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Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD)

About the NRSD Dual Degree Program

The Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD) dual degree program provides the opportunity to gain a broad, big-picture perspective in Washington, DC, at American University's School of International Service (SIS), while also exposing students to sustainable development in practice at the University for Peace (UPeace) in Costa Rica. Located in a nature reserve outside of Ciudad Colon, about 30 minutes from San Jose, UPeace is a small, graduate-level, English-language university with students and faculty from all over the world.  

Students earn an MA in International Affairs from American University and an MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development from the University for Peace. 

In their first semester, NRSD students take courses alongside Global Environmental Politics (GEP) M.A. and other SIS students. In addition to taking the required Environment and Politics seminar (SIS 660), students typically take an economics course — often Environmental Economics (ECON 579) or Intro to Economic Theory (ECON 603) — and either an international development course or a GEP seminar in water governance, political ecology of food and agriculture, or climate change politics. Unless already fluent, NRSD students also take a non-credit course in Spanish. 

During their second and third semesters, which are spent at the University for Peace, NRSD students choose from an array of required and elective UPeace course offerings. At UPeace, students typically take one course at a time, offered during 3-week modules, and they may also take additional Spanish coursework. Students choose from a wide range of courses at UPeace, including Disaster Risk Reduction, field courses on resource management, and courses on food, agriculture, and water.  Students also are able to take advantage of some courses in other programs at UPeace. 

In addition, NRSD students satisfy an experience requirement for UPEACE and American through a mandated summer internship identified with support from AU and UPEACE faculty in a geographic and focal area of their choice. These internships take students across the world, as close to home as Washington or as far away as Asia or Africa. 

Upon returning to AU in their fourth semester, NRSD students finish their course requirements with three seminars and fulfill their capstone research requirement, either through an individual significant research paper or a team research practicum. 

See the Courses page for sample list of courses routinely offered by American and UPEACE.  View UPeace's current course offerings here. To better understand the academic track and opportunities for an NRSD student, click here.

Course plans are worked out in consultation with SIS advisors and faculty in order to meet the student’s interest as well as graduate requirements. Official requirements and degree descriptions are available through the Graduate Advising Office.

University for Peace

Watch the video below to learn more about our partner in the NRSD program, the University for Peace. For more UPeace videos, visit our YouTube playlist.