The most effective way to heal the planet and society is to be the positive change we want to see in the world — by creating the sustainable organizations and systems that support a healthy planet and societies for future generations.

In order to make an impact, we’re going to need brave innovators, educators, and activists that are ready to implement their knowledge and skills into their current organizations and communities.

This is where the bioregional, applied approach to learning at Green Mountain College becomes so vital.

Sustainability is complex and should not be a “one size fits all” approach. Knowing what to do in a particular situation is critical for success.  And it’s not enough to know what to do, you also need to have the skills to take the right actions. GMC’s graduate programs help our students to develop the deep and broad knowledge required and also the ability to effect authentic change in their communities and organizations.

Explore our resource page — A Guide to Green Mountain College's 4 Premier  Online Graduate Programs — for an in-depth look at our graduate programs in  sustainability!

Understanding Our Applied Learning Approach to Graduate Studies

One of the strengths of GMC’s graduate programs lies in our dedication to applied learning. Applied learning means that our graduate students are taught to apply the academic material they learn in practical ways that specifically align with their individual situations, interests, and careers.  

Applied learning is incredibly invaluable for this reason: more than 95 percent of GMC’s graduate students are working professionals. Our students take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it to their current organizations and communities. This not only deepens their learning, it creates change, helps raise their visibility, and paves the way for future opportunities.

With the flexibility to remain in your local community — as any graduate degree from GMC can be completed online — you’ll be encouraged to immediately apply what you’ve learned to benefit your surroundings, whether that be in your own home, neighborhood, or workplace.

Applied Learning in Practice

For example, graduates of the Master of Science in Resilient and Sustainable Communities strives to help communities by planning, supervising, and implementing solutions to the specific issues that affect each community, with the additional goal of maintaining the area’s unique sense of identity.

From sprawling metropolitan areas to close-knit rural townships, citizens, activists and local leaders alike are rethinking the way we interact with food, energy, and transportation. The service-based learning experiences unique to GMC provide insight into broader economic, environmental, and social issues that take hold locally, regionally, and around the world, such as access to clean water, natural resource management, and food insecurity.

Gavin WhittleFor several years Gavin Whittle of Astoria, N.Y., wrestled with supply chain problems in the Middle East. As an officer in the U.S. Navy deployed in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, his mission was to protect the lifeblood of the local economy and coalition military operations: oil. In civilian life, Gavin is dealing with supply chains of a different kind: fresh produce.

A senior manager of operations for FreshDirect, and a student in the College’s MRSC program, Gavin’s new mission is to get fresh, locally sourced food to the kitchen tables of customers in the greater New York City metro region, including Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. FreshDirect is an online grocer launched in 2002, providing fresh food at comparatively lower prices than many local supermarkets.

“We order online but source our products locally, including dairy and meat,” Gavin said. “The relationships we form with farmers in the area is a big part of what we do: local sourcing drives costs down and give more money to the farmer. Our customers get a better product with more shelf life. It’s a win-win.”

“You can’t change way we eat food without policy change – and you can’t create new systems without understanding the whole picture. There really wasn’t anything that existed that was interdisciplinary in approach. The MRSC program brings different perspectives from all walks of life.”

This approach is also used in the other three GMC graduate programs: Masters in Sustainable Food Systems, Masters in Environmental Studies, and the Sustainable MBA.

The Bioregional Advantage: Take The Challenge, Make A Difference

GMC’s bioregional, instructional model deepens students’ connection to their own lives, bioregions, and organizations. In every graduate program, students apply concepts learned in class to real-world challenges in the community where they live and/or the organization where they work. In the process, students develop a much deeper understanding about their own bioregions or business environments.

A distance learning environment allows for increased innovation and creativity, as students and faculty discuss critical issues in sustainability from their own lens – whether that be a faculty member in Vermont, a student from Australia, or an alumni mentor whose wealth of knowledge in sustainability can provide different points of view from someone who’s only just beginning in the field.  The breadth of student backgrounds and experiences and faculty expertise provides the perfect opportunity for all to stretch their knowledge bases and build broader and deeper sustainability based “toolkits.”

Take your sustainability-focused knowledge to your own bioregion or organization.

In summary, GMC graduate students are encouraged to apply the concepts they are learning in their own bioregions and organizations, allowing students to engage with this question: “How can I apply what I’m learning in my community?”

This is invaluable training when it comes to GMC’s students preparing to help organizations deepen their own sustainability practices, create sustainability departments, and even launch their own new ventures. Alumni have also gone on to become thought leaders in urban development or community planning, or start their own sustainability-centered architectural engineering and consulting firms.

Attending graduate school for an education in sustainability is one way to deepen your knowledge, hone your skills, and create the change you wish to see in the world. For more information on Green Mountain College’s graduate programs, check out our website and see what it would mean for you to become a leader in sustainability!

Interested in pursuing a graduate degree based in sustainability? Access our digital page — A Guide to Green Mountain College's 4 Premier Online Graduate Degrees — for an in-depth look at our master's programs.

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