MSDP Frequently Asked Questions

View Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Master’s Sustainable Development Program.

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When and how do I apply to the Masters Sustainable Development program?

Plan to start classes in the fall semester. Starting in the spring is allowed; however, starting in the spring semester makes it is difficult to finish the coursework in two semesters because several spring-semester courses have prerequisites that are offered only in the fall.

State clearly in your application essay that you are applying to the Master's Sustainable Development Program.

Review the MSDP application page and the department's admission page for requirements.

Is there any flexibility in the requirement to have an undergraduate degree in engineering, science, or math before applying to MSDP?

No. The possession of an undergraduate degree in engineering, science, or math is a requirement of the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, not of the Master's Sustainable Development Program. The requirement is not flexible.

If your undergraduate degree is not in a science, engineering, or math field, you will need to complete additional undergraduate courses (enough to receive a dual-major bachelor's degree or complete a second undergraduate degree in one of the required fields).

Are tuition costs the same for the MSDP and non-MSDP students?

Yes, tuition is the same for MSDP and non-MSDP students.

Graduate School tuition

MSDP students are required to take CEGE 5570 Design for Sustainable Development, which is offered in May each year. The cost for the class is approximately $5,000, which includes airfare, lodging, transportation, and tuition. In addition, costs associated with overseas experiences are to be covered by the student.

Where can I find more information about Acara?

Visit the Acara website.

What will I do during my 9-month international experience?

There are three options for students during the international experience.

  1. Pilot their own solution developed in Acara courses to address a social or environmental problem abroad. In GCC 5005 and CEGE 5572 students will have the opportunity to develop their own venture solutions based in India, East Africa or Nicaragua. Taking their project to one of those three regions to do further assessment work and/or pilot the venture is one option.
  2. Pursue a project with an existing organization abroad. If students wish, they may identify their own opportunity to work on a 9-month project with an organization abroad related or unrelated to their GCC 5005 or CEGE 5572 project. For instance, if there is a non-governmental engineering organization that the student would like to work with they may establish a relationship and define their own opportunity. Collaborating with Engineers Without Borders project teams for the overseas experience could be another option.
  3. Conduct an international research experience abroad. A student may also identify his or her own research-based experience overseas. This research may be related or unrelated to their GCC 5005 and CEGE 5572 project.

The onus of identifying an interesting opportunity as part of the Master's Sustainable Development Program is on the student. The program staff can discuss the options, provide advice, and perhaps help make some connections, but students ultimately have responsibility for proposing how they will spend their 9-month international experience abroad. A faculty member needs to approve the final selection. Students should begin researching opportunities and discussing options with program faculty as soon as possible.

I have been admitted to the Masters Sustainable Development Program in Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering at University of Minnesota. What comes next?

Congratulations! We hope that the MSDP is dynamic, fun, challenging, and deeply rewarding for you. Prior to arriving on campus, please do the following:

  1. Read the MSDP web page including the Graduate Handbook and the completion procedures.
  2. Review the Acara website. Read about the Acara Challenge, which is the focus of the fall-semester course, GCC5005: Global Venture Design: What Impact Can You Have?
  3. Begin conducting research on social and environmental ventures in the US and abroad. Seek to identify areas and organizations that interest you.
  4. Read the list of required prerequisite courses. If you are missing any of those requirements, please contact the Coordinator of Graduate Studies ( to discuss the best way for you to take those courses.
  5. For background information, read about programs in the department that may be of interest, such as Engineers Without Borders.
  6. By the end of your first semester, review the UMN Leave of Absence policy and forms.
  7. If you have any questions, let us know. Feel free to drop us a note letting us know what you will be doing during the summer! We look forward to seeing you in the fall.

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