The MENV Urban Resilience and Sustainability (URS) specialization (formerly Sustainability Planning and Management) prepares students for careers as resilience and sustainability leaders, designing, implementing and leading resilience and sustainability policies, programs and plans, and engaging and inspiring others to work toward a bold vision of what could be but isn’t yet.

Taught by accomplished sustainability professionals and researchers, URS students will learn the theoretical frameworks and practical skills required for effective resilience and sustainability planning and management across sectors to build and lead resilient, sustainable communities and institutions. 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 
  • Land conservation and rural community development
  • Smart growth and sustainable/resilient cities
  • Systems thinking, social equity and sustainable management
  • Transportation and mobility for sustainable communities
  • Water and green infrastructure

Students are required to take four required URS courses  (out of six) plus two courses from any two of the other MENV specializations (Environmental and Natural Resources Policy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy and Sustainable Food Systems).


Course Requirements 

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

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.

Today’s urban water managers are faced with an unprecedented set of issues that call for a different approach to urban water management. These include the urgent changes needed to respond to climate change, population growth, growing resource constraints, and rapidly increasing global urbanization. Many water providers are now moving to a fully integrated management approach to water, focusing on 4 core areas: regenerative water services, basin-connected cities, water sensitive urban design, and water-wise communities. 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 design- thinking necessary for transition both learn the value of, and gain practice with, analytic and project tools currently in practice.

Planning and Management for Resilience and Climate Protection provides an overview of the relationships and connectivity between the natural environment, human society and the social ecological systems relevant to community resilience. Towns and cities with resilient social and physical city 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 between 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.

Explores 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?” Led by local sustainability professionals, this course will focus on citywide sustainability solutions.

At its best, sustainability planning and management is both an example of and aims to promote social innovation, which can be defined as any new product, process, service or enterprise that dramatically improves the performance of essential community systems like energy, finance, food, housing and transportation while creating measurable social and environmental value. Seeking more than incremental “continuous improvements” or vague “better results,” social innovations are breakthroughs that require cross-sector collaboration and systems-thinking to achieve maximum scale and measurable impact. In this course, we’ll explore the emerging field of social innovation in the context of sustainable urban development and examine the core concepts, case studies and best practices that have begun to define it. We’ll look at innovations, innovators and outcomes in areas such as carbon-neutral cities, impact investing/finance, modular housing, renewable energy, sustainable food production and urban mobility and develop our own social innovation ideas and models.

Sample Course Sequences

For students matriculating in August 2021