Master of Sustainability | Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University

The Master of Sustainability (MSUS) program – part of Chatham's Falk School of Sustainability & Environment – is a cohort-based program that educates and trains the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.

Master of Sustainability curriculum tracks icon

Choose from five tracks to tailor your master's education in sustainability: Urban and Energy Systems, Ecology and Resource Management, Business and Innovation, Food Systems, and Policy and Economy

Falk School of Sustainability and Environment research opportunities icon

Explore the current faculty- and student-driven research projects and opportunities at the Falk School to see the types of experience students can gain in the program.

Falk School of Sustainability and Environment funding opportunities icon

Apply for a range of funding opportunities through the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment that come with unparalleled learning experiences.

Eden Hall Campus first in the world icon

Live, learn, and research at the first campus in the world built from below the ground up on the principles of sustainability, Eden Hall Campus.

Green icon for Pittsburgh's green transformation

Draw on the ample resources of Eden Hall Campus (our sustainable living-learning laboratory) and of Pittsburgh, PA, a city undergoing a green transformation.

Download the Master of Sustainability (MSUS) information sheet »


Master of Sustainability track: Urban and Energy Systems


Develop expertise in planning and implementation of sustainable community development, water and energy systems, local food systems, and transport systems. Students work closely with Pittsburgh city authorities, community groups, and NGOs dedicated to creating a more sustainable city.

Featured Courses 

  • SUS 640: Sustainable Community Development
  • SUS 683-1: LEED Certification
  • SUS 514: Building Sustainable & Resilient Cities



Master of Sustainability track: Ecology and Resource Management


Empowers students to play critical roles in managing natural resources in the public sector, the corporate world and in NGOs, whether in wilderness, rural or urban environments.

Featured Courses

  • FST 613: Community Research, Food and Health
  • SUS 508: Environmental Statistics
  • SUS 601: Applied Ecology



Master of Sustainability track: Business and Innovation


Students learn to navigate complex economic and policy environments to create new businesses and innovate within existing ones.

Featured Courses

  • BUS 552: Managing Non-Profit Organizations
  • BUS 639: Sustainable Assessment and Reporting
  • SUS 516: Sustainable Decision Analysis


Master of Sustainability track: Food Systems


Provides students with the professional skills and knowledge to make a real difference in the operation of our local and national food systems, from farm through processors and retailers to the dinner table.

Featured Courses

  • FST 518: The Business of Food and Agriculture
  • FST 520/L: Basic AgroEcology (w/Lab)
  • SUS 526: Sustainable Aquaculture



Master of Sustainability track: Policy and Economy


Students learn to understand the present regulatory environment and how it is formed, to effectively lobby for change in policy and regulation and to assist in drafting new policy.

Featured Courses

  • BUS 639: Sustainable Assessment and Reporting
  • SUS 562: Economics of the Environment
  • SUS 625: Restorative Environmental Justice


Faculty & Student Research

Graph showing tree density and tree diversity in Homewood based on location

Urban and community sustainability

Researcher(s): Iris Grossman, PhD and students

▶ Description & Purpose

This research with students addresses two dimensions of urban and community sustainability. Today's cities can thrive by becoming more sustainable, walkable, climate-resilient and restoring urban ecosystems. At the same time, cities face a shrinking middle class and communities, in particular minorities, that are disproportionally affected by decline. Current and past student projects explored

  • Ways to build and maintain green stormwater infrastructure in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood through public private partnership pay-for-success models
  • The role of solar energy for community revitalization in Erie, PA
  • Community benefits of proposed sustainability and resiliency measures in Homewood
  • The health of urban trees and ways to restore Homewood’s tree canopy (led by colleague Dr. Linda Johnson)
  • Suitability of Pittsburgh's native trees given changing climate conditions, air pollution, and amenities provided by trees
  • Soil contamination in Homewood

See more about the work at


Lichen on a tree in Pennsylvania

Lichen Biodiversity and Their Use as Bioindicators

Researcher(s): Linda MK Johnson, PhD

▶ Description & Purpose

Lichen species are a small, but important, part of our eastern forest ecosystem. Like other organisms, the biodiversity of lichen and their response to the environment may inform us about overall forest healthand succession. Unlike others, though, foliose lichen can accumulate airborne heavy metal particulates in their tissues, and so also serve as historians for regional air quality conditions.

This research program involving sustainability and environmental science students aims to investigate and record lichen species diversity in areas of western PA, such as Powdermill Nature Reserve and Chatham’s Eden Hall campus. Additionally, using chemical analysis techniques, we measure the trace heavy metal content of the lichen thallus tissues to provide information about air quality in our region.

Student Opportunities:

  • Field work and lab work opportunities
  • Skill acquisition in surveying techniques, Flame AAS operation, and lichen and plant identification


Center for Sustainability Leadership

Researcher(s): Thomas Macagno, PhD

▶ Description & Purpose

The Center explores how organizations manage employee engagement and behavior change focused on issues like sustainability. Changes in societal expectations are forcing organizations to evaluate how they manage issues like sustainability in operations and products. The Center helps managers assess employees' perceptions of an organization and identify employees' values orientation to reflect employees' expectations of an organization (i.e. psychological contract). Managers apply this knowledge to create interventions targeted at increasing employee performance and decreasing turnover while also increasing desirable behaviors in areas like sustainability.

This research intends to help organizations manage issues like sustainability and play a greater role in employee well-being and societal health.

Student Opportunities:

  • Working with organizations to identify needed activities
  • Helping to run intervention programs in organizations
  • Preparing training material
  • Running a version of the approach at Chatham


Water monitoring in urban streams

Water Quality Dynamics in Urban Streams

Researcher(s): Ryan Utz, PhD and students

▶ Description & Purpose

Stream ecosystems in urban environments become severely degraded due to myriad physical and chemical stressors. However, a strong impetus for improving the ecological integrity of streams exists because of their proximity to dense concentrations of humans. Although urbanized streams will never return to the ecological state that existed prior to urban development, certain actions can significantly improve some key environmental parameters.

We are maintaining a network of environmental sensors in streams throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan region to quantify how our waterways are changing over time. High-frequency time series of environmental data readily reveal interesting patterns. For example, diel temperature fluctuations appear to control dissolved oxygen in the smallest, least-urbanized network streams while biological respiration and photosynthesis regulate dissolved oxygen in larger, urbanized sites. We have also detected episodic anoxic events occurring in pool habitat of Nine Mile Run, a heavily urbanized stream that has been targeted for restoration.

Student Opportunities:

  • Technical experience with environmental sensors
  • Management of Big Data
  • Linking chemical patterns with biodiversity


Fish in an aquaculture tank at Chatham University's Eden Hall Campus


Researcher(s): Roy Weitzell, PhD

▶ Description & Purpose

Aquaculture–the farming of marine organisms, including fish, shellfish, turtles, and plants–is responsible for more than half of all seafood eaten worldwide, and getting bigger. It's widely seen as the most efficient way to provide protein to the rapidly growing global population, slated to reach over 10 billion people by 2050. The rapid growth in global aquaculture production has created questions of long-term sustainability in aquaculture.

Investigating and experimenting with aquaculture techniques can lead to improved practices that help feed people and drive employment and economic growth.

Student Opportunities:

  • Caring for fish
  • Growing in a closed loop system


Institutional Sustainability

Researcher(s): Mary Whitney, PhD and students

▶ Description & Purpose

Chatham University's Sustainability Office oversees institutional sustainability issues for all of Chatham's campuses. We collect sustainability and resilience data across all operations, including greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, water and waste. We design and implement behavior change initiatives to meet our university sustainability goals.

All organizations must identify priority issues where they impact the most in order to develop management plans. Actively managing sustainability issues enables institutions to lessen their negative impacts and increase positive impacts.

Student Opportunities:

  • Collecting data for sustainability and resilience reports
  • Design and implement campus behavior change programs
  • Investigation into a number of topics–energy, water, transportation, purchasing, stormwater, education and monitoring


Eden Hall Campus

Located 20 minutes north of Pittsburgh, Chatham's Eden Hall Campus is the world's first academic community built from the ground up for sustainability. The grounds and infrastructure support research and learning around energy and climate; water and aquaculture; food and agriculture; community and health; and design and planning. Learn more at »

EHC Booklet
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MSUS graduates work for employers including:

logo pittsburgh zoo
logo homewoood childrens
logo oak ridge laboratory
logo allegheny county health department
logo north museum
logo cleveland state
logo gtech
logo pittsburgh center for creative reuse
logo ioby
logo oakland university
logo city of pittsburgh
logo lionbridge
logo pennsylvania fish and boat commission
logo university of pittsburgh
logo y r and g
logo scalo solar
logo quasar


Contact Us

Trish Golla


Trish Golla, Assistant Director of Graduate Admission
Falk School of Sustainability & Environment
Chatham University, Woodland Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 • (412) 365-1386

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