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Graduate Certificate in Environmental Leadership

Do you want to be an agent of sustainable change?

The graduate certificate in Environmental Leadership equips decision-makers, managers, researchers, facilitators, advocates, and community leaders with the skills and understanding to address complex environmental challenges.

Program learning outcomes

This program will enable you to:

  • Support individuals and groups in achieving collective impact without compromising deeply held values.
  • Facilitate reflective, adaptive, and deliberative decision-making in the context of uncertain science and divergent agendas.
  • Select from a palette of tools, methods, and approaches to develop answers to ill-structured problems.
  • Map the institutional context of a problem and develop a strategy for the inclusion of key stakeholders in the problem-solving process.
  • Identify applicable local, regional, national, or international policies and the processes by which they are made and changed.
  • Navigate the challenges to communication across different ways of knowing and valuing.

Getting Started in the program

ESF Students: You can register for these courses through the normal registration process. Graduate students currently matriculated and in good academic standing in their graduate degree programs at SUNY-ESF and Syracuse University are eligible to apply for entrance to the certificate program; complete the application and certificate request form for matriculated ESF Students.

Upcoming Courses

  • Spring 2018 Semester begins on January 16, 2018

  • Fall 2019 Semester begins on August 27, 2018

Earning the Certificate

To meet the requirements for the certificate, you must:

  • Complete & earn at least a B grade in the three certificate courses.

Certificate Course Requirements

The graduate certificate in Environmental Leadership requires the completion of three courses:

All courses are available through an online format. Courses are designed to accommodate working professionals’ schedules and to cultivate a vibrant community of learners and practitioners. Course activities include readings, instructor-developed video presentations and podcasts, guided exercises, online discussions, and completion of class exercises towards a final project. Dr. Hirsch regularly engages with students in the Certificate Program in online discussions, synchronous learning sessions, and regular office hours online/by phone and by appointment.

Apply this Certificate Toward a Degree

If you’re also considering a master’s degree and have earned a bachelor’s degree, certain certificate courses can also be counted as electives in a related degree field.

Instructor and Program Chair

Dr. Paul Hirsch, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, ESF; pahirsch@esf.edu

Paul Hirsch is Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at SUNY ESF. His scholarship and writing focuses on navigating complex trade-offs in the policy process, and on prospects for communicating effectively when both uncertain science and diverse values are at play. He received his PhD in Environmental Policy from the Georgia Institute of Technology; his MS in Conservation & Sustainable Development from the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology; and his BS in Biology and Society from Cornell University.

Hirsch has played a facilitative role in a variety of sustainable change processes, both in the United States and internationally. Organizations he has worked with include Cornell Cooperative Extension, Onondaga Environmental Institute, Town of Dewitt, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Tanzanian Department of Wildlife Management, Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies in Vietnam, Worldwide Fund for Nature, and the Georgia Community Loan Fund.

Dr. Hirsch is a Board Member with the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies. He teaches courses in environmental philosophy, policy, and decision-making.

Course Descriptions

EST 640 / Environmental Thought and Ethics (3 credits; Offered in the Fall Semester)

Critical interdisciplinary introduction to philosophical, religious, cultural and historical dimensions of environmental affairs. How ecologically significant cultural assumptions, ideologies, representations, and institutionalized practices contribute to human meanings and relationships to other-than-human-nature. Special attention to the role of language and questions of environmental ethics and ontology.

EST 612 / Environmental Policy and Governance (3 credits; Offered in the Spring Semester)

Examination of the dynamic relationships present in the creation and implementation of environmental policies. Considers the roles of the state, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations. Explores background and implications of recent trends in environmental management.

EST 635 / Public Participation and Decision Making: Theory and Application (3 credits; Offered in the Spring Semester)

Provides a student with fundamental theories and techniques for developing and applying citizen participation strategies and conflict resolution as they relate to environmental science and planning decision making.

Certificate at a Glance

Required Courses

The number of courses required for this certificate is 3.

Approximate Cost

Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Tuition is $1,360/course for NY state residents and $2,775/course for non-NY state residents who reside out of state. Please see the bursar’s page for more information and required fees:

Time Investment

The average time it takes to complete this certificate is 1 year.

Request Information

Information needed



Program Chair

Dr. Paul Hirsch, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, SUNY ESF; pahirsch@esf.edu

Have a question?

Our Open Academy team (openacademy@esf.edu) or Program Chair (pahirsch@esf.edu) can answer questions about our graduate certificates.

Apply or Register Now

You may register for just a course as a visiting student by completing and submitting the visiting student registration form:

About ESF

ESF is the nation's oldest and most respected college dedicated solely to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies and building a sustainable future. ESF is ranked among the nation's best colleges for students focused on the science, design, engineering and management of our environment and natural resources.