Sustainability Greener fields

Driving toward a more sustainable world

New master’s and certificate options open up new professional advancement

FROM THE LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY and polluted waterways to growing waste, the globe’s greatest challenges continue to intensify. The need to protect the world’s natural resources and create more sustainable ways of living remains not only an urgent problem, but an ultimate problem in need of informed, decisive action.

“This is the largest and most threatening crisis humanity has ever faced because if the planet becomes more degraded, then it will struggle to support human life,” warns Nancy Tuchman, founding dean of Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES).

Spurred by that urgency as well as surging interest in environmental sustainability education, IES is launching its Master of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability (MSESS) as well as two accompanying graduate certificate programs this fall.

With an eye on developing ethical, innovative problem solvers, the new programs aim to arm students–both working professionals currently responsible for sustainability efforts as well as those seeking employment in sustainability-focused areas–with a deeper understanding of complex environmental issues and a mission to pursue earnest, creative interventions.

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Linda Kurtos, IES director of graduate and certificate programs, says there is “a whole pyramid of people” whose work fits around protecting natural resources and crafting solutions for a more sustainable world.

An employee with a major food or beverage enterprise, for instance, can help modernize the supply chain. Knowing how to identify areas of opportunity and apply sustainability tactics that reduce waste and better utilize resources, such trained professionals can work with vendors to operate with fair labor practices and environmental protections. Examples of this include optimizing transportation to decrease carbon emissions and improving packaging design to limit the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

With an in-depth exploration of key topics such as land regulation as well as federal laws like the Clean Air Act, attorneys can better leverage existing policies to protect natural resources and ensure organizations are acting in an environmentally responsible manner.

Government employees involved with municipal planning or agencies such as a state Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, can learn how to effectively measure resources and interpret data. Perhaps more importantly, they can also communicate issues with different stakeholders to draft plans that safeguard assets, such as waterways, beaches, or forests.


National projected growth rate in the environmental science and specialties employment sector from 2016 to 2026


Jobs in environmental science and specialties opening at twice the rate of all other job sectors in Illinois

The term sustainability is tossed around a lot, but many struggle to see how much it impacts human life and how critical trained and capable people are to addressing these challenges.
— Linda Kurtos, IES director of graduate and certificate programs

Though interest in sustainability among governments, corporations, and nonprofit entities has accelerated in recent years, lingering gaps in knowledge and trained personnel remain–and much to the detriment of the world’s long-term prospects. By diving deep into the science and exploring sustainability’s relationship to areas such as business, policy, ethics, economics, and human health, IES’s interdisciplinary programs grow the pipeline of sustainability experts–the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for environmental scientists and specialists to grow 11 percent by 2026–and help bring a healthier, more sustainable world closer to reality.

“Given that we’re facing some of the most critical problems humanity has ever faced, a program like Loyola’s helps to prepare environmental stewards ready to identify and activate solutions and to do so with a deep moral commitment to the issues,” says Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University.

In fact, Tucker calls the new programs among “the best” she has encountered. By introducing interdisciplinary, pragmatic problem solving with a moral dimension, she says IES is positioning students to be capable and thoughtful change agents in a world desperately in need of action from all corners, across all industries.

“A program like this should help students feel trained and empowered, which is important given the knowledge and ambition we need to address these massive challenges,” Tucker says.

And that, Tuchman assures, remains IES’s foremost objective.

“Needing to find better, more efficient ways to live, we believe these programs will lead to a deeper understanding of the issues at play and spur creative solutions that can drive a more sustainable world,” Tuchman says, adding that the program’s interdisciplinary nature underscores Loyola’s hope of cultivating “professionals with a conscience.”