Sustainable Development

This is the first version of the 2024–25 General Catalog. Please check back regularly for changes. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

Graduate degree: MS in sustainable development


First introduced in the Brundtland Report of 1987, Our Common Future, the principle of sustainable development calls for meeting the needs of society today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Today, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) provide a blueprint for sustainable development that addresses global challenges including climate change, access to clean water, healthy air, safe and reliable energy, long-term economic well-being, equity, responsibility to other species, and conflict over limited resources.

Through training centered on the UN SDGs, the sustainable development program prepares students for technical and/or policy leadership roles in the private or public sector to advance the sustainable development of communities in Iowa, across the United States, and around the world. Leveraging existing strengths at the University of Iowa in the areas of resource sustainability and engagement for sustainable communities, the sustainable development program is built on coursework, community-engaged projects, and professional development experiences that culminate in the MS in sustainable development.

Students explore native vegetation at a recreational area as part of a project to improve water quality within the local watershed.

This program of study aims to train the next generation of sustainability professionals for career placement opportunities at state and federal agencies, national laboratories, policy think tanks, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and in the private sector.