Passionate About Sustainability? Consider This Unique Transdisciplinary Degree

Want to earn a unique green degree? The University of San Diego's one-of-a-kind transdisciplinary program may just suit your sustainability career goals.
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  • A transdisciplinary degree combines multiple fields into one program.
  • USD's MS in engineering, sustainability, and health can prepare you for various environmentally focused careers.
  • The program's hands-on courses and solution-based learning equip you to solve real-world problems.

If you're committed to sustainability and helping the environment, you've got more opportunities than ever to channel that passion into a career.

According to LinkedIn's 2022 Global Green Skills Report, the number of jobs in renewable energy has risen 237% in the last five years.

There are many ways you can prepare for a sustainability career. One of the best ways is to earn a sustainability degree that teaches you how to apply real sustainable practices to your projects while positively influencing others.

The University of San Diego's MS in engineering, sustainability, and health (MESH) program provides a unique transdisciplinary option for students from various educational backgrounds interested in pursuing an innovative green career.

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How Does a Transdisciplinary Degree Work?

A transdisciplinary degree combines many disciplines into one focused program.

The MESH program blends the engineering, sustainability, social science, and health disciplines to teach students to innovate while solving real environmental challenges.

USD's MESH program is truly transdisciplinary, enabling students to synthesize perspectives from many academic perspectives, including engineering, public health, sociology, and environmental science, said Julia Cantzler, a professor in USD's MESH program.

Students from all types of educational backgrounds can benefit from the program, which is uniquely designed to tackle the multifaceted environmental issues we're up against.

Siloed, singular disciplines are not sufficient to redress the complex challenges that humans face, said Paul Kadetz, Ph.D., co-director of USD's MESH program. Transdisciplinarity is essential for humans to meet the demands of the workforce that addresses the current and future challenges we all face.

Although the School of Engineering offers the degree, you don't need any engineering experience, and there's no technical component. Rather, students graduate with engineering knowledge that they wouldn't get from a traditional environmental degree.

The program [enables] students to engage with tangible, real-world sustainability-related challenges and propose meaningful solutions to today's most urgent socio-environmental problems, said Cantzler.

A Transdisciplinary Degree Can Open Doors

One of the advantages of a transdisciplinary degree is the array of experiences you can gain and the opportunities you can qualify for.

Students will study complex issues concerning the impact of human activities on environments and human, animal, and planetary health, said Kadetz, and will design innovative ways to prevent and redress these challenges using multiple disciplinary perspectives.

Kadetz shared that students can go on to work in international development, sustainable urban design, public health, and forestry. Students can also do humanitarian work or find jobs at consulting firms.

By studying sustainability through several disciplines, you'll learn to solve problems using various solutions and understand systems from many viewpoints.

Meaningful solutions require multidisciplinary approaches and collaboration among experts that are comfortable working across boundaries in order to address the systemic facets of climate change, environmental inequality, and other environmental challenges, said Cantzler.

You'll Study With a Diverse Pool of Students and Faculty

The transdisciplinary nature of this sustainability degree isn't just reflected in the coursework but in the people behind USD's one-of-a-kind master's program.

The transdisciplinary foundation of the [USD MESH] program derives from the diversity of faculty expertise and from the diversity of experiences and perspectives of our students, said Cantzler.

Students can build a network of professionals who are passionate about sustainability and then learn from them.

We want to create learning spaces where students co-create knowledge, said Cantzler. The ability to co-create a broad transdisciplinary toolkit for addressing environmental challenges will be most effective if students enter the program with diverse academic backgrounds, professional practices, and lived experiences.

By welcoming students from many educational backgrounds, the program encourages you to learn new perspectives and collaborate on innovative solutions.

Those that complete the MESH program will be able to … create an integrative approach to complex systems of development and bring better results for health and the environment, said Kadetz.

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Hands-On Courses and Solution-Based Learning Offer Unique Benefits

USD's MESH program features courses designed to give students real-world projects and solution-based learning experiences.

Cantzler describes her course on environmental justice as providing invaluable sociological perspectives on how harmful social systems impact the environment.

Students will explore how social power dynamics along racial, economic, and cultural lines are pertinent to understanding people's disproportionate access to clean, safe, and productive environments, said Cantzler.

The MESH program also allows you to work on a single project throughout the program that you can build on with each course.

Students will be able to tackle a sustainability-related challenge that's meaningful to them, drawing from their real-world experiences and concerns, explained Cantzler.

By the end of the course, they will have created a comprehensive and transdisciplinary project that will not only reflect what they've learned but will also provide them with a strong foundation to address their challenge (or similar ones) in the next stage of their career, added Cantzler.

Other courses students can take include engineering and the health of the planet, sustainable energy, and getting to zero waste. Learners also study the transition to alternatives and sustainable water.

With Advice From:

Portrait of Julia Cantzler, Ph.D.

Julia Cantzler, Ph.D.

Julia Cantzler, Ph.D., is professor and chair of sociology at the University of San Diego. She teaches in the areas of environmental sociology and law and society. Her research examines the intersections of race, culture, and politics, focusing on social movements, law, environmental justice, youth climate advocacy, and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Cantzler is the author of Environmental Justice as Decolonization: Political Contention, Innovation, and Resistance Over Indigenous Fishing Rights in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Portrait of Paul Kadetz, Ph.D.

Paul Kadetz, Ph.D.

Paul Kadetz, Ph.D., is a professor of practice in the University of San Diego's Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering and serves as co-director of the MESH program. He is also a senior lecturer in the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University in Scotland and an honorary fellow of the Centre for China Health at University College London.

Dr. Kadetz earned his doctorate in international development from the University of Oxford and works across the areas of global and international health, medical anthropology, and sustainable development. He has designed and directed global and public health undergraduate and graduate programs in the Netherlands, China, Rwanda, the U.K., and the U.S., and clinically is a registered nurse, an adult nurse practitioner, and an acupuncturist.

His research and scholarship have concerned antimicrobial resistance; post-disaster recovery and resilience; the impact of foreign aid on local healthcare; the impact of global health policies on local health; the anthropology of safety; and healthcare challenges in China, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Madagascar.