Master of Arts in Sustainability

Effective Fall 2020, the MAGLSD program will be converted to M.A. in Sustainability (MASUST). However, international students must register for MAGLSD in Fall 2020 due to student visa restrictions. Once HPU receives accreditation approval and visa restrictions are removed, students may elect to change into the MASUST program beginning in the Spring 2021 term

The global community is increasingly recognizing the need for sustainable and resilient solutions to complex socioecological problems. At the macro level, the United Nations’ list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights a wide range of worldwide sustainability issues. The SDGs require a strategic approach to applying global solutions at the local level. At the micro level, our state’s Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative reflects local commitments to concrete measurable targets (e.g. food production, biosecurity, ocean management energy) for the public and private sectors.  The Master of Arts in Sustainability (MASUST) program takes on the challenging intersections of such global and local challenges by equipping students to evaluate and (re-)produce resilient and sustainable responses. It does so by preparing students with the competencies needed to analyze and evaluate human-natural systems in order to develop and distribute both strategic and future-oriented solutions. Student cohorts collaborate with local stakeholders to search for the underlying causes of environmental, economic and social problems. In the process, students design and lead responses that produce sustainable outcomes for the current and future generations.

The Altruist Generation: Students and Sustainability in Hawaiʻi Nei

Randy Gonce, a graduate student earning his Global Leadership degree in Sustainable Development at Hawaiʻi Pacific University, says he’s happiest when he’s giving back.

Sustainability is key to Hawaii’s ecocultural histories and HPU’s three core values: aloha, pono and kuleana.

Aloha is commonly used as a greeting. The meaning actually refers to the sharing of breath giving life (). Aloha is thus a communal experience and reflects an individual’s connection to the land (‘āina). MASUST students learn about the importance of how an ecocultural rootedness is important to sustainable futures and solutions. Students complete a Professional Paper (thesis), which involves conducting primary research in local communities.

Pono means righteousness. Sustainability studies at HPU equip students to contemplate the challenging sets of interdependencies between natural and human systems. Hawaii’s unique marine and terrestrial eco-systems are our living laboratory. MASUST students are tasked with developing pono solutions to the various environmental, economic and social problems in Hawaii – and beyond our reefs.

Kuleana refers to responsibility, stewardship and a deep caring for something. HPU’s MASUST students utilize the graduate studies experience to discover and/or refine how their personal kuleana intersects with the world’s greatest needs. The Professional Paper positions students to explore their sustainability passions across geographic landscapes (e.g. coastal, urban and rural) and from a transdisciplinary perspective.

The MASUST experience also enables students to take on an internship with a local organization, to study abroad, and to select from a variety of elective courses (2) from other M.A. programs (e.g. Marine Science, MBA, Organizational Development & Change, Public Health, Strategic Communication).


Students who successfully complete the Master of Arts in Sustainability program will develop knowledge, skills, and experiences in the following areas:

 ·         Systems Thinking - students will identify relationships and interdependencies within complex human-natural systems and analyze those connections through the use of systems thinking diagramming and other holistic tools.

·         Strategic & Futures Thinking - students will identify, formulate, and evaluate scenarios, interventions, and strategies that address sustainability across social, economic, environmental and cultural realms, intra- and intertemporal contexts, and local and global scales, despite uncertainty and access to limited information through project-based learning, case study analysis and research projects.

·         Collaboration - students will effectively use interpersonal as well as oral, and written communication skills to elevate sustainability issues among a diverse set of social actors through systems analysis and project-based learning; engage and collaborate with actors from academia, government, business, community and other institutions via research, internships, or practical. Model and advocate for sustainable behaviors at the personal, program, university, and community levels through participation in sustainability practices, policy making, citizen science, advocacy, volunteerism, or community outreach.

Individuals wishing to apply to the MASUST degree program at HPU are required to submit the following:

  • Application

  • Transcripts

  • Two Letters of Recommendation

  • Statement of Purpose

  • Resume

  • $55 Application Fee

Students from a variety of backgrounds are attracted to this graduate program. Therefore, to ensure each student is adequately prepared for the academic rigors of a graduate-level program, the following courses (or an undergraduate equivalent) must be satisfactorily completed as a foundation for graduate studies:

CSCI 3201 Info Mgmt Using Spreadsheets and Databases or MIS 2000 Info Tools for Business
SOC 3100 Methods of Inquiry
SOC 3200 Social Statistics


Contact the program director to discuss pre-requisite questions and to verify if your pre-reqs may be waived.

Reach out to our Graduate Admissions team (Danny Lam, to inquire about attending a webinar, which will offset the $55 application fee.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sustainability
Program Director, MA in Sustainability, MA in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development 
Hawai’i Pacific University

Dept. of History & Int'l Studies
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 6313 (WP5-360-B)
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone:  808.544.0815 | E-mail:

Recent program graduates enjoy rewarding careers at companies around the world, including:

  • Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources

  • California Center for Sustainable Energy
  • Pacific Northwest Laboratory
  • Sierra Club
  • Norwegian National Rail Administration

  • Cincinnati Health Department

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Success comes naturally to HPU MASUSt/MAGLSD alumni, including:

  • Yuko Maruo ('20), Education Director, LbE-Hawaii, Honolulu
  • Sierra Vaughn ('19) Forester Planner, Division of Forestry & Wildlife, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Honolulu
  • Darien Siguenza ('19) Program Coordinator, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator
  • Marvin Katz ('18) Trainee in Transaction Management, KFW Banking, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Lauren Reichelt ('17), Clean Transportation Manager, Blue Planet Foundation
  • Aaron McDonald ('14), Ph.D. student, University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business
  • Danielle Lien ('13), Coordinator, Green Climate Fund Agency at Conservation International
  • Lauren Ballou (’12), Environmental Planner, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), Boston, MA
  • Josh Prigge (’11), Director of Regenerative Development, Fetzer Vineyards
  • Jonathan Chin (’10), Energy Analyst, DBEDT, Honolulu, HI
  • Katie Fisk (’10), Disaster Reservist, FEMA, Denver, Colorado
  • Yasser Alkhalaiwi (’10), Corporate, Litigation and Labor Lawyer, Omar Al Rasheed & Partners Law Firm, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia