MENV Planning & Community Engagement Specialization

The MENV Sustainability Planning and Management specialization will prepare students to design and implement sustainability initiatives. Taught by leading sustainability researchers as well as cutting-edge practicing professionals, the program is designed to bring students from different backgrounds and experiences together to build a career around making impactful, positive change.

As a student in this specialization, you will gain the theoretical framework and technical skills for the growing field of sustainability planning and management. You will gain the analytical and hands-on skills of highly effective practitioners by learning how to assess contemporary environmental issues, catalyze innovative environmental problem-solving, uphold environmental and social justice, and engage diverse stakeholders from the non-profit, public, and private sectors. You will develop a deeper understanding of what it takes to create livable towns and communities and vibrant cities, acquiring core skills and ideas including:

  • Green infrastructure planning and design
  • Communication, collaboration, facilitation, and empowerment skills
  • Theories and methods for community adaptation and transformation
  • Plan-making for sustainability, including climate action plans and resiliency planning

In addition, students can select among a diversity of elective courses according to their individual interests, and gain access and exposure to practitioners through our faculty, alumni, and program partners in Colorado and worldwide. Our graduates will be prepared for a career making positive change, as planners, environmental managers, sustainability consultants, low-impact developers, researchers, and advocates.

Specialization course requirements:

Transportation and Sustainable Cities​ (Will Toor): The way that we organize our cities and our transportation systems has deep implications for human wellbeing, and for our ability to decarbonize the economy. Transportation is the source of a significant share of global greenhouse emissions, and is one of the more difficult sectors in which to reduce emissions. In this course will examine this problem from a variety of perspectives, and will explore how transportation decisions get made at a variety of scales, from local to national. We will also explore some of the dramatic changes coming from technological innovation in arenas like vehicle electrification, autonomous vehicles, and the potential shift from individual vehicle ownership to shared mobility. The class will be discussion oriented, with significant contributions to the entire class by every student.

Planning for Land Use & Environmental Change (Brian Muller): Plan making is a central activity of government at all levels, in part a science, in part an art, and in part a management and political challenge. Over the past few decades the field of environmental planning has grown rapidly along with the emergence of new policy needs and requirements and plan types including resource plans, hazard plans, sustainability plans, climate adaptation plans, watershed plans and regional conservation plans. This course will use readings and case studies to explore the practice of making environmental plans. The class will review, discuss and assess the organization and components of different types of plans, planning methods, the design of different planning processes, how plans are implemented, planning outcomes, and how plans should be evaluated. 

Environmental Collaboration (Bruce Goldstein): This class will teach students how to design and facilitate networks and collaboratives to address emerging social and ecological challenges. We will focus on how to develop teamwork skills through small group interaction knowledge in ways that distribute responsibility, foster innovation, and enable coordination across organizations and jurisdictions. We will also consider how collaboratives and networks contribute to social and ecological resilience and help avoid crossing “tipping points” associated with catastrophic change.

Sustainable Landscapes, Sustainable Livelihoods​ (Joel Hartter): 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 Colorado Blueprint and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. 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. 

One Water & Green Infrastructure (Paul Lander): Today’s urban systems' managers are faced with an unprecedented set of issues that call for a different approach to asset design, planning management. These include the urgent changes needed to respond to climate change, population growth, growing resource constraints, and rapidly increasing global urbanization.

In the area of water, many water providers are now moving to a fully integrated approach to water, focusing on four core areas: regenerative water services, basin-connected cities, water sensitive urban design, and water-wise communities. In the growing field of green infrastructure, cities are quickly realizing the many positive benefits of increasing, and enhancing the ‘nature of cities’. By implementing projects that capture stormwaters, reduce heat effects, clean air and water, and offer amenities that are not available through ‘grey infrastructure’ (and usually much cheaper), cities are increasing resilience and reconnecting people with nature.

This course will introduce the student to the current state of urban systems' management, drivers of change, and the use of systems- and design-thinking to provide the transition. Students will work on teams in assessing the current state of a given community system, identifying the opportunities for leveraged-change, and creating an action plan for future policies and projects. Through interaction with working professionals, students will both learn the value of, and gain practice with, analytic and project tools currently in practice.

Course sequence:

  • Student Orientation
  • The Scientific Basis of Environmental Change (MENV core)
Fall Semester I
  • ​Foundations of Environmental Leadership (MENV core)
  • Socio-Environmental Systems (MENV core)
  • Transportation and Sustainable Cities (SPM Specialization requirement)
  • Planning for Land Use and Environmental Change (SPM Specialization requirement)
  • Capstone Seminar I
Spring Semester
  • Business Fundamentals for Environmental Professionals (MENV core)*
  • Environmental Statistics (MENV Core)*
  • Ethics and Values in Environmental Leadership (MENV core)
  • Environmental Collaboration (SPM Specialization requirement)#
  • One Water (SPM Specialization requirement)#
  • Capstone Seminar II
  • Elective
  • Elective (optional)
Summer Semester
  • Capstone Project
Fall Semester II
  • Sustainable Landscapes, Sustainable Liveihoods (SPM Specialization requirement)
  • Capstone Seminar III
  • Elective
  • Elective

* Students choose one of these two core coures
# Students choose one of these two specialization courses