This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2024-2025 VCU Bulletin. Courses that expose students to cutting-edge content and transformative learning may be added and notification of additional program approvals may be received prior to finalization. General education program content is also subject to change. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Program mission

The mission of the Certificate in Sustainability Planning is to provide students with a better understanding of society’s land use and natural resource systems, with a particular emphasis on the factors that contribute to or constrain their level of sustainability. The program aims to give students the knowledge and skills needed to identify and address barriers to sustainability and to formulate strategies to create more sustainable practices, systems and institutions. Using a holistic and integrated approach, the program emphasizes the interdependence of sociocultural, biophysical and political-economic dimensions of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban or other subnational regions.

An important theme of the program is that sustainability planning is primarily about influencing humans and their activities by modifying organizational structures, economic policies and legislative frameworks. Therefore, of paramount importance are topics normally associated with the social sciences, such as urban and regional planning, economics, political science and human geography. However, sustainability is an interdisciplinary science, and thus students must also examine topics typically linked to the biophysical sciences, such as ecology and geomorphology.

Students will acquire knowledge and skills that complement backgrounds in engineering, environmental and social sciences, business or other fields.

Program goals

  1. Provide students with a better understanding of the sociocultural, biophysical and political-economic dimensions of the key problems faced by society with regard to natural resources and the environment — particularly in the context of urban and other subnational regions.
  2. Develop students’ insights on the underlying causes of these problems and on the political-economic and sociocultural factors that constrain the ability to address them more effectively.
  3. Help student acquire the analytical and professional skills needed to identify and address barriers to sustainability and to formulate strategies to develop more sustainable lifestyles, systems and institutions.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students will develop a well-rounded knowledge of environmental planning, in the context of prevailing economic and social conditions, with particular emphasis on multilevel governance approaches to environmental protection; the roles of state and non-state actors in environmental governance; and the ways in which planning tools can be used to address specific environmental challenges.
  2. Students will acquire the analytical and research skills needed to investigate environmental problems, in the context of prevailing economic and social conditions, and develop strategies for addressing them.
  3. Students will develop a grounded understanding of the values and ideologies that shape approaches to environmental planning, including conservation and preservation, sustainability, resilience, and environmental justice.
  4. Students will recognize that low-income and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental challenges and that lived experience and community-driven solutions are critical components to equitably addressing these challenges. 

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.