Global Master of Arts in
Climate Change & Global Sustainability (Full-Time)

Gain the professional skills and hands-on experience you need to effectively confront climate change and promote sustainability.

At a Glance

For the program beginning fall 2024





Instructional Sites

Iceland, Tanzania

Application Deadline for U.S. & permanent residents

January 31, rolling thereafter until May 15

International students

January 31, no rolling admission


1 Year

Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment Icon


Climate change is a pressing concern at global, regional, and local scales. This program provides an opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and global experience to address climate change and enhance the sustainability of environments and responsible human livelihoods. By using natural and social sciences to engage with communities, environments, practices, and policies, we can limit climate change and mitigate and manage its impacts on our world. The program will prepare you to work in the fields of climate change science, policy, conservation, development, or community advocacy.

During your first semester in Iceland, meet your cohort, participate in orientation, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s pathbreaking energy alternatives to fossil fuels. You will also explore Iceland’s methods for reducing carbon dioxide output; its core policies of environmental governance; and its changing geopolitical role as a leader in European energy innovation.

In your second semester, travel to Zanzibar, exploring the effects of climate change on tropical ecosystems; communities of the Indian Ocean; and best practices for balancing natural resources with sustainable growth. You will also interact with scientists, activists, and leaders as you learn about agriculture and aquaculture; food chains and markets; water and food security; government policies; and coastal urban planning.

Spend your final semester undertaking a professional practicum at a prominent environmental or climate change organization. This will allow you to apply what you have learned to a professional setting while gaining real-world skills for your résumé. You will also complete a capstone paper reflecting on your experience.

Created especially for mission-driven professionals who seek a comprehensive introduction to climate science (advanced knowledge of science not required), and are passionate about sustainable development, ecological conservation, and resource management, the master’s in climate change and global sustainability will allow you to get the skills, expertise, and hands-on experience you need to make a difference locally or globally.

Career Paths

Students who have graduated with this degree have gotten jobs such as

  • Foreign Agricultural Service officer, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC

  • Senior campaign coordinator, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chicago, Illinois

  • Program coordinator for climate resiliency in central Appalachia, The Nature Conservancy, Appalachia, U.S.

  • Senior researcher for bio-cultural landscapes, International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples and Asociacion ANDES, Parque de la Papa, Peru

  • Water planner, Maryland Department of the Environment, Baltimore, Maryland

  • Consultant, Gable Associates: Energy, Environmental, and Public Utility Consulting, Boston, Massachusetts

  • Consultant, WASH Climate Change Policy in Latin American and Caribbean, The World Bank

  • Forest manager, One Tree Planted, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  • Media fellow (foreign/world, including climate issues),

Visit the SIT blog to read more about SIT Graduate Institute alumni careers.

Program Sites

Ísafjörður, Iceland

Venture to the northwestern tip of Iceland, known for its tundra climate and awe-inspiring scenery. Hike the glaciers, attend the Arctic Circle Conference, visit hydropower stations, and investigate the dramatic effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and their communities. Students stay in a converted high school with hotel-style rooms and a dining facility. 

Excursion highlights include: 

  • Arctic Circle Conference 
  • Arctic Fox Center 
  • Drangajökull Glacier 
  • Hornstrandir 
  • Harpa eða kollegar: Avalanche research 
  • Mjólkárvirkjun: Hydroelectric power plant 
  • Multiple energy and landscape/seascape outings 
  • Reykjavik: museums and landmarks

Click here for a description of the SIT center in Iceland.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

From your coastal base in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will study Zanzibar’s Indian Ocean shoreline, work with community organizations and entrepreneurs, and apply conservation strategies to coral reefs and tropical forests in Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and Biosphere Reserve. Students will stay in well-appointed apartments of their choice in Stone Town and have the opportunity to visit spice farms and beaches. 

Excursion highlights include: 

  • Stone Town UNESCO World Heritage Site 
  • Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park and Biosphere Reserve
  • Mafia Island Marine Park 
  • Ngezi-Vumawimbi Nature Forest Reserve 
  • University of Dar es Salaam 
  • National Museum of Tanzania 
  • Paje and Ngezi beachfronts 
  • Multiple community food, water, forestry, and energy initiatives

Click here for a description of the SIT center in Zanzibar.

Practicum in location of choice

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Understand climate change and global sustainability as complex concepts and the science of climate change as a critical practice.
  • Articulate global and comparative perspectives on climate change causes, impacts to human communities and environments, and sustainable solutions across different geophysical, socioeconomic, cultural, and political contexts.
  • Apply ethically sound science to identify, study, and mitigate problems and innovate solutions to climate change and its impacts.
  • Compose climate change and sustainability policy briefs.
  • Demonstrate professional skills essential to climate change and sustainability research, policy, and advocacy—and their interfaces—including interdisciplinary data analysis, interpretation, institutional networking, and the effective communication of science outcomes to the public.
  • Apply fundamental research skills to conceptualize, design, and develop a unique capstone project—a research-based paper, digital portfolio, or policy advocacy position paper—that addresses climate change and global sustainability.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


With SIT’s experiential curriculum, you will learn how to put theory into practice. Students will complete a degree sequence of 36 credits in one year in small personalized cohorts (fall, spring, and summer semesters).

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information.

This is SIT

  • We value active togetherness, reciprocity, and respect as the essential ingredients for building a sustainable community.
  • With open minds, empathy, and courage, we facilitate intercultural understanding and respect for the commonalities and differences between people.
  • We champion social inclusion & justice in all that we are and all that we do, from ensuring our community and our programs amplify the voices, agency, and dignity of all people to deliberately instilling the principles and practices of inclusion in all of our work.
  • We are committed to human and environmental well-being through sustainability and contributing to a better world for all living and future generations.

Semester One: Iceland (12 Credits)

  • (CLIM–5010 / 3 credits) Human-Climate Interface l: Energy and Climate Policy in Iceland

This topical course addresses energy and climate policy in Iceland, a resource rich, well-developed, and sparsely populated island in the North Atlantic Ocean. The course examines Iceland’s energy economics and its policies related to energy and climate. Currently, the country struggles to find a balance between natural resource utilization (including alternative energy sources and energy export to mainland Europe) versus conservation, especially green energy approaches. Rapid climate change has melted ice and opened up previously sealed transportation corridors to the north that influence Iceland’s national economy and strategic geopolitical position. These factors influence Iceland’s governance, policies, and practices related to energy and climate policy.

  • (CLIM–5020 / 3 credits) Political Economy of Sustainable Development and Environmental Change

This core course examines the political economy of sustainable development and environmental change. It both applies and critiques political-economic theories about the complex causes and outcomes of ecological degradation, including from climate change. The course reviews theoretical and historical frames of analysis to understand the relationship between political-economic systems and environments at multiple scales of geography and during key historical moments. Course content follows a periodization of the evolution of capitalism: the transition from feudalism; imperialism, mercantilism, and colonialism; modernization and industrialization; the rise of Keynesianism; post-WWII development; the consolidation of neo-liberalism; and the emergence of a sustainable development paradigm. Relations among capital, the state, labor, civil society, markets, technology, and nature are engaged in a synthetic manner.

  • (CLIM–5030 / 3 credits) Science of Global Climate Change

This core course introduces the interdisciplinary science of global climate change. It reviews the fundamental physical and natural processes of the Earth’s climate in addition to the natural and anthropogenic mechanisms of recent climate change. Furthermore, the course introduces the historiography, key methods of study, modelling, and marine and terrestrial evidence for climate change. Human–climate interfaces, climate geopolitics, and key policies are discussed and connected to the practice of public science.

  • (CLIM–5040 / 3 credits) Climate Change in the Arctic: Methods and Impact Assessment

This methods course introduces key environmental methods for studying contemporary climate change and its environmental and, to a lesser extent, human impacts in the Arctic region. Classroom study and activities emphasize oceanic and coastal ecosystems and topics, which may include methods for characterizing the atmosphere, sea currents, sea level rise, glacial retreat and melt, erosion and sedimentation, geothermal activity, freshwater runoff, and plant and animal populations and dynamics. Impacts to human communities in Iceland are addressed and scaled. Core concepts and methods interlink with the implementation of environmental impact assessments that comply with European Union standards.

Semester Two: Tanzania (13 Credits)

  • (CLIM–5035 / 3 credits) Human-Climate Interface 2: Water, Food, and Climate Economics in Zanzibar

This topical course introduces environmental economics, especially as linked to climate change influences on water and food in the Zanzibar Archipelago. Content, activities, and excursions highlight the following: fresh water supply, access, and use; agriculture and aquaculture; food chains and markets; food quality and nutrition; water and food safety; food security; health and sanitation; internal and external trade; industry; consumer behavior; and government policy. Macroeconomic factors and household practices related to climate change in the islands are featured.

  • (CLIM–5050 / 4 credits) Climate Change and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Indian Ocean Region

This course addresses climate change and sustainable livelihoods in the Indian Ocean region, including through a short practicum. The course engages with the ecosystems and stakeholders of Zanzibar and the oceanic region on three sustainability topics: energy, health and urban planning, and tourism. For instance, participants evaluate Stone Town (a World Heritage site) and how, through urban planning, the government in Zanzibar attempts to mitigate climate change-induced coastal erosion to protect its primary harbor and fishery. During the semester, students make excursions in the Zanzibar Archipelago and engage with communities, wildlife, markets, plantations, innovators, scientists and their laboratories, activists, and government offices and officials. Experiences in Zanzibar are compared against cases drawn from Seychelles, Dubai, and other Indian Ocean settings.

  • (CLIM–5060 / 3 credits) Natural Resource Management in East Africa

This topical course critically engages with natural resource management. It emphasizes the management of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and their relevant ties to human communities in East Africa. The course provides historiographic and theoretical frameworks to contextualize natural resource management case studies at global, regional, country specific, and local scales.

Cases are drawn from the Zanzibar Archipelago, but also from mainland Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Through the comparative study of management approaches to marine and terrestrial ecosystems, students learn concepts and strategies to mitigate and manage the impacts of climate change on natural resources.

  • (CLIM–5070 / 3 credits) Climate Change on Tropical Coasts: Social and Ecological Methods

This methods course introduces social science and ecological methods for studying climate change along tropical coasts. Classroom study and excursions in the Zanzibar Archipelago address coastal ecosystems and African communities. Content and activities draw on geology, oceanography, paleontology, archaeology, history, zoology, botany, anthropology, economics, and urban planning. For instance, the course explains or demonstrates methods and techniques useful in the tropics for studying evidence of climate change: coastline attrition, altered water chemistry, sea level rise, coral bleaching, diminished biodiversity, impacts on animal behavior, impoverishment of communities, and threatened cityscapes. Ancient, current, and future climate changes can be determined or predicted by synthetic, interdisciplinary analysis and interpretation.

Semester Three: Practicum (11 Credits)

  • (CLIM–5080 / 3 credits) International Environmental Policy and the Challenge of Climate Diplomacy

Dominant narratives that offer climate change solutions often are centered on technical interventions that focus on the use of science, technology, markets, and legal/ regulatory mechanisms. This core course deepens and broadens the inquiry to assess the overarching impact of politics, including both domestic political processes and international diplomacy. In this pursuit, students will examine the contentious politics of environmental governance and center the role of power in both constraining and enabling opportunities for social change and, potentially, effective policy making. The course applies different political theories of power from the field of international relations to understand, through multiple perspectives, the structures and functions of global environmental governance. The course takes a historical approach to examining how legal mechanisms emerged and evolved over the last three decades to tackle global-scale environmental problems, from the creation of the UNFCCC at the Earth Summit in 1992 to the Paris Agreement of 2015. Participants consider the opportunities for social change and effective climate action in light of a shifting world order and the evolving structural and cultural elements of globalization.

  • (CLIM-6703 / 3 credits) Climate Change and Global Sustainability Capstone Project

In this capstone project course, students synthesize and demonstrate what they have learned during the MA program. The primary course deliverable is a research- based paper, digital portfolio, or policy-advocacy position paper that addresses a facet of climate change and global sustainability.

  • (CLIM–6706 / 4 credits) Global Field Practicum

The program practicum uses a structured and guided practitioner inquiry process to learn from professional practice experience. Students identify, connect, analyze, and apply useful theories and concepts highlighted in their program coursework. This leads to enhanced capacity for lifelong reflection, reflective practice, and professional development. During the practicum, students intern with a climate change or related social/environmental sustainability think tank, nongovernmental organization (NGO), government agency, or other organization involved in policy/advocacy/practice work at a location of their choice. This is an in-depth, hands-on learning experience, where the student is given tasks and projects according to their knowledge, skills, and interests so as to enable the student to make professional contributions to the work of the organization as well as enabling their professional growth. A quality practicum may be conducted in most geographical locations so it involves intercultural learning and an opportunity to exercise policy advocacy–related work in distinct social, cultural, institutional, and political settings. Moreover, the practicum expands a student’s professional network and strengthens their ability to develop grounded expectations about what constitutes feasible or appropriate socio-environmental actions and advocacy strategies related to global climate change.

  • (MPIM-6709 / 1 credit) Capstone Seminar

The capstone seminar provides an environment in which students demonstrate, assess, and synthesize previous learning as well as generating new learning. It is also an opportunity for students to improve and refine their skills in oral communication and presentation. Students will critically read and give, as well as receive, peer critique of their presentation during the seminar.

Professional Practicum

For your final semester, SIT will support you in finding an approved practicum with a climate change or environmental sustainability think tank, NGO, government agency, or other organization involved in policy and advocacy work in a global location of your choice.  

This practicum experience will give you the opportunity to practice policy and advocacy work in a real-world setting, expand your professional network, and strengthen your ability to develop grounded expectations about what constitutes feasible climate change strategies. Your practicum will be completed alongside other semester coursework. 

During the practicum phase, you will remain engaged with faculty and other students and receive course credit for documenting the integration of your knowledge and skills while working in a professional context. 

Examples of MA Student Practicums

  • Graduate intern at EcoConsult: Implementing Partner for the Hydroponic Agriculture and Employment Development Project, Amman, Jordan
  • Graduate intern at Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, City and County of Honolulu, Honolulu, Hawai’i
  • Graduate consultant at Forest Incomes for Environmental Sustainability, Monrovia, Liberia
  • Graduate policy intern on Climate Change and Land Rights at Oxfam-America, Washington, DC
  • Graduate intern at Asociación ANDES, Cuzco, Peru
  • Field Consultant and Data Technician at WaterStep, Quito, Ecuador
  • Graduate intern for resiliency and livelihood at Kingdom of Buganda, Kampala, Uganda
  • Graduate intern at International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska

Examples of MA Capstone Papers

  • Comparing Policy Approaches to Food Security in Guatemala: The Changing Role of International Development Actors
  • Natural Disaster Risk Management in Hawaiʻi: Determining Oʻahu’s Capacity to Address Long-Term Disaster Recovery in an Era of Climate Change
  • One Health Alaska: A Strategy for Sustainable Health and Well-Being
  • Community Forests in Liberia: The Interface between Sustainable Charcoal Production and Deforestation
  • Analysis of a Deeds Excise Tax for Housing and Climate Resiliency in the Greater Boston Area
  • Water Scarcity-Aware Sustainable Agriculture in Jordan: Hydroponic Farming with Minimal Water Resources and a Growing Refugee Population
  • Multi-tier Framework for a Sustainable Energy Transition: Prioritizing and Communicating Change (Cases: Morocco and Italy)

Faculty & Staff

Climate Change & Global Sustainability (Full-Time)

J. Richard Walz, PhD
Chair and Associate Professor
Nicolas Stahelin, EdD
Assistant Professor and Program Advisor
Jill Welter, PhD
Coordinator and Affiliated Faculty, Iceland
Narriman Jiddawi, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, Tanzania
Maria Maack, MS
Affiliated Faculty, Iceland
Jeffrey Wall, PhD
Affiliated Faculty, Digital Courses
Pius Yanda, PhD
Affiliated Faculty



SIT has contracted a local school residence hall and temporarily reserved enough private rooms with private bathrooms to house all students. This is the easiest, most convenient and most affordable option for all SIT Graduate students in Iceland and is highly recommended.

You may choose to secure housing independently. However, housing in Iceland, and especially Ísafjörður is not only extremely expensive but difficult to secure as there are few housing options in the area, especially close to the program site, and many local students in the market. Please notify your admissions counselor prior to the program if you do not plan to stay in the residence hall, which is the default option for all students.

See more information about housing for this program.


Our housing coordinator is able assist students in locating private housing In Zanzibar. Housing in Stone Town is fairly limited due to population density, but SIT will make every effort to locate housing that meets your preferences and is within close proximity to the SIT Program Center, the Institute of Marine Sciences, and essential amenities within Stone Town.

See more information about housing for this program.

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