. Sustainability scientists and natural resource managers should be able to follow the emerging science and communicate it to a wide variety of audiences. This course begins with the science of climate and climate change and the anthropogenic contributions to that change. The course then examines the technical and economic challenges society faces with regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and strategies to increase the resilience of natural and human communities. Throughout the course, we will examine the historical and emerging responses to aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Student Outcomes:

  • Explain the history of earth’s climate, internal and external climate forcing, general circulation models, anthropogenic greenhouse gases and forcing factors, and biological consequences of climate change.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of mitigation strategies such as sequestration, energy efficiency, carbon taxation, transportation and building energy policies, life cycle analysis, and related policy initiatives. 
  • Analyze case studies in climate change adaptation with regard to various anticipated consequences of climate change, such as increased sea level rise, violent weather, changes in agricultural conditions, and emergency preparedness. Consider management applications to these consequences.
MPS 5133 Ecological Economics

Course Description:

Economic systems influence how society understands its relationship to the environment. From the neo-classical synthesis to socialism, none of our contemporary economic systems seems to provide the social and environmental resilience that sustainability theory demands. The interdisciplinary field of ecological economics attempts to overcome the deficiencies in traditional economic theory, first by recognizing the physical limits in which any economic system operates and then by including normative values into a holistic economic system. Students will learn the basic principles of ecological economics, evaluate the framework, and learn to apply its principles to sustainability work.

Student Outcomes:

  • Explain the basic principles of ecological economics and the reasoning behind them.
  • Critically evaluate neo-classical economic theory against environmental and social goals.
  • Identify where the principles of ecological economics can be effectively applied to sustainability work.


MPS 6113 Leading Sustainable Change

Course Description:

The community dimension of sustainability science sets it apart from historical scientific problem solving. Truly sustainable solutions need to meet economic and cultural acceptability to be implemented politically, and the process of seeking solutions can change community perceptions. Through techniques for understanding the nature of stakeholders and the use of social marketing, sustainability professionals can strongly influence perceptions and behavior. In this course, students will practice research-based stakeholder analysis and social marketing.

Student Outcomes:

  • Use research-based techniques to conduct stakeholder analysis.
  • Lead a program to move communities from inaction to action.
  • Apply research-based techniques in advocacy and social marketing.
  • Analyze case studies in local, state, and national change efforts for their strengths and weaknesses.


MPS 6123 Community Planning for Resiliency

Course Description:

It is increasingly essential that we couple our greenhouse gas reduction actions with preparations for climate extremes and other changes, both expected and unexpected. As the footprint of human society continues to grow, managing the built environment for resilience becomes one of the primary leverage points for mitigation of sustainability problems, and an important focus of adaptation. From buildings to transportation networks to the relationship between urban communities and their rural resource bases, a strategically developed built environment dramatically reduces the carbon footprint, protects open space, and fosters social cohesion. We will enlist successful frameworks used in community design and green building as we explore ways in which communities can anticipate and adapt to the consequences of climate change while contributing to global mitigation efforts.

Student Outcomes:

  • Define key characteristics of resilient communities such as flexibility, inclusiveness, learning, prevention, and management.
  • Evaluate the applicability of various frameworks for infrastructure and community design for their advantages and disadvantages in resiliency planning: LEED, Living Building Challenge, Passive House, Smart Growth, Rural Design, Conservation Design, Living Neighborhoods, Permaculture, and Transition Towns.
  • Apply the four steps in resilience planning and implementation–resilience assessment, future scenarios development, impact and vulnerability assessment, and decision options and actions–to a community such as a college campus, city, or town.

Additional requirements:

MPS 5993 Capstone I

Course Description:

This course guides students through the creation of a capstone project. Students from all degree tracks solve real-world problems through application of the variety of skills and knowledge acquired during their master’s experience. Students work to develop projects that demonstrate transdisciplinary thinking, analyze complex systems, and develop and communicate solutions to posed problems.

Student Outcomes:

  • Work closely with instructor to develop skills needed to create, implement, and conduct a transdisciplinary project.
  • Research and propose methodology for conducting project.
  • Generate relationships with partners or field sites for project implementation.
  • Review appropriate literature and materials needed to develop project.
  • Produce a clear proposal with literature review, proposed project goals and objectives, methodology, and evidence of transdisciplinary application.
MPS 6453 Capstone II

Course Description:

This course is the culminating experience in obtaining the M.S of Professional Science degree at Unity College. Students will work to solve real-world problems through application of the variety of skills and knowledge acquired during their master’s experience. Collaborators work to demonstrate transdisciplinary thinking, analyze complex systems, and develop and communicate solutions to posed problems. Students will work with mentors to conduct research projects in their fields of interest.

Student Outcomes:

  • Work with faculty mentors to conduct research or work on a project in a field of interest.
  • Apply transdisciplinary approaches to solving problems.
  • Apply quantitative skills and approaches to analyzing project data, if applicable.
  • Communicate outcomes to campus and to an audience in their career fields.
  • Produce a product appropriate for the communication of project, such as a paper and/or presentation.

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