Black Hills State University is offering a new master’s degree in Sustainability. The degree, which is offered entirely online, was designed to meet the needs of an emerging career field.

A new master’s degree in Sustainability at Black Hills State University is drawing strong interest from prospective students.  The degree, which is offered entirely online, was designed to meet the needs of an emerging career field.

The BHSU Master of Science in Sustainability, which is the only degree of its kind in a multi-state region and one of only a handful across the nation, prepares individuals to think broadly about opportunities to change practices and create a sustainable society.

Dr. Shane Sarver, director of research at BHSU, predicts there’s a pent-up demand for the degree locally as well as across the nation.

 “This is an emerging career field and there are many options,” Sarver says. “This is a great degree for people who are problem solvers and change agents.  These graduates will lead others in developing and implementing strategies to create a sustainable society. This degree will give graduates the edge you need to advance in your career and make a difference in the environment.”

Sarver notes the degree was conceptualized and developed to meet a growing demand for sustainability professionals. Graduates of the program will be prepared for leadership sustainability positions in higher education, industry, utilities, non-profits, and local, state or federal government entities. This degree will prepare chief sustainability officers, sustainability directors, analysts, sustainable design professionals, energy efficiency analysts, operations managers, development specialists, resource managers, environmental science/sustainability specialists, climate preparation analyst, etc. Many professions, including city planners, architects, physical plant managers, policy analysts, construction managers, lawyers, communications professionals, scientists, and industrial technologists, now need expertise in sustainability. In addition to the growing number of job openings, the degree is also a perfect for social entrepreneur, interested in creating businesses that make positive changes in society. 

The interdisciplinary innovative program provides students with a complex understanding of environmental (natural) systems, economic and social systems, legal frameworks, and policy making to help organizations meet sustainability related challenges. 

The Sustainability degree requires 33 total credits and includes a capstone six credit course that gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to synthesize the complex breadth of sustainability through problem solving real world situations.

BHSU is recognized for taking the lead in sustainability. BHSU was the first University in the state to join the American College and University President's Climate Commitment and just recently enrolled in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, known as STARS to help assess progress in meeting sustainability goals. Two BHSU buildings have earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. In fact, the Student Union was the first state building to earn this standard.

In addition to the highly visible sustainable efforts such as the large wind turbine on the campus green, BHSU students, faculty and staff are embracing a multitude of sustainable initiatives and have also integrated sustainability into their classrooms, into their daily lives, and into their career plans. The Outdoor Education program teaches technical skills that reduce the impact of outdoor activities on the environment, the art program uses recycled materials to create art projects, and BHSU chemistry students are working with faculty members on a research project that could lead to the development of less expensive, more efficient solar cells. Two BHSU professors developed a native plant ethnobotanical garden on campus. A recent BHSU graduate started a business, Cans 2 Cans Recycling LLC, to make recycling aluminum cans more convenient.

BHSU, which has a strong legacy of offering graduate degrees for teachers, now offers seven master’s degree programs: an MBA, which is taught in the evenings in Rapid City; Integrative Genomics, on campus; Strategic Leadership, which is available entirely online; and three education master’s degrees, Curriculum and Instruction, Reading Specialist; and Secondary Education.

BHSU is now accepting application for the Sustainability Master’s degree program. For more information visit www.BHSU.edu/Sustainability, call 642-6270 or email Sustainability@BHSU.edu