Master of Arts in Social Innovation & Sustainability
Innovation through collaboration and community leadership
Many of the most interesting and effective responses to cultural, economic, and ecological challenges today are coming from social innovators and entrepreneurs engaged in interdisciplinary problem solving. The true trailblazers are also building on local assets and contributing to the health and vitality of the people and places from which they come.
In the MA in Social Innovation and Sustainability Program, students are challenged to consider social justice and empowerment theories to design inclusive, equitable, and accessible practices that embrace diverse communities and facilitate the participation of those historically excluded from policy- and decision-making arenas.
Part of the Goddard Graduate Institute, the Master of Arts in Social Innovation and Sustainability is a 48-credit degree intended for students who seek low-residency, interdisciplinary, and self-designed graduate studies.
Students will acquire the practical knowledge needed to advance in their careers or start a new vocational path, and will gain the theoretical foundation to generate innovative and sustainable methods of solving vexing social, environmental, and economic challenges.
The faculty in the Goddard Graduate Institute have longstanding presence in the college and bring to their work a host of professional skills and disciplinary areas. Fields of expertise include consciousness studies, expressive arts therapy, ecopsychology, cultural studies, gender studies, poetry, literature, psychology, natural history, organizational and community development, neuroscience, medical anthropology, religious studies, theater, and Ayurvedic medicine, among other areas.
Much of the work and interests of the faculty is in keeping with the college’s activist and social justice mission. The faculty also have a range of international experience in terms of work, research, and their own lived experiences.
Accelerated Degree Option
Goddard College offers a 36-credit, accelerated study option to students who are interested in deepening their studies in a current practice and who have already conducted much of the exploratory work of a first semester student. Students should have a clear sense of where they would like to focus their studies and a developed idea of the final product they would like to complete.
We encourage you to review the 36-Credit Accelerated Study Option page as you prepare your application.
Goddard offers students the ability to chart their own paths and develop, or further develop, the habits and skills of life-long learning.
All applicants to graduate degree programs must supply evidence of having earned an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education.
An application may be questioned or rejected because of:
- Curricular Limits: The proposed study appears to require expertise not available at Goddard.
- Critical Inquiry: The proposed study appears to consist in research or other activities designed to proselytize for a theory or point of view important to the applicant, rather than a scholarly study of that and other theories or points of view.
- Readiness: The student has not earned a baccalaureate degree or its international equivalent or application materials otherwise indicate the student is not ready for a graduate-level, writing-intensive independent program of study.
NEW! Impact Project grants are available to new students of color who are working on social innovation and sustainability projects that will benefit their communities. Learn more here.
Students in the MA in Social Innovation and Sustainability Program attend residencies in Plainfield, Vermont, on Goddard’s historic main campus, located just outside Montpelier, the state capital. It’s a former farm with a manor garden, surrounding forests, and period architecture.
At the start of the semester, students attend an intensive eight-day residency in Vermont, followed by 16 weeks of independent work and self-reflection in close collaboration with a faculty advisor. Goddard pioneered this format nearly a half century ago to meet the needs of adult students with professional, family, and other obligations seeking learning experiences grounded in the real-world.
Residencies are a time to explore, network, learn, witness, and share with peers, staff, and faculty. Students work with advisors and peers in close-knit advising groups to forge individualized study plans that describe their learning objectives for the semester.
Working closely with their faculty advisors, and supported by fellow learners, students identify areas of study, personal goals, relevant resources, and avenues to achieve these goals. Students also attend and are invited to help organize workshops, keynote addresses, celebrations and other events intended to stimulate, inspire, and challenge.
This low-residency model combines the breadth of a collaborative community with the focus of personalized learning, enhanced by insightful exchanges with a faculty advisor.
MA in Social Innovation and Sustainability students are expected to:
- Acquire a working knowledge of issues, trends, forecasts and public policy debates relevant to the social challenges they are addressing.
- Diagnose issues and challenges from diverse cultural frameworks and organizational and theoretical perspectives.
- Develop and apply theory of change tools and participatory development models.
- Employ interdisciplinary methods and processes.
Guided studies, applied learning and reflection will emphasize:
- Cultivating self awareness and a sense of purpose.
- Applying systems thinking.
- Thinking in terms of having local and global impact.
- Developing the capacity to build relationships, coalitions and systems to support and sustain transformational change.
- Understanding applicable trends in nonprofit and for-profit finance.
Students are required to:
- Demonstrate research skills, including the ability to locate and utilize information from diverse sources.
- Demonstrate fluency in the theories, practices, trends and on-going dialogue that informs their areas of study within this graduate program.
- Demonstrate analytical skills, such as critical reading, thinking and writing through documented exploration and analysis of a primary research question.
- Demonstrate engagement in experiential learning and reflection on that learning
- Demonstrate engagement with activities that encourage self-reflection and mindful attention to the learning process.
Work of the Program
Students may focus on social innovation, acquiring skills and knowledge to engage diverse constituents and stakeholder groups—from marginalized individuals and communities to socially responsible investors—in generating social value that fundamentally improves quality of life for the most vulnerable and for society as a whole. Students will immerse themselves in this emerging field and will be encouraged to contribute by applying participatory research and data collection methods and interdisciplinary and innovative approaches to problem solving at local, community, organizational and regional levels.
Students who focus on sustainability will combine whole system and place-based approaches to develop sustainable communities, organizations and local economies. Students will be encouraged to identify meaningful geographic, cultural, ecological and economic frameworks for understanding place and facilitating equity, access and appropriate scale and practice. Drawing broadly from sustainability discourse, students will design new approaches to development challenges and will demonstrate their relevance to larger global issues. They may explore alternative organizational and business structures, models of community planning and organizing and ways of engaging, motivating and empowering diverse community stakeholders.
Students may choose to combine Sustainability and Social Innovation by applying theory and practice from both fields to explore innovations that specifically contribute to promoting and advancing more sustainable and viable ways of living. All students, regardless of their focus area, will be required to acquire a working knowledge of both Social Innovation and Sustainability theory and practice by exploring their relevance to their particular area of inquiry.