AUNE Environmental Studies: Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability

Are you concerned about the growing challenges of peak oil, climate disruption, and an increasingly unjust and unsustainable global economy? Do you want to contribute to the transition to a more sustainable, just, and fulfilling world in the 21st century? Do you believe that our greatest power for change is in developing well-organized social movements where educated, mobilized, and active citizens work together for the common good? Would it be valuable for you to learn how to work more effectively in the growing advocacy and organizing field? YouTube Preview Image

There are just too few institutions that help inspire, train, and nurture progressive activists. That’s why I’m so excited about Antioch University New England’s Advocacy Program. It’s a graduate program that offers in-depth activist training and even connects its graduates into an ongoing support network. I encourage everyone seeking to work as a public interest advocate or a grassroots organizer to check out Antioch’s advocacy and organizing program. Eli Pariser, Board President and former Executive Director, MoveOn.Org

If so, learn more about our MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainabilitywhere we train students for activist careers as public interest advocates and grassroots organizers working for ecological sustainability, social justice, and the democratic control of corporations. This concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability will allow you to:

Dig into five key areas.

Our activist training curriculum focuses on 1) ecological literacy and the science of sustainability; 2) big-picture political analysis, vision, and strategy; 3) organizing and advocacy skills; 4) nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship; 5) and personal transformation and self-renewal.

Become a leader.

In this program, you will hone your ability to organize dynamic campaigns that win significant reforms, mobilize increasing numbers of citizens, and build stronger progressive organizations and coalitions. You also learn to be a collaborative nonprofit leader managing people, time, and money in effective and empowering ways.

Learn by doing.

At Antioch University New England, you will develop a strong story to tell future employers. Grounded in your growing knowledge of environmental science and advocacy skills, you engage in two professional internships working directly for activist organizations. You will also have the chance to work with other students to complete a collaborative service project for real-life organizational clients.

Program Delivery

  • 42 credits
  • Fall & Spring Entry
  • Classes 2 days a week plus an internship, or 1 day a week plus weekends
  • 5 semesters to complete

Read more about the inspiration behind this program. (PDF 44K) Dissertation: Activist Training In The Academy

Antioch University New England is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Crissy Heide Notes from Crissy Heidi, Advocacy student and Progressive Caucus Fellow

The concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability builds on Antioch University New England’s long-standing mission to provide transformative education that links the worlds of scholarship and activism. In this program, you will participate in a lively community of learners from around North America to deepen your:

      • ecological literacy
      • political education
      • social action skills
      • organization development competencies
      • self-knowledge and life-skills for the long haul

We feel such advanced activist training in grassroots organizing and nonprofit advocacy work is particularly needed now. Pushing the next wave of the sustainability movement will require talented, scientifically grounded, and politically savvy activists working to tame the global economy; to promote democratic reform of our political system; to build new coalitions for innovative programs in sustainable community renewal such as Transition Initiatives and campaigns for green collar jobs; and to create a new moral climate that combines a deep ecological concern with a strong commitment to social justice. At the end of two years, you will have earned more than a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies, you will have developed the confidence, connections, skills, and insights, to make a significant long-term contribution to advocacy for social justice and sustainability.

The Advocacy Program is a unique gem in the academic world: a values-based training program for effective, progressive leadership. Its flexibility, its relevance to local, regional, national, and international issues, and its holistic approach to analyzing and helping to solve a wide range of environmental, economic, and social problems have made this program an invaluable undertaking. Peter Alexander, MS ’04

Eight Key Ideas

Photo by Emily Hiestand The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration is defined by eight key ideas:

  1. Committed Values

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration embraces a deep commitment to sustainability, respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, nonviolence, and peace. We affirm both the Earth Charter and the Principles of Environmental Justice, which were adopted at the 1991 National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC.

  2. Citizen Action Focus

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration places its primary emphasis on educating current and future leaders, staffers, and volunteers of grassroots and nonprofit advocacy groups. In particular, we stress the skills of organizing, coalition-building, constructive programs, and popular education as the most direct means of building a globally oriented, grassroots movement for sustainability and social justice.

  3. I am so glad that I ended up at Antioch! I don’t think there could be a better fit for me anywhere.

    Ecological Awareness

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration deepens students’ scientific understanding of the earth’s ecological systems, environmental vital signs, natural history, and human ecology, including such key issues as peak oil and climate change. It also aids students in understanding key ecological debates, working with scientists and resource managers as allies in advocacy efforts, and interpreting scientific research for the general public.

  4. Critical Thinking

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration looks critically at how environmental destruction and social injustice are rooted in cultural patterns of domination and the way we organize and conduct our economic and political lives. It places particular emphasis on developing a deeper understanding of global political economy, social oppression, and consumer culture.

  5. Becoming Practical Visionaries

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration encourages students to envision desirable and sustainable ways of life, grounded in a broad environmental and social ethic, and made practical through programmatic thinking about creative innovations in our underlying social, political, and economic institutions at local, regional, national, and international levels.

  6. Strategic Savvy

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration helps students deepen their understanding of social action strategies and how to organize powerful grassroots movements that can cooperate effectively on local, regional, national, and transnational levels. Emphasis is placed on social movement history, the dynamics of social power, and “best practices” for our efforts in coalition-building, citizen lobbying, media work, electoral campaigns, nonviolent direct action, and creating alternative institutions.

  7. Sustained Inspiration

    The Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration pays attention to the development of the “whole person” and the affective dimensions of social change and personal growth. Emphasis will be placed on spirit, imagination, celebration, connection to the natural world, emotional and artistic expression, building an affirming community, and sharing reflections on the personal challenges we face as advocates. Such work will help students avoid burn-out and foster ways of connecting more meaningfully with each other–and the sources of their own deepest passions–to help sustain them for the long haul.

  8. Empowering Education

    Finally, the Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration encourages students and teachers to work together as co-creators and interpreters of the knowledge and skills needed for effective environmental advocacy. Emphasis will be placed on honoring multiple learning styles, posing problems of emerging relevance to students, fostering critical thinking and participatory dialogue, encouraging personal reflection and cooperative learning, supporting student learning initiatives, and integrating theory and practice through field experience and experiential education.

Track 1: Students who choose Track 1 register for 4 courses in both their first Fall and first Spring semesters. This track provides students with an opportunity to schedule the entire Summer and/or Spring II semesters off campus. *This is the preferred sequence for those intending to do a Master’s Thesis or Master’s Project. Track 2: Students who choose Track 2 register for a maximum of 3 courses per semester. This Track provides students with a more evenly paced sequence of coursework throughout their program. REQUIREMENTS: 42 CREDITS Select any 3 out of 4 Core courses Core (C) ; 9 credits; Concentration (T) ; 6 credits; Methods: courses selected by student – 18 credits; Internship ; 6 credits; Capstone Project ; 3 credits

Track 1

Track 2

Fall I (12 credits) Earth Systems and Climate Change (C)(3) Community Ecology of the New England Landscape (C)(3) Organizing for Social Change (T)(3) Methods(3) Fall I (9 credits) Earth Systems and Climate Change (C)(3) Community Ecology of the New England Landscape (C)(3) Organizing for Social Change (T)(3)
Spring I (12 credits) Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3) Diversity, Justice, and Inclusion (T)(3) Methods (3) Methods (3) Spring I (9 credits) Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3) Diversity, Justice, and Inclusion (T)(3) Methods (3)
Summer (3 credits) Internship I (3) Summer (6 credits) Internship I (3) Methods (3)
Fall II (9 credits) Leadership for Change (3) Methods (3) Methods (3) Fall II (9 credits) Leadership for Change (3) Methods (3) Methods (3)
Spring II (6 credits) Capstone Project (3) Internship II (3) Spring II (9 credits) Capstone Project (3) Methods (3) Internship II (3)


Sample Method courses include:

  • Building Sustainable Organizations (BSO)
  • Citizen Participation and Sustainable Communities
  • Climate Change: Resilience, Adaptation and Mitigation
  • Coastal Geoecology of New England (Fall 2011 field study trip)
  • Community & School-based Sustainable Food Systems
  • Conservation Biology
  • Conservation Psychology Theory & Application
  • Cuba: Sustainability and the New Food System (Fall 2012 registration; January 2013 field study trip)
  • Ecology and Management of Adirondack Mountains (Fall 2012 field study trip)
  • Ecosystems of Mount Desert Island (Spring 2012 field study trip)
  • Energy and Materials Sustainability
  • Environmental Law
  • Environmental Assessment Techniques
  • Financial Administration
  • Foundations of Environmental Education
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Integrated Conservation of Tropical Ecosystems: Costa Rica (Spring 2012, March field study trip)
  • Land Use and Community Planning
  • Making Sense of Place
  • Natural Resource Inventory
  • New England Flora
  • Non Profit Organizations & Social Entrepreneurship
  • Ornithology
  • Principles of Sustainability
  • Program Evaluation for Environmental and Conservation Educators
  • Proposal Writing and Project Management
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Research Design Techniques
  • Research Seminar
  • Soil Ecology
  • Soils Mapping and Interpretation
  • Vertebrate Ecology: Mammalogy
  • Wetlands Ecology
  • Wildlife & Forest Management
A great example of some of the course-based community service learning opportunities available to ES advocacy students is the work that students did in our foundation course Organizing for Social Change back in Fall 2010. At the beginning of that semester, a Transition Keene Task Force member asked the class to help with local organizing for 10/10/10, a Global Work Party for Climate Solutions sponsored internationally by YouTube Preview Image

The class agreed and then planned and carried out several 10/10/10 related activities including the filming and editing of this 30 minute documentary about all the Keene 10/10/10 work parties, including AUNE’s. The students in this organizing class also:

  • Raised over $1,010.10 for Antioch’s Green Bikes Initiative;
  • Hosted a film and discussion on the international Transition Movement for the wider community in the AUNE Library Media Room;
  • Organized three bike related workshops on campus for the wider Keene community as well as inspired other AUNE students to have a workparty putting Antioch’s community garden to bed for the season and build compost bins; and
  • Promoted turn out of Antioch students, faculty, staff, and alumni at the Keene-wide evening climate work parties celebration downtown.

In each of these ways, the students in the Organizing For Social Change class helped Antioch become a key part of 10/10/10 the largest day of global climate activism in world history, involving 7,300 communities in 188 countries. They also learned a lot along the way.

Over the last five decades, there has been exponential growth in the number of social movement organizations, a significant growth in memberships and budgets, and a corresponding growth in the number of paid advocacy positions available. “These jobs are also paid positions with salaries commensurate with social workers, environmental educators, and librarians. According to Harley Jeben’s, the author of 100 Jobs in Social Change, most advocates and organizers can also expect to make from $19,000 to $50,000. Some entry level advocacy workers make a little less, and more than a few advocates make significantly more. A survey of advocacy jobs listed in Environmental Opportunities over a six-month period in 2000 confirmed this estimate. The lowest starting salary offered was $18,000 and the highest was $80,000. The average starting salary was $33,500. It all depends on your position, experience, education, locality, and the type of organization you work for.” Why Not Work For A Change: An Introduction to Careers in Social Change

First, you work for what you believe in. Advocates have an opportunity to contribute to making their neighborhood or the world a better place. They attack many urgent social problems head-on. Second, most public interest advocates are awarded a great deal of responsibility early in their careers. Third, there is a sense of community and commitment within public interest organizations that comes from working together as social activists. Whether it’s playing for the office softball team or just sharing a brown bag lunch with colleagues, you’re likely to find philosophically and intellectually compatible people.

According to the national Environmental Careers Organization, environmental organizations today are increasingly looking for well-trained staff members who have strong leadership skills; experience in coalition-building and forming effective alliances and collaborations; the ability to foster an environmental movement that appeals to all Americans, regardless of class, race, and ethnicity; and the political vision to return to the grassroots with the understanding that a concerned, involved, informed, and politically savvy citizenry is essential for environmental success. The AUNE program will equip you with these skills and more.

Eight Areas Where You Can Do Good Work

  1. Professional public interest advocacy organizations usually work on a single issue or set of issues through research and education, lobbying, litigation, inter-group coalition building, and high-level negotiations with decision-makers.
  2. Grassroots organizations mobilize specific communities and constituencies to take collective action through community organizing, popular education, community development, alternative institutions, and direct action campaigns.
  3. Labor unions and professional associations represent and mobilize their members on political, economic, and social issues of interest to members and the public.
  4. Progressive electoral public policy groups such as third parties, major party caucuses, non-partisan groups, and Political Action Committees.
  5. Social action training and political education groups work with other advocacy organizations and activists to build up their personal and organizational capacities as advocates and organizers.
  6. Research and data management organizations help meet the information needs of social movement organizations, often in direct collaboration and sometimes even with the full participation of community and public interest groups.
  7. Progressive media and cultural groups produce documentaries, radio shows, books and periodicals, web-pages for activists and the public; offer public relations assistance to activist groups seeking to influence the mass media; and create art, music, and theater that inspire activists and the public.
  8. Progressive, social change philanthropy groups including individual foundations and coordinating groups like National Network of Grantmakers and the Donor Organizers Network.

Crisis, Faith, and Action: A Talk By Steve Chase to the Massachusetts Bible Society

At the February 2012 luncheon of the Massachusetts Bible Society, Quaker Transition activist and Antioch professor Steve Chase addressed the topic of transitioning to a Beloved Community in an era of peak oil, climate change, and a dysfunctional global economy. Among the questions addressed are: some key questions: How can we draw on our faith traditions to resist the pulls of empire and consumerism, and unleash our creativity and love of our neighbors and God’s good earth? How can we respond to the challenges of our time with an inspiring vision of Beloved Community in the 21st Century that moves us beyond either denial or despair and helps us cultivate an inward state of blessed unrest and an outward engagement in creative faith-based activism? What can we start doing now to foster a transition to a more livable, just, relocalized, and neighborly post-oil world?

Steve Chase presents at the Psychology-Ecology-Sustainability Conference

Presentation by Steve Chase, PhD at the Psychology-Ecology-Sustainability Conference on the campus of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon on June 9, 2007. The talk is entitled “Creative Maladjustment: Activism as a Way to Heal Self, Society, and Planet.” The first few minutes has technical problems, but the talk really gets rolling soon after.

Steve Chase Speaks at Quaker Conference

Click here for this hour-long interview conducted at a Quaker conference at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown campus. It aired on a program called Spirit In Action. Steve’s episode, “Activating the Activists,” is focused on his own activist history and the spiritual roots of his work, and includes lots of information about the EAOP program (now the Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability concentration) and the Department of Environmental Studies Antioch University New England.

The Activist Legacy of Martin Luther King: An Interview with EAOP Director Steve Chase

This 50 minute conversation between Steve Chase and Joseph Gainza, the host of the radio program “Gathering Peace,” was originally broadcast on April 1, 2008 by WGDR in Plainfield, VT, just a few days before the 40th Anniversary of MLK’s assignation. In it, Steve tells the story of how Martin Luther King became a reluctant activist during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and then discusses King’s political evolution over the years, his opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Vietnam, and how contemporary coalitions like Green For All are keeping the legacy of Martin Luther King alive and kicking.

ACT Radio Interviews Steve Chase on Activist Training and the EAOP

ACT Radio, or Animal Concerns of Texas, is broadcast by co-hosts Greg Lawson, Steve Best, and Elizabeth Walsh on KTEP–the NPR station in El Paso. Every other Sunday evening at 7:30, these radio activists offer a unique half-hour radio program in Texas that focuses on animals rights, human health, and related issues such as vegetarianism and environmental activism. In this 2007 Earth Day segment they interview Steve Chase on activist training in general and the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program in particular. Steve’s 23 minute interview starts about 7 minutes into the program, after some news and commentary. (Downloadable MP3 file)

Career Guidance in Environmental Advocacy: An Environmental Careers Organization Interview with EAOP Director Steve Chase

Click here to read this interview focused on such questions as: What is environmental organizing? What do organizers actually do? What are some of the key skills needed? What kind of jobs are available in the field of advocacy and organizing? What kind of starting salaries can beginning organizers expect in the coming years? What are the long-range goals that organizers ought to aspire to?

Perspectives On The Future: Environmental Studies Panel Explores Possibilities

Tom Wessels, Steve Chase, and Joy Ackerman, core faculty members from the Department of Environmental Studies came together at the end of 2008 to form a panel to imagine the state of things twenty years and more into the future at the regional, national, and global levels.
Click here to listen or download podcast

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