Graduate students looking for an edge in future careers need look no further than the IoES Leaders in Sustainability graduate certificate. Companies, consumers and governments across the world increasingly focus on making products, services, operations and lives more sustainable. Leaders in Sustainability gives students the tools to make that happen in a collaborative, action-oriented setting.
The national award-winning certificate is free to UCLA graduate students pursuing degrees in any discipline. By bringing together diverse academic focuses, the program fosters cross-pollination for innovative ideas and solutions. More than 190 students from 24 disciplines participate in Leaders in Sustainability.
Each graduate student takes a core sustainability class along with electives of their choosing. Working with other students, faculty and professionals, they initiate a leadership project that measurably advances sustainability. For many, this project serves as a jumping off point into their post-graduate careers and studies.
A few of this year’s projects:
- Developing tools to assess the environmental impacts of nanomaterials
- Organizing guided nature walks for African-American youth with disabilities
- Reducing the carbon footprint of the supply chain for a Chinese semiconductor company
- An interactive online map showcasing sustainable building in Los Angeles
- Recommendations to make UCLA campus food and drinking water more sustainable
- Producing an environmentally-focused film festival
Through these projects, students make a positive impact on communities before they graduate. Relationships formed during the program develop an ever-growing network of professionals. Together, they use what they’ve learned to take the lead in creating a more sustainable world—working at places such as Liberty Hill Foundation, Bank of America and the Environmental Protection Agency.
How does it work?
- Students are required to take four sustainability-related courses, including the LiS core course offered in winter 2019. At least one of the four courses must be outside your home department. Examples of approved courses can be found on the LiS website.
- Complete a Leadership Project. The project should address at least two out of three of the components of sustainability—environment, social equity and economics—and should have measurable performance outcomes. Projects may overlap with capstone projects and must exemplify leadership.
A community of experience
When school is in session, UCLA effectively becomes a city of 80,000 people, nested in one of the world’s most diverse megacities. The population of greater L.A. is 18.68 million, and it’s growing. Yet there is a wealth of nature all around—25 percent of the county is dedicated parkland. From the Santa Monica Mountains to the beaches of Malibu, Los Angeles is a case study in how an urban humanity interacts with nature. Water, food supply, energy, pollution and environmental justice are all part of the picture.
Taking on major challenges, UCLA aims to reduce potable water use by 36 percent and become the first major research university to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. Students have strong voice in policy decisions by sitting on sustainability committees. And through UCLA Grand Challenges, the university strives to make L.A. County sustainable in energy, water and ecosystems by 2050.
Spending time in nature
Los Angeles and UCLA have the best of both worlds when it comes to studying the environment—lots of people and lots of nature, though you may not know it by reputation. Twenty-five percent of L.A. County is protected parkland, from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Angeles National Forest. Students and alumni alike take advantage of these open spaces on their own or in groups such as the Hiking Club and the Bruin Naturalists Club.
There’s plenty of green on campus, too. The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a place of beauty and biodiversity, learning and relaxation. Meanwhile, Sage Hill features native flora and fauna, with 50 higher plant species, seven mammals, 17 species of butterfly and 30 resident and migratory bird species. And drought-tolerant gardens are just steps from the front door of IoES.
UCLA also maintains environmental field stations—Stunt Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains and the White Mountain Research Center along 10,000 feet of elevation in the Sierra Nevada.