Students looking at something very small


Gain the knowledge and real-world experiences you need to create sustainable practices for the world through community-based research.

Start Creating a More Sustainable World

Sustainability is about finding solutions to challenges and exploring how you can effect change that makes a positive impact on the world. As a sustainability student at USD you will engage with community partners to restore native ecosystems, use the campus as a learning laboratory to advance sustainability locally, and work directly on the Missouri River to investigate the environment and study the impact of human activities on the Missouri National Recreational River.

As the only university in the region to offer undergraduate and graduate sustainability degrees, our program is addressing the workforce demands of this rapidly growing field. A graduate degree in sustainability will prepare you for careers in the areas of natural resource conservation, governmental, corporate and university sustainability offices, sustainability consulting, policy making and regulatory agencies and more. Our expert faculty emphasize experiential learning and will work closely with you to offer research opportunities, mentorship and one-on-one attention throughout your program.

Degrees & Offerings

Sustainability (M.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The M.S. in sustainability prepares you to conduct research that is interdisciplinary and solutions-oriented. You can tailor the program to fit your interests in the three pillars of sustainability: environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability.

View Admissions Requirements

Accelerated Sustainability (B.S./M.S.)

Accelerated Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

Begin your master's degree in sustainability while completing your bachelor's degree as an undergraduate student at USD. Students may apply and begin the program after completion of 90 undergraduate credit hours.

View Admissions Requirements

Sustainability (M.S./J.D.)

Concurrent Program
  Vermillion Main Campus

Concurrent graduate degrees are particularly valuable for interdisciplinary programs like sustainability. Consider pairing a master's in sustainability with a law degree and share up to nine graduate credits between both graduate programs.

View Admissions Requirements

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Become an expert in your field by attaining the highest degree in sustainability or earn credentials to teach at a university level. You'll explore the sustainability of systems and propose or implement interventions to enhance the sustainability of systems. Ph.D. students will also lead interdisciplinary groups to accomplish shared goals.

View Admissions Requirements

Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a graduate student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

An Affordable Education

Gain valuable real-world, professional teaching experience while enjoying paid employment and discounted tuition rates as a graduate student at USD. The affordability you gain through graduate assistantships will equip you with valuable, professional-level skills that will set you apart after graduation.

Teaching and research assistantships are awarded by individual departments. If you do not receive an assistantship within your department, you may apply for an assistantship outside of your academic program or within support offices (non-academic units) at USD. Further inquiries should be directed to the Graduate Program Director of the department.

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Real Experience Through Research

You'll find the mentorship and opportunities you need to study topics that spark your curiosity. Some of our recent master's graduates in the sustainability program have crafted their degree plans around the following research areas:

  • Assessment of the food system and diets of the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area
  • Solar generated electricity: An analysis of what sectors are most affected by renewable portfolio standards and related policies
  • Land-use change and social values in micropolitan communities in the Upper Missouri River Basin
  • Regional-to-landscape scale examination and attribution of vegetation changes to social-environmental system drivers in Kazakhstan
  • Characterizing dust emissions in the northern Chihuahuan Desert (New Mexico & Texas, U.S.)Biodiversity in residential yards for sustainability in towns:
  • Understanding public attitudes, opportunities and limitations in Vermillion, SD
  • The derivation of geologic ecosystem services from geodiversity in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and Wyoming

At USD, you can actively pursue unique research, present at local and national conferences and explore innovative areas that interest you. Learn more about resources and research opportunities for USD graduate students.

Graduate Research

Build Your Network

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Sustainability & Environment. You may be interested in creating projects and hosting outreach opportunities to make friends, developing new skills and exploring your interests.

Students Understanding Sustainable Tactics (SUST) Club

The SUST Club is for students who are interested in creating and increasing social, economic and environmental sustainability. The club is open to students from all disciplines and works with USD and the wider Vermillion community to create projects and hold outreach opportunities to educate the public about what it means to live sustainably. 


The USD chapter focuses on achieving the sustainable development goals in the Vermillion community. UNA-USA is an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that encourages college students to be involved in the interests and values of the United Nations. The chapter allows USD students the opportunity to be involved on a global platform.

Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community. 

Join Now

Sustainability is an ever-growing collaboration on campus to build healthy, fair, and resilient systems that help everyone thrive. By working together, USD aims to grow and become a more sustainable university.

Learn more about Campus Sustainability Initiatives

Your Adventure Awaits

Earn your field experience credits over the summer and winter breaks! Our students have participated in conferences and faculty-led courses around the world. In addition to the research activities close to home, there are also many opportunities to study abroad and participate in current sustainability research.


Visit the islands of Malta to learn about the natural systems, what happens when systems are disrupted—and the ways in which people are adapting and solving these issues of sustainability.  Topics will include island geology, sustainability, water resources, land resources, history, culture, and policy. 

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in Sustainability.
Faculty and students researching on Spirit Mound near Vermillion

Sustainability & Environment

The field of sustainability invites us to examine the world we live in and imagine the possibilities for a brighter future. Find solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges through the Department of Sustainability & Environment.

Overview of the Missouri River

Missouri River Institute

Located along the free-flowing Missouri National Recreational River, the Missouri River Institute explores the natural and cultural resources of the river through its focus on research, education and outreach.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Department of Sustainability & Environment. Our faculty are experts in the field, bringing practical experience in ecology, behavior change, hydrology, energy, climate change and more.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Meghann Jarchow

Meghann Jarchow

Chair, Sustainability & Environment
Bio Image for Faculty Member Joseph Kantenbacher

Joseph Kantenbacher

Assistant Professor


Futures Thinking, Sustainable Consumption
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mark Sweeney

Mark Sweeney

Bio Image for Faculty Member Ranjeet John

Ranjeet John

Assistant Professor


remote sensing, ecology, rangeland/crop monitoring
Bio Image for Faculty Member Cheyenne Marco

Cheyenne Marco

Senior Lecturer


Creative Writing
Great Plains Literature
Bio Image for Faculty Member Paul Formisano

Paul Formisano

Director of Writing


Environmental Humanities/Composition
Regional Lit.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Rand Wergin

Rand Wergin

Associate Professor


Bio Image for Faculty Member Anthony Krus

Anthony Krus

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Rick Wang

Rick Wang

Bio Image for Faculty Member Kenneth Green

Kenneth Green



Composition Theory
Grant Writing
English Grammar
Bio Image for Faculty Member Michael Allgrunn

Michael Allgrunn



Econometrics, Labor Economics, Analytics,Economics/ Managerial Economics
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jacob Kerby

Jacob Kerby

Bio Image for Faculty Member Mandie Weinandt

Mandie Weinandt

Director of CTL


Economics/ Managerial Economics
Bio Image for Faculty Member David Carr

David Carr Ph.D.



Economics/ Managerial Economics
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jeff Wesner

Jeff Wesner

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member David Swanson

David Swanson

Dir of Research-MO River Inst
Bio Image for Faculty Member Shane Nordyke

Shane Nordyke

Coordinator, Chieseman Center/Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Dale Clark

Dale Clark

Senior Lecturer
Bio Image for Faculty Member Shelby Jepperson

Shelby Jepperson

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Vijayalakshmi Saravanan

Vijayalakshmi Saravanan

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon

Bio Image for Faculty Member Ed Gerrish

Ed Gerrish

Coordinator-MPA, Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Molly Rozum

Molly Rozum

Associate Professor, R.Nelson Distinguished Professor
Students walking near Spirit Mound

Making A Difference

Students in our sustainability program are actively involved in organizations that make a difference on campus, in the community and nation. Joining student organizations such as the Environmental Club, UNA-USA, and AWOL create projects locally. Every spring we host Earth Days along with the community organization Greening Vermillion and local businesses and farms. Nationally, our students are members of the Post-Landfill Action Network, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability.


Learn More about Campus Sustainability Initiatives
Students studying at a table

Earn Two Master's Degrees Concurrently

Since sustainability is such a broad field, it aligns well with other master's programs at USD. Combine your elective coursework to count towards both degrees and earn joint/concurrent degrees with multiple other USD programs such as a Master of Public Administration or Law Degree (J.D.).

Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 

Graduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees.

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.

Graduate Assistantships

USD offers opportunities for grad students to earn a reduced tuition rate in exchange for their teaching, research and service efforts to the university.


Student Success story

School of Medicine Medical Education Dean Mark Beard smiling.
The small feel of the university paired with a small group of people in the sustainability program made my time at USD feel comfortable and meaningful. My graduate assistant (GA) position as the 'campus recycling coordinator' provided me professional development opportunities with real-world experience, leadership of a team, logistics and so much more.

Abigail Willis

M.S. Sustainability '20
Energy Auditor, Green Iowa Americorps
Dewitt, Iowa

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