Specialization in Sustainable Communities

Communities are complex and dynamic; they require nurturing to sustain core elements such as environmental quality, safe neighborhoods, good schools, accessible healthcare and engaged citizens. A "Sustainable Communities" approach focuses on understanding the broad systems that communities use to achieve environmental protection, social equity, and economic viability. Adopting this perspective can help local governments and nonprofits find feasible, long-term solutions to challenging problems related to the environment, equitable resource distribution and the economy.

The Specialization in Sustainable Communities is ideal for students interested in shaping their public administration careers around the concept of sustainability. The purpose of the specialization is to provide you with foundational knowledge about the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of policy choices made at the local level by leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors. Depending upon your interests, these can include basic concepts of environmental policy design, ecosystem management, energy systems and efficiency, biodiversity, environmental justice, economic development, social equity, and citizen education and engagement.

In order to fulfill the requirements of the specialization, you must complete the standard core curriculum for the Masters of Public Administration degree; take the required "Sustainable Communities: Theory and Practice" course; and take at least two sustainable communities electives. When possible, you should also focus your internship and capstone project on some aspect of sustainable communities.

The Department of Public Administration resides in the University Downtown Center (UDC), the first "green" building in downtown Binghamton. Home to our College of Community and Public Affairs, the UDC has been certified LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council. Environmentally sustainable features include high-efficiency mechanical equipment, energy-efficient windows, daylight views to reduce the need for artificial lighting, and recycled building materials. The building's location downtown is one of a number of projects that marks the University's commitment to the social and economic vitality of Binghamton's urban core.

Required course

PAFF 569X: Theory and Practice
In this seminar, we will critically read and discuss the literature that frames the foundational theory and practice of sustainability across the environmental, economic, and social equity dimensions. We will examine how local governments and local organizations interact with each other and with actors at different geographic and governmental scales. Readings will include some classics of sustainability as well as important primary sources.

Elective courses

PAFF 571: Environmental Policy Analysis
This seminar will review approaches to environmental decision making through the comparison of traditional and innovative approaches, including standards, taxes and tradable permits related to the formation of environmental and resource policy. Global as well as domestic environmental issues, environmental justice and sustainable development concerns will be discussed along with the primary policy issues affecting major U.S. environmental laws. During the course, each student will be assigned a topic or requested to select a topic for class discussion.

PAFF 582: Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions
Municipalities in the United States have enormous power to impact the local and regional environment. Through academic readings and policy documents, we will survey the history, theory, and practice of sustainable (and unsustainable) land use planning and how it has shaped our urban, suburban, and rural areas. We will learn about and challenge the various contemporary approaches to sustainable planning across environmental, economic, and social equity dimensions.

PAFF 564 - Service Learning and Language Immersion in Cusco, Peru
This innovative short-term study abroad program combines the interdisciplinary scholarship of sustainable development with the ethical considerations of international service learning. The program is organized around a course (titled "Local Development in the Andes"), which begins prior to leaving the United States in the late spring, and continues during a four-week study abroad experience in Cusco, Peru in June. The course provides an opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to learn about the local dynamics of sustainable development in the Andean Region of Latin America. It situates sustainable development through an interconnection between environmental issues, economic viability, social equity, and cultural identity. The course is designed to help students develop knowledge and skills that enable them to reflect on local development and their own roles in international service. Service‐learning is put into action when U.S. students work together with Peruvian community-based nonprofit organizations.

Last Updated: 7/24/14