The Department of Community Sustainability has five broad themes that describe the general areas of application of the department’s work. These themes are not mutually exclusive, nor do they necessarily define the focus areas of a student's graduate program. Students are encouraged to integrate coursework across these themes.
Community Food & Agricultural Systems
This thematic area addresses issues related to the sustainability and democratization of food and farming. Courses and research opportunities prepare students to support civically-focused efforts that revitalize our food systems and define a more public role for agriculture through education, collaboration, and citizen engagement. This area seeks to integrate social and community concerns into production agriculture and to link agriculture to issues of health, recreation, natural resource management, community development, ethics, and public policy.
Natural Resources & the Environment
This thematic area links the social and physical sciences with planning, management, and policy issues associated with the use of natural resources and the environment, particularly land and water. Examples include multiple resource needs and uses such as stakeholder perceptions and decision-making as well as social, economic, and environmental impacts of alternative policy or management options. Research is used to inform decisions made by public, private, and non-profit groups and to develop formal and non-formal environmental education efforts. Environmental justice and social ecological resilience are explored and applied to this and other thematic areas. Coursework, research, and outreach address local, regional, national, and international issues.
Tourism & Recreation Systems
Graduate work in this thematic area focuses on understanding recreation and tourism as integral parts of communities, economies, and natural environments. Coursework, research, and outreach in this area address the motivations, preferences, and participation patterns of tourists and recreationists; the role of business, government, and non-government organizations that comprise and service tourism systems; the role of tourism in community development (domestically and internationally); and the interaction between tourism/recreation activities and a community and its natural, agricultural, historic, and cultural resources.
Education & Civic Engagement
This thematic area concentrates on developing scholar-practitioners interested in engaging and enhancing educational practices, both within schools and in the broader community. This area addresses agriculture and natural resource issues in educational practice, theory, research, and policy. Outreach opportunities are available to partner with a network of schools, community residents, local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and Michigan State University Extension to design and implement appropriate educational programs.
Many faculty and students in the Department of Community Sustainability conduct research related to international development, often applying the ideas associated with the other thematic areas to developing country contexts. Additional departmental work in international development addresses agricultural technology adoption, nutrition-agriculture linkages, and collective action to manage commonly held natural resources. Participatory research and mixed methods research approaches are used extensively.