The MENV Sustainability Planning and Management (SPM) specialization prepares students to design, implement, and lead sustainability policies, programs and projects. Taught by accomplished sustainability professionals and researchers, the SPM specialization equips and inspires students from different backgrounds and experiences for careers as sustainability leaders.

As a student in this specialization, you will learn the theoretical frameworks and practical skills required for effective sustainability planning and management in and across private, public, and non-profit settings. You will acquire the essential analytical and managerial tools of successful sustainability leaders, which include learning how to assess critical environmental and social policy issues, create and implement effective, equitable solutions, and engage and collaborate with diverse stakeholders. You will develop a deeper understanding of what is required to build and lead sustainable communities and institutions, including

  • Climate action and resilience planning
  • Communication, collaboration and stakeholder engagement
  • Conservation, recreation and rural community development
  • Smart growth and sustainable cities
  • Systems thinking, social justice, and sustainable management
  • Transportation and mobility for sustainable communities
  • Water and green infrastructure

Students must take a minimum of 12 credits in this specialization.

In addition, students can select among a variety of elective courses in renewable and sustainable energy, sustainable food systems, environmental policy, and other areas and have access to a broad network of sustainability practitioners through our faculty, alumni, and program partners in Colorado, the US, and beyond. SPM graduates are uniquely prepared for high-impact, mission-driven careers such as urban sustainability directors, chief sustainability officers, social entrepreneurs, sustainable real estate developers, impact investors, and policymakers.


Sample Course Offerings 

SPM student must choose twelve credits of the course options below.

This course explores the skills and processes that enhance collaborative decision-making from a practitioner perspective. Students will explore key elements of the practice of collaborative problem solving and decision making including negotiation, facilitation, mediation, and collaboration. These elements have meaning and value independent of each other but take on added value when they are integrated into a framework for successful collaboration. This integration is often overlooked by those not directly engaged in designing, managing and facilitating collaborative processes. Students will develop a better understanding of the skills and processes that make collaboration successful as well as its application to various genres in the environmental, energy, and sustainability sectors.

A survey course examining core concepts and best practices in planning and development for sustainable, equitable, carbon-neutral communities, from cities to rural areas, with emphasis on both policy and market/private sector strategies.

This course is designed to help students become conversant with the language, tools, and concepts of sustainability metrics and indicators, develop skills in integrating indicators into sustainability strategies across different sectors of society, and develop a critical perspective regarding attempts to measure sustainability. In addition to the study of indicators at the organizational level, students will also examine larger societal approaches to sustainability indicators such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and more. The student will develop the critical thinking skills needed to discriminate between indicators and strategies used in green-washing and authentic practices of sustainability.

The nation’s public lands are central to the economy, and, in many ways, our national identity. Public land uses, such as energy and natural resource extraction, agriculture and ranching, and outdoor recreation activities, serve as important economic drivers in communities all over the country. However, population pressures, and economic and policy transitions are disrupting conceptions and uses of public landscapes. At the same time, Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually and contributes 229,000 direct jobs. As a result, the ways of life in many communities and industries, whose futures are intertwined with these lands, are dramatically affected as well. This course will focus on communities, public lands and the connection to recreation economies. Solving complex problems in rural communities means that students must understand cultural, economic and political underpinnings. This is a project-based course, partnered with Rural Technical Assistance Program through the Colorado state Office of Economic Development and International Trade  and the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office to grow outdoor industry and recreation economies in small communities. Students will work closely with stakeholders in a real-world project, serve as consultants to organizations and communities, conduct the analysis, and deliver a final product.  Class time will be devoted to project management, guest speakers, case studies and dialogue that supports the development and execution of the project as well as understanding of recreation economies and rural community transformation.  Students will be expected to travel to the project location multiple times and interact with a variety of stakeholders throughout the semester.  

This course restricted to second-year MENV students only.

The most ambitious U.S. cities recognize that they cannot achieve their sustainability goals by using their legal and political power alone; they must also find ways to influence decisions by others, including policymakers, the private sector, and important civil society institutions. In this way, local governments are at the forefront of assessing alternative strategies for both community-based and broader collective action to address pervasive environmental problems.

This class will explore sustainability strategies at the community scale and beyond, and the drivers of decision making and investment in sustainability action. We will explore various approaches to sustainability with the goal of answering the question, “How do sustainability leaders engage with diverse stakeholders and decision makers to implement effective, equitable solutions to environmental problems?” We will select topics and case studies within Colorado that represent different kinds of challenges for sustainability planning and programs, and evaluate solutions for each.

This course will introduce the student to the current state of urban water management, these directives for the future, and the need for systems- and designthinking necessary for transition. both learn the value of, and gain practice with, analytic and project tools currently in practice.

This course provides an overview of the relationships among the natural environment, human society and the social ecological systems relevant to community resilience. Towns and cities with resilient social and physical systems have the highest likelihood of creating healthy and enriching communities, capable of facing future uncertainties.  This course investigates resilience through principles of planning and policy, environmental studies, climate change and disaster studies, and social-ecological systems. The course will evaluate planning approaches and tools available for communities to address the mounting challenges related to pressures of population growth, expanding urbanization, land use changes and climate change. The approach is framed around understanding capacity and working across traditional sector and jurisdictional boundaries to respond effectively to changing conditions. The importance of creating a culture of knowledge sharing among sectors and expertise to connect a wide range of stakeholders to reach consensus, resolve key tradeoffs and identify implementable solutions, is a primary focus. Additionally, the course emphasizes the importance of social vulnerabilities including inequality, poverty and exclusion, within the resilience planning process. A variety of reading materials, lectures and guest speakers are used to explore the key dimensions of community resilience.


Course Sequence

Term Courses
  • Student Orientation
  • The Scientific Basis of Environmental Change (MENV core; ENVM 6100; 3 credit hours)
  • Applications in Environmental Change (MENV core; ENVM 6100; 1 credit hour)
Fall Semester I
  • Analyzing Socio-Environmental Systems (MENV core; ENVM 5002); 3 credit hours)
  • SPM specialization requirement (3 credit hours)
  • SPM specialization requirement (3 credit hours)
  • Capstone Innovation Lab I (ENVM 6001; 1 credit hour)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
Spring Semester
  • Leadership and Ethics (MENV core; ENVM 6100; 3 credit hours)
  • SPM specialization requirement (3 credit hours)
  • Capstone Innovation Lab II (ENVM 6002, 1 credit hour)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
Maymester (optional)
  • Elective (optional; 3 credit hours)
Summer Semester
  • Capstone Project (ENVM 6003; 5 credit hours)
Fall Semester II
  • SPM specialization requirement (3 credit hours)
  • Capstone Innovation Lab III (ENVM, 6004; 1 credit hour)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)
  • Elective (3 credit hours)