Five College Sustainability Studies Program

The Five College Sustainability Studies Certificate Program

Sustainability will be essential to the formulation of sound environmental, economic and social progress in the twenty-first century. The Five College Sustainability Studies Certificate (FCSS) program is designed to engage students in a structured course of study that will draw on courses from across the campuses in a range of disciplines. Students complete an internship, independent research project, or advanced course work in sustainability studies.

The Five College Sustainability Studies Certificate is currently available to undergraduate students at Amherst College, Hampshire College and Mount Holyoke College.

Students wishing to begin pursuing the certificate are encouraged to contact an FCSS advisor to begin planning a course of study the meets the student's interests.

Download the Sustainability Studies Planning & Application Form.


Course requirements:

A minimum of seven courses are required, at least five of the courses must be above the introductory level, and two of those courses must be at the advanced level.


The core courses are intended to expose students to the interconnectedness and significance of economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability. Certificate students complete one course each from three core areas:

  1. Environmental Sustainability
  2. Sustainable Economy and Politics
  3. Sustainable Society and Culture


Students pursuing a Five College Certificate in Sustainability Studies must choose an area of concentration from the following five areas of study. Students complete at least three courses within their declared concentration area (at least one at the advanced level) and one other course chosen from a different concentration area.

  1. Agriculture and Food Systems
  2.  Energy Systems, Climate and Water
  3. Culture, History, and Representation
  4. Politics and Policy
  5. Green Infrastructure, Design and Technology


Students work with their campus program advisor to identify and complete an internship or independent research project that addresses a contemporary, “real world” problem.

Alternatively, students may work with their program advisor to identify a suitable advanced course within their concentration area. An approved internship, independent research project, or upper-level course within the area of concentration may be counted toward fulfillment of the advanced course requirement.


Advanced certificate students present work at a Five College symposium or other venue to consider the ways in which the student's work addresses the core areas of sustainability and their linkages.


The FCSS certificate is currently offered for students from Amherst, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke Colleges, and began awarding certificates in the 2012-2013 academic year.

The Sustainability Studies Certificate Planning Form provides a framework for students and advisors at participating campuses to design a course of study. This form is used by students and advisors to plan a course of study that meets the student's interests as well as the certificate requirements. This form is submitted to the Sustainability Studies Steering Committee by the student's program advisor upon completion of all requirements in preperation for graduation.

Find out more about Five College Sustainability Studies affiliated faculty and find a program advisor.

Learn more about Sustainability Studies courses offered at the five campuses.

The Five College Sustainability Certificate: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out about this certificate?

Information about the FCSS Certificate is available on the Five Colleges website at In addition, there are specific faculty at each of the three campuses presently participating who will help students with the certificate. See a list of participating faculty here.
It is essential for students to begin working with their campus representatives early on in their studies.

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Can students at each of the Five Colleges obtain the FCSS Certificate?

No. At this time the certificate is available only to Amherst College, Hampshire College and Mount Holyoke College students.

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Are there specific areas that the FCSS Certificate focuses on?

Yes. Elective concentration areas are: 1) Agriculture and Food Systems, 2) Energy, Climate, and Water, 3) Culture, History, and Representation, 4) Politics and Policy, and 5) Green Infrastructure, Design, and Technology.

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Is the certificate only course-based?

No. Students must also complete an internship or independent research project that addresses a real world problem related to sustainability.

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Do I need to formally say that I intend to work towards the FCSS Certificate?

Yes. Students will give their campus program advisor a Declaration of Intent, outlining a potential course of study, by the second semester of their sophomore year. The actual application for the certificate will be submitted later; students should work with their campus advisors to decide when that would be.

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Some of the courses I wish to use for the FCSS Certificate are not listed on the Five College Sustainability website. Can I substitute courses?

Possibly.  Students must work with their campus advisors on this. It will be important to explain how a particular unlisted course meets the requirement.

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Who decides whether my application for the FCSS Certificate is successful?

As with the other Five College Certificates, a committee composed of Five College faculty makes this decision.

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How can the FCSS Certificate help me?

Having the certificate may well help you obtain a job or internship after you graduate, for example. In addition, the certificate is designed to guide students who are trying to develop a course of studies in sustainability.

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