Academic Program

frequently asked questions



What are some relevant rankings of the university?

  • The University of South Florida is rated Gold by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).
  • Times Higher Education (THE) has ranked USF #3 in the U.S. and #30 in the world in its 2021 Impact Rankings. This ranking is based on the university’s efforts toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which were established to forge global partnerships between various sectors, pooling resources and sharing expertise, while collectively working toward a more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous future.
  • USF is also one of the fastest-rising universities in the nation. In 2021, the university ranked #8 in American public research universities and #15 in the world in the number of patents awarded, placing it in the ranks of institutions such as MIT and Stanford in patent awards.
  • Students have the opportunity to take courses from the Center for Entrepreneurship which is ranked #19 in the U.S. by the Princeton Review.
  • More Points of Pride!


What are some special features of your program?

  • The Master of Arts and Master of Science in Global Sustainability programs are STEM programs, which means that the academic curriculum has been assessed as meeting the most pressing needs of employers in the United States. For international students, this improves opportunities for Optional Practical Training (see the section on international students for more details).
  • The SDG Action Alliance is a United Nations partnership housed at the Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) that fosters campus and community collaborations to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Internships are available every semester where students can engage with a multitude of projects locally and globally that will provide them with professional development opportunities.
  • The Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) offers coursework, training workshops, and certifications in virtualization technologies in collaboration with other campus centers, such as the Access 3D Lab.

    • Past workshops have focused on creating virtual tours of marine pollution and modeling the effects of climate change at cultural heritage sites at Egmont Key in Tampa Bay.
    • Past coursework involved working in Gravity Sketch (a cutting edge collaborative design program in VR developed with Ford Motor Company for hi-tech jobs in the new metaverse) to collaboratively and virtually model a deadwood gasifier in a small farming village in Fiji to produce energy and biochar to improve yields in their fields. Here is a livestream of Dr. Culhane and a student working in AltSpaceVR collaborating on Gravity Sketch.
  • All PCGS students have access to the Rosebud Continuum Sustainability Education Center. Projects conducted throughout the learning center include building a solar-powered golf cart, aeroponic towers, aquaponic tanks, 3-D printing, and bio-digesters. Current experiments are analyzing soil quality from different composting materials with digital microscopes. Students are able to apply what they learn through these projects and share it with visitors of Rosebud Continuum. You can view some of these projects in this short video.

  • PCGS works with the Community Sustainability Partnership Program at USF to engage students in the high-impact practice of community engaged learning with cities and counties. For example, projects for the City of Dunedin, Manatee County, and others on several sustainability related projects were integrated into the classroom through student group projects.

  • All students with business ideas related to sustainability may apply to become part of the Student Innovation Incubator, where under close supervision of a mentor, they can further develop their business idea into a new business. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in pitch competitions such as the Florida Blue Healthcare Innovation Challenge, the Jabil Technology Innovation Challenge, or the USF Business Plan Competition. USF is also participating in the annual Patenthon event, where students design a business model around NASA patents that contribute to the UN SDGs.


Does the College assist graduates with job searching?

Our college has strong relationships with corporate partners in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Weekly job announcements are posted on our college website, via social media and email communications. Career advising is also offered through the PCGS Office of Student Development that includes resume review, connections with employers, alumni, and other organizations.

For what positions are graduates of the Patel College eligible?

Environmental Consultant, Sustainability Manager, Life Cycle Analyst, Program Officer, Product Manager, Innovation Manager, etc. Alum titles include NOAA Disaster Coordinator, Sustainability & Energy Data Analyst, Environmental Technician, Recycling Manager, Senior Environmental Scientist, Conservation Manager, Zero Waste Policy Analyst, and Energy Resilience & Sustainability Specialist. Our graduates are able to present strong knowledge and skills that are sought after by major global corporations such as Tesla, Coca-Cola, Pall Corp, and others. More information can be found on our Alumni Careers webpage.

What is the salary range of recently placed graduates from the program?

The starting salary offers for traditional students with MA/MS degrees were in the range of $55,000 - $ 65,000 varying considerably with the location of the position and the qualifications of the graduate.


How much will the program cost?

Florida has one of the lowest costs nationwide of completing an academic degree. Total estimated program costs can be found at the USF Financial Aid website or the Tuition and Fees web page. The 'cost to attend' calculator may offer additional information. Contact information for tuition questions can be found at the Student Accounting website.

Are there any scholarships or graduate assistant positions available?

PCGS supported student scholarships include the Latin American & Caribbean Scholarship, the Amy & Michael Drake Scholarship, and the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship. Additional scholarship information can be found on our Scholarships webpage and at the Office of Graduate Studies scholarship webpage Additional information about funding can be found on our Financial Resources webpage.

Assistantships at the university require that you be admitted to a graduate program to apply. There may be an opportunity as a Graduate Assistant working with us, but Assistantships at PCGS are few, highly competitive, and you are only eligible to apply for PCGS assistantships/research beginning your second semester, once you have taken relevant courses (core and usually a relevant concentration).

We do not provide Assistantships for newly enrolled students so you will need to arrange funding. Professors usually select the best and brightest from the pool of qualified students that have shown capabilities in their first semester of classes. I highly recommend you speak with professors once you are an active graduate student if think you may be able to assist as a GA/TA/RA.

USF is huge, there are many other assistantships and positions around the university. Assistantships are posted on USF’s Careers page.

Are there part-time jobs available on campus?

Yes, these positions exist, though they are available on an irregular basis. Our students have received part-time positions (including GA positions) in many different academic and administrative departments on campus. Student positions can be found on the Careers@USF website.

I am a Returning Peace Corps Volunteer. How do I apply for the Coverdell Fellowship?

The application for the Coverdell Fellowship can be found on the Peace Corps website. Additional information can be found on our website, here. For questions not addressed, you can email our Assistant Director, Kelly Gaskell.


What are the application requirements?

Complete the Online Application, pay the application fee, and submit the following documents:

  • A statement of purpose (up to 350 words) including your academic and professional background, choice of concentration, reasons for pursuing this degree, and your professional goals in terms of contributing to global sustainability
  • Two letters of recommendation from academic professors or professional supervisors, signed, dated, and on official letter head
  • A resume or CV
  • Unofficial transcripts for degrees earned at any institution other than USF
  • International Students: English Language scores (see requirements below).

Do I need work experience in order to qualify for admission?


What does the admissions committee look for?

The admissions committee reviews each application for undergraduate transcripts, relevant work experience, two academic or professional letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose essay and relevant extracurricular involvement. The statement of purpose is viewed as a writing sample; no separate writing sample is necessary.

Can I send my application information to the department for an evaluation before I apply?

The Academic Services Administrator welcomes queries but cannot review application materials and 'pre-admit' students to the program before the complete application is submitted and reviewed by the admissions committee.

Do I need to take the GRE?

No GRE is required.

Do I need to take the TOEFL/IELTS? What is the minimum score?

Current information on English Language Proficiency Requirements for international students can be found on the Office of Admissions webpage.

Do I need to have a sustainability-related undergraduate degree?

No. Although sustainability experience is considered in the admission decision, the department is interdisciplinary and goes to great lengths to accommodate students from all undergraduate majors. Students from all academic backgrounds can find professional success after going through our program.

Are there any required prerequisite courses for admission into the program?


Can I defer my admission if necessary?

Applicants can request a deferment of up to one year by sending an email request to Jamie Chmiel.

Can I transfer from another university's Master's program?

Students interesting in transferring to USF should apply using the same process as all other graduate applicants. If admitted, you can request a course transfer and send it along with course syllabi to the Academic Services Administrator, Jamie Chmiel. A maximum of 9 graduate credits can be transferred and only courses completed with a B grade or better can be considered.

Can I email the Academic Advisor with further questions?

Yes, feel free to email Jamie Chmiel with additional questions, or schedule a video or phone appointment here, however we ask that you:

  • First review this FAQ document completely.
  • Follow the links for additional information from other departments at USF.
  • Send questions to the appropriate department (the Academic Advisor cannot help with specific questions about the online application, tuition, residency, I-20s, immunization, etc.).
  • Include your full name and U# in the subject area of all email correspondence.


Where can I find information about required TOEFL / IELTS scores?

The Office of Admissions ‘Application Requirements’ section on this webpage has this information. If you still have questions after reviewing this, please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions directly at

I'm an international student, what are some special features of the program for international students?

The USF MA and MS degree in Global Sustainability is a STEM program with CIP code 30.3301, which means the usual 12 month practical training period can be extended under certain conditions. Please see the USF website for OPT Extension Information or contact International Services for additional information.

Can I get practical training while in the program?

Students may do Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) while in the program if they choose to complete an internship in the U.S. as their final project. Please contact International Services for additional information.

I'm an international student, where can I get help on the documents needed to attend USF?

Information for International Students can be found at the Admissions Information for International Graduate Students website and the International Services website.

I have questions about how to apply or interview for a student visa. Who should I contact?

You can find information about how to obtain your visa here. If you have additional questions, you can contact International Services.

I do not meet the Admissions or English Language Proficiency Requirements. What should I do?

International students who do not meet our Admissions or English Language Proficiency requirements should contact INTO USF. More information can be found here.


How does the application process work?

Applications are accepted by the USF Admissions and are sent to the department for evaluation when the required transcripts and English Language Requirement scores have been attached to the online application. Please submit all documents in PDF format (not Word). Once the applications are complete and the application fee paid they are evaluated by the Patel College of Global Sustainability. Once an admission decision has been determined by the review committee, the Office of Admissions will contact you with an admission decision. This can take several weeks to more than a month, depending on the number of applications received. You can check your application status on the Office of Graduate Studies Status Page.

What are the application deadlines?

Fall Applications: June 1
Spring Applications: October 15

If the deadline for admission is extended, it will be posted on our website here.

What if my application is late by a few days after the deadline?

We do our best to process late applications, but the Office of Admissions is constrained in its ability to process late applications. If you are interested in applying beyond the posted deadline, please contact Jamie Chmiel to request that your application be considered. The process for admitting international students is longer, so these students should apply early.

How do I apply for this program?

You apply using the Online Application.

What does a strong application look like?

  • One to two page (maximum) statement of purpose incorporating the following topics:
    • What accomplishments (personal or professional) are you most proud of?

    • Any special challenges you have overcome?

    • Why do you want to enroll in our program?

    • What is your top choice of concentration?

    • What are your professional goals in terms of contributing to global sustainability upon graduation?

  • Two supportive letters of recommendation, preferably at least one from academic professor, signed, dated, and on official letterhead.

  • Two page (maximum) resume outlining professional or volunteer experience in sustainability

  • Strong undergraduate transcripts

The statement of purpose is used by the admissions team to learn relevant information about you that may not be conveyed by your 'numbers.' An understanding of the field of sustainability must be conveyed in order to be admitted. Please use this opportunity accordingly.

Are there any special application instructions?

Please attach all required documents to the online application in PDF format. Do not send hard copy documents when applying. If you have questions about the online application process, please contact Graduate Admissions at

How can I check my application status?

You can go to to check your admission status. Note that if your status reads that your application has been 'referred' to the department, this just means it has left the Office of Admissions. Referred applications that are missing required documents will not be reviewed. The Office of Admissions will contact you with an official admission decision. This process can take 4-6 weeks.

I have questions about the online application, who should I contact?

If you have queries concerning the online application, residency, and transcripts, they can be directed to the USF Office of Graduate Admissions at (813) 974-3350 or via email at Our department does not have access to the online application site, nor do we process residency or transcripts.


What is the difference between the MA and MS in Global Sustainability?

The Master of Arts (MA) in Global Sustainability offers four concentrations: Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, Sustainable Tourism, Sustainability Policy and Sustainable Business. All concentrations are offered in online, on-campus format, and blended formats to meet the needs of student schedules. The graduate program is designed to prepare students to address complex regional, national, and global challenges related to sustainability and the ability to innovate in diverse cultural, geographic, and demographic contexts.

The Master of Science (MS) degree in Global Sustainability offers five (5) academic concentrations, available in a traditional on-campus format, blended hybrid formats or fully online: Entrepreneurship, Food Sustainability and Security, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Transportation, and Water Sustainability. This interdisciplinary program is designed around a curriculum of natural sciences, engineering, and business and will prepare students to address complex local, regional, national, and global challenges related to water management, renewable energy, food resources, sustainable transportation planning and green entrepreneurship with the ability to innovate in security, sustainability and resilience contexts.

Where can I find more information about the different concentrations?

The Master of Arts in Global Sustainability offers the following concentrations:

  • Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
    Concentration Director: Dr. TH Culhane
    This concentration explores the contemporary perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs associated with the climate debate by defining the issues and framing the localized nature of impacts. Analysis of different regions around the globe will provide insight on climate change mitigation policy, climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, adaptation planning, and societal resilience.
  • Sustainable Business
    Concentration Director: Dr. Sharon Hanna-West
    The goal of this concentration is to provide participants with the knowledge, literacy, skills and tools they need to create more sustainable organizations. Students will learn how to develop sustainable practices and models to minimize the environmental footprint and maximize the social responsibility to all stakeholders to meet the requirements of a sustainable, low carbon economy.
  • Sustainability Policy
    Concentration Director: Dr. Heather Rothrock
    Students in this concentration will advance their knowledge of policy, public administration, governance, and sustainable development on an integrated platform. Students will learn how to remain abreast of the ever-changing policies and governance issues related to sustainability.
  • Sustainable Tourism
    Concentration Director: Dr. Brooke Hansen
    This concentration focuses on training students for careers in sustainable tourism, ecotourism, consulting, and sustainable tourism certifications. The program offers classes that examine trends and case examples from around the world for sustainable tourism development through frameworks developed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

The Master of Science in Global Sustainability offers the following concentrations:

  • Entrepreneurship
    Concentration Director: Dr. Dirk Libaers
    In this concentration, students are exposed to the basic principles of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. Topics such as opportunity identification, opportunity assessment, business modeling and venture funding with a focus on sustainability being covered. All courses are hands-on and students work on projects with local companies.
  • Food Sustainability and Security
    Concentration Director: Dr. Joseph Dorsey
    In this concentration students are provided with a solid understanding of key issues in food systems and safety/security. Topics such as the impact of the food industry on public health and the role of safety security, regulatory and policy issues in the food sector, and the role of planners, government, and community organizations in food system development are covered.
  • Sustainable Energy
    Concentration Director: Dr. George Philippidis
    This concentration uses expert knowledge and real-world expertise to prepare students for the growing field of renewable energy, as the U.S. and other countries seek to become more sustainable by increasingly switching to renewable fuels and power. Students will be prepared for private and public sector positions of leadership and responsibility in the biofuels, solar, wind, biomass, and other renewable energy sectors.
  • Sustainable Transportation
    Concentration Director: Dr. Subrata Bandy
    This concentration teaches methods for achieving a more sustainable transportation system and how that system fits into efforts to improve community design and the livability of urban areas. Students will learn to analyze the opportunities and constraints for implementing sustainable transportation planning solutions and be able to critically analyze sustainable transportation policies and programs.
  • Water Sustainability
    Concentration Director: Dr. Kebreab Ghebremichael
    In this concentration students will develop skills necessary for planning sustainable water resources and green infrastructure systems. Topics include the basic concepts of managing the dynamics of the urban water cycle, the problems related to urban water and green infrastructure, and appropriate environmental models to analyze problems that relate to the management and exploitation of environmental systems.

I am interested in more than one concentration. Can I select two concentrations?

No. You can only graduate with one concentration on your transcript. If you are interested in more than one concentration, you may be able to complete a graduate certificate in another concentration without taking additional courses by using your electives. You can find more information about our graduate certificate requirements Graduate Certificate webpage. Contact Jamie Chmiel to discuss course offerings each semester to meet both degree and graduate certificate requirements in a timely manner.

Can I change my concentration after I have been admitted to the program?

Yes. You have the opportunity to change your concentration before the end of your first semester. Changes across master’s programs (from MA to MS, or from MS to MA) require course transfers that require grades of B- or above in courses completed.

What do the Master’s programs of study consist of?

 The Master’s programs in Global Sustainability consists of 4 core classes, 3 concentration courses, 3 electives, and a final project. The program curriculum can be found at this link. Course descriptions can be found here.

Which courses can be used as electives?

Three electives may be selected from other concentrations or other related areas of specialization such as GIS, Business, Environmental Science and Policy, Education, etc.

How many classes do students take each semester?

Students may choose to take any number of classes each semester, subject only to scheduling constraints. We recommend that full-time students take 3-4 courses (9-12 credit hours) every semester. International students are required to carry at least 9 credits in order to maintain their immigration status (except for summer and graduating semester). Students working full-time often choose to take fewer classes each semester to balance work and study.

What is the average class size?

Our core courses are typically comprised of 20-30 students. Concentration and elective courses are typically comprised of 10-15 students.

How long will it take to complete my degree requirements?

The program requires 36 hours of coursework and may be taken either full-time or part-time. Our course offerings are scheduled such that interested full-time students can complete the program in 1½ years. Part-time students will typically need 2 to 3 years to complete the degree.

What is the order of courses that I should take?


Does the program assist students with completing professional certifications?

Yes. Dean Parayil provides a partial scholarship to PCGS students in LEED GA, Envision ENV SP, and WELL AP workshops. More information about sustainability certifications can be found on our Student Development webpage. The goal is for all students to earn at least one of these during their time at PCGS. Some alumni pursue more advanced certifications after graduating from the program.

Does the program require an internship and/or thesis?

Yes, an internship or research project is required. We do not offer a thesis. The Academic Capstone Experience (ACE) is a major component of the Master’s degree programs, completed the semester before you graduate. This can be completed during spring, summer or fall. It provides an opportunity to get practical experience, apply a skill set to a real world situation or conduct sustainability research beyond your coursework.

What are the specifics of the Capstone Research Project?

The Capstone Research Project course provides academic flexibility and viable alternatives to capstone internships. This course is designed to give students a rich and diverse research experience. The capstone research project should be practical research, using quantitative or qualitative methods, with or without human subjects. Each capstone research project will be supervised by your Concentration Director or another qualified USF faculty member. PCGS students are expected to complete the course IDS 6272 – Research Methods for Sustainability before registering for IDS 6935 – Capstone Research Project.

Where have previous students completed their internship?

PCGS has developed exciting partnerships with nearly 100 local organizations for the professional development of students. Previous students have completed internships at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Tampa Bay Water, SDG Action Alliance, Solar and Energy Loan Fund, Pinellas County, Legacy Vacation Resorts, US Green Chamber of Commerce, Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park., Mote Marine Aquarium, and the Cities of Tampa, Orlando, Largo, Venice, and Denver, among others.

Can I complete my internship before my last semester?

The required internship is intended to be a capstone course that integrates and applies knowledge from all courses. Students must complete all core and concentration courses before completing their internship, but may take an elective course along with their internship. Exceptions have been made in the past, but are rare and require approval by the ACE Director, Dr. Joseph Dorsey, and the student’s concentration director.

I just got admitted. What do I do next?

The Academic Services Administrator, Jamie Chmiel, will contact you and request that you complete the New Student Form. Upon completion of this form, you will receive our Student Handbook and registration information. You must complete this form in order to RSVP for our Orientation and be added to our Canvas page with detailed information about the program.

Can I complete the program online?

All concentrations can be completed on-campus or hybrid. All concentrations except Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Business can be completed fully online.

I have questions about the program in general, who should I contact?

If, after reading this webpage, you have questions about the online application or the application process in general, please contact the USF Office of Graduate Admissions at General questions about the program can be sent to Jamie Chmiel, or you can schedule an appointment. Specific questions about the concentrations can be referred to the relevant Concentration Directors.


1. USF is one of the most rapidly growing universities in the U.S. Since its inception, it has achieved the status of a Preeminent Research University by the Florida Board of Governors.

2. The Tampa Bay location is a major advantage. Tampa tops the list of emerging tech cities, according to a report recently released by Forbes, ahead of even New York and San Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley. The area boasts a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem with numerous incubators, accelerators and investors that help grow startups in cleantech, cybertech, fintech and the life sciences.

3. The Patel College of Global Sustainability has outstanding faculty with degrees from Harvard, Tulane, George Washington, Northeastern, University of Michigan, Minnesota, UCLA, etc.