Each MSC imparts scientific skills and situational understanding. First, the story of a real-world based problem with a challenging decision. Then, perspectives from key decision makers and main stakeholders, accompanied by audiovisual resources providing diverse and in-depth insights. Finally, interactive learning exercises for students to analyze priorities, tradeoffs, and unintended consequences.

Students talk about how they like learning with MSC in the Program in the Environment at U-M.

The challenges of ‘wicked’ problems like climate change and energy security bring to light the complex reality of sustainability in our world. In response, MSCs build critical interdisciplinary skills that extend beyond the classroom. Problems are narrated by real decision makers and stakeholders, presenting different perspectives that reveal the difficulties of analysis, leadership, and decision making.

Making learning stick

Our cases pull you quickly into the story, immersing you in challenging sustainablity puzzles.

Learn with MSC Edgenotes
  • Start by seeing problems through the eyes of decision-makers. Our narrative style leads to inductive learning.
  • “Meet” different stakeholders and experts and dig deeper into facts via multimedia Edgenotes and the podcast. These elements expand the spectrum of perspectives.
  • Finally, it’s time to act. Engaged learning exercises allow you to build skills while putting them into practice. Apply your knowledge and make informed decisions.

Inspiration all around us

MSCs come from right on our doorstep, or from the other side of the world. Our authors finding inspiration in contemporary research, activism and journalism. All are grounded in actual sustainability challenges. For example:

Learn with MSC Edgenotes
  • A May 2016 article by Michigan local media MLive asks: Should cleaning up the Gelman dioxane plume be a national priority? The article speaks to an issue of great interest to UM student Anna Prushinskaya, who has seen the chemical contaminate wells, lakes and ponds on the west side of Ann Arbor. Anna is producing an MSC on how city, county, and federal actors clash, but can also collaborate to decide whether a full-scale clean-up of this environmental disaster, or just a ‘mitigation’ of the risks, is most appropriate.
  • Since 2014, e-waste in Ghana has attracted enormous international media attention. UM students Anne Canavati and Jayson Toweh traveled in mid 2016 with faculty advisor Adam Simon around Ghana. Their mission: to bring the voices of residents and companies on the risks and potentials of e-waste into their own MSC.
  • In 2014, an article by Fair Trade USA described fair trade coffee in Peru as “the perfect merge of quality and sustainability”. Inspired to dig deeper, student Carissa de Young and faculty advisor Joe Arvai quickly realized that certification in Peru is more complicated than this “perfect” picture. Their MSC examines the effects of direct trade supply chains for Peruvian coffee producers and the brokers whose power is bolstered by certification processes.