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Graduate Dual Degree Programs

University for Peace

A photo of waterfall in Costa Rica.
Degree Requirements

(42 credit hours)

The M.A. program in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development is a dual-degree program. Students study at American University, where they earn an M.A. in International Affairs, and the United Nations-affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica, where they earn an M.A. in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development. It is the first graduate degree program in which students can learn about environmental and development policies from the perspectives of both the South and North. American University, in Washington, D.C., is uniquely situated to do this through its strengths in international relations, environmental policy, and economics, while The University for Peace, in San Jose, Costa Rica, provides unparalleled opportunities to offer courses and practical experience in sustainable development and natural resources management.

Students spend their first semester at American University learning the foundations of sustainable development policy both inside the classroom and within the Washington, D.C. policy community. They spend the next two semesters at the UN-affiliated University for Peace studying concrete practices and tracking international efforts toward sustainable development. During their summer at UPEACE students must complete an internship by spending several months in the field working intensively on some aspect of sustainable development. This internship experience is a central feature of the UPEACE experience. They return to American University for their final semester, during which they write a substantial research paper, participate in an integrative seminar that exposes students to professional policymaking opportunities in D.C., and complete their final courses.

This two-year program equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary for managing eco-development issues in a global context and provides them with opportunities to establish ties that bridge the North-South divide. These qualities aid graduates to formulate policies to advance sustainable development at the local, regional and global levels, to facilitate international cooperation in the design of sustainable development and environment policy, and to generate strategies for environmental conflict management. Elective courses may include environmental law, environmental science, skills classes, and other subjects drawn from a rich array of courses relevant to the student career goals. All courses are taught in English.

A virtual tour of UPEACE facilities and the neighboring town of Ciudad Colon can be found on the UPEACE website. Learn more about the program and course requirements here.

Related MA programs of interest: Environmental Science

In the Fall Semester at American University (9 credit hours), courses may include Environment and Politics, Environmental Economics or another approved economics course, International Development, and Spanish Language (non-credit).

During the year at UPEACE (spring, summer, and fall, 21 credit hours), courses may include Analysis and Design of Natural Resources Policies, Ecological Foundations of Land Use, Skills and Methods for Sustainable Development, Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods, Systems Thinking, Project Life Cycle Analysis, Spanish Language (non-credit), Peace Studies, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, Conflict Management and Natural Resources, Internship, and elective courses in Environmental Security and other UPEACE programs.

During the Spring Semester at American University (12 credit hours), courses may include the Washington Environmental Workshop, Substantial Research Paper, Environment and Development, International Environmental Law, Comparative Environmental Law, Environmental Peacemaking, Global Information Systems, Systems Dynamics, and other electives.

For more information about the NRSD Dual Degree program, please visit the Global Environmental Politics homepage, or contact American University Program Director Professor Judith Shapiro at

International Students: Please note that the structure of the NRSD program mandates that students spend less than a full year in the United States at the end of their studies. Therefore, international students will not be able to avail themselves of Optional Practical Training to work in the United States upon completion of their degrees. For more information, please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at 202-885-3350 or e-mail

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For general admissions questions, contact SIS Graduate Admissions.

For more specific inquiries, contact American University Program Director Professor Judith Shapiro at

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