Graduate Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership

The first place-based, face-to-face social innovation and sustainability leadership MA program in the nation.

We believe the purpose of leadership is to co-create well-being in ourselves, our workplaces and in our communities through bridging the three divides.*

  1. The divide between self and our highest potential. How do we become the most effective leader possible and co-create well-being in our organizations and communities?
  2. The divide between self and others. How do we strengthen relationship with other individuals and groups so that we can have a more equitable and inclusive world.
  3. The divide between self and nature. How do we create organizational, social, and economic systems that are in harmony with natural systems?

*Adapted from the work of the Presencing Institute


Program Highlights

The M.A. in Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership give you a solid background in the mechanics of social innovation with a special emphasis on ethical leadership to make a positive impact on our communities. The curriculum is challenging, rigorous, and relevant. You will develop a greater sense of how individuals relate to the environment and communities we serve.

In the Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership graduate program, you will join a cohort of no more than 18 students from a broad range of professional fields and academic backgrounds. Together, you will develop the leadership skills, knowledge, and mindset to effect social innovation and systems change. Students undertake a social innovation project related to their area of interest. Courses accommodate both full-time students, as well as working professionals. 

Our interactive classes leverage the breadth and depth of expertise in the region including guest speakers, group projects, hands-on activities, and field trips. Collaborate with community organizations, businesses, government agencies, and other partners to make a positive impact while gaining experience and expanding your network. 

Passion to Action
Learn through an action-oriented curriculum to apply skills and knowledge to create systemic change. You will learn to recognize the entry points for cross-sector collaboration and lead the development of innovative solutions to social and/or environmental challenges in communities and organizations. While working with a diverse network of practitioners, professors, and peers, you will develop the professional relationships necessary to support the work of effecting deep systems change. Students undertake individual or group social innovation projects in each core course. 

Action to Results
As a student, you will:

  • Develop your leadership strengths
  • Identify the opportunities for partnerships
  • Learn methods for inclusively engaging stakeholders
  • Identify high impact approaches to pushing dominant systems in new directions
  • Co-create innovative ideas to apply to community projects that have measurable results
  • Develop a professional network for growth and support
  • Form strong bonds with a supportive cohort of fellow students

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts in Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership

A total of 33 credits is required to complete the Master of Arts in Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership.  The average completion time for the program is two years.

Required Courses (21 credits):

  • (SUST 650) Foundations: Leadership for Social Innovation and Sustainability (4 credits)
    This course provides the foundation for the Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership Program. It creates a community of reflective learners that support each other in becoming effective social entrepreneurs and sustainability change agents. We introduce foundational leadership frameworks and tools such as Theory U, Emotional Intelligence and Diversity, Systems Thinking, Just Sustainabilities, Design Thinking, Collective Impact, Social Entrepreneurship, and several others. We visit with local, national, and global changemakers to learn how they are applying social innovation and sustainability leadership. The course also explores relationships among sustainability, economic development, and social equity. Students begin to explore and identify a social innovation project they wish to implement in SUST 651.
  • (SUST 651) Self and Natural Systems (4 credits)
    Fall Semester
    How do we live in harmony with the natural systems of the planet in order to create wellbeing in ourselves, communities and organizations? Students explore the importance of understanding climate change, sense of place, eco-systems, indigenous knowledge systems, technology, energy, food, water, and waste. Students deepen their understanding of new leadership tools learned in SUST 650 and apply these tools to their social innovation projects. Site visits and dialogue with changemakers continue throughout the course. Prerequisite: SUST 650
  • (SUST 652) Innovation for Social and Economic Well-Being (4 credits)
    Spring Semester
    In this course, we consider the challenges to organizational and community change presented by global trends and by traditional socioeconomic and public policy models, and we introduce alternative models aimed at meeting these challenges: equity, ecological economics, community development, sustainable development, the sharing economy, social innovation and participatory democracy. We discuss how deeper knowledge of human perception and behavior can help us formulate transformative communication and education strategies and practices. Key concepts include: social capital, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, social equity, urban design, transformational leadership and ecopsychology. Prerequisites: SUST 651
  • (SUST 751) Designing Regenerative Communities (3 credits)
    Fall Semester
    This course offers students opportunities to explore how housing, economic development, inclusive community-based engagement and sustainable infrastructure (built and governance) might come together to more rapidly and more equitably advance wellbeing for all, in the urban context. Students will learn and apply social innovation and sustainability principles to co-design community engagement processes in the urban environment as we collaborate with community leaders including grassroots activists, agency staff, and elected officials in developing and implementing two projects related to equitable, community-driven, sustainable development. Students will have the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in any of the following areas, depending on their own interests: watershed planning; green infrastructure; ecological design; inclusive community engagement; community-driven design; equitable community development; placemaking; livability; and community development policy. The framework of social innovation will underpin the approach to these concepts in the course.
  • (SUST 752) Leadership for Organizational and Community Well-Being (3 credits)
    Spring Semester
    This course explores examples of community and organizational practices that fulfill the vision of co-creating inclusive well-being that reflects the interrelatedness of personal well-being, organizational culture, socio-economic well-being, and the well-being of nature. Along with examples and case studies, students learn specific leadership skills that facilitate the creation of well-being in their organizations and communities. These include conflict transformation, collaborative decision making, social-emotional intelligence, scenario planning, along with other tools and frameworks. The class applies their learning while working with a community partner on an initiative directly impacting well-being at a local/regional scale.
  • ORG 630 Organizational Change (3 credits)
    Investigates the nature of change, forces for change, and the impact of change on its recipients. Introduces students to the practice of organization development with respect to change efforts in organizations as they examine their own roles and skill sets as change agents. Stresses the design and implementation of various organizational interventions. Students learn to choose between, and then design, appropriate interventions to transform an organization from a current state to a desired future state.
  • (SUST 760) Capstone A (2 credits) & (SUST 761) Capstone B (2 credits)
    Capstone A & B are offered fall and spring semesters. Students can take one Capstone section at a time. The Capstone course is run as a peer-coaching learning community where each student implements a social innovation project of their choosing. Capstone A focuses on analyzing the system that the student is interested in changing, identifying a leverage point, and creating a theory of change.

In Capstone B, students implement a prototype and social impact evaluation based on the systems analysis conducted in Capstone A. Students also learn oral communication and written communication skills in presenting their capstone project, writing a case study, and writing a short article for publication. Pre-requisites: SUST 650, SUST 651, SUST 652. Students are encouraged to take Capstone A and Capstone B in their last two semester of the program.

Sample Elective Courses (12 credits): 

Elective credits allow students to tailor their degree to a special area of interest or deepen specific leadership skills and knowledge. The SISL Community Course Electives will now be offered as either SUST 695 or SUST 795.

  • SUST 795 Guided Study Special Topics 
    The Guided Study Special Topics provide emerging opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge on rotating topics such as Deep Diversity, Theory U, and Positive Psychology.

  • Adaptive Leadership
    Instructor: Michael Mucha
    The adaptive leadership course will provide the knowledge, skills and tools for any person to mobilize others to do important work around change and thrive. It will strengthen a person’s ability to lead meaningful change through systematic approaches. The course is taught by Michael Mucha, Director of the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and draws from his experience in a broad range of change efforts.

  • Mindful Leadership: Essential Skills for Leading in a Complex World
    Instructor: Lisa Baker, PhD
    Description: In this course, participants will learn how mindfulness concepts and practices can help us cultivate our natural abilities to lead with excellence. This course provides an exploration of mindfulness practices aimed at cultivating greater awareness, focus, clarity, and compassion – qualities that enhance our ability as leaders to create safe and trusting environments. We will explore how to apply these qualities to enhance our professional and personal lives, including creating more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environments. This course is experiential and applied, where participants will engage in mindfulness practices, inquiry, and dialogue. A variety of highly relevant and empirically-supported frameworks, theories, practices, and concepts are interwoven throughout the course, including Theory U, Appreciative Inquiry, Process-Oriented Psychology, Neuroscience of Mindfulness/Meditation, and Emotional and Social Intelligence.

          Intentions/Objectives: Through participating in this course, participants will:

o Establish a regular (daily) mindfulness practice, including informal practice at work, supporting an understanding of different practices and what they can support.
o Demonstrate knowledge of how mindfulness can enhance our sense of self as leaders and our impact we make on the world. 
o Decreased stress-related complaints and increased self-efficacy in handling stress and challenges
o Greater understanding of some ways that mindfulness supports different leadership approaches and styles.

3 Graduate Credits

  • (SUST 745) International Engagement: Sustainable Community Wellbeing (3 credits)
    Gain intercultural leadership skills through collaborative, community-based social innovation initiatives in Alto Cayma, Peru. Enhance global understanding of sustainability through hands-on projects that contribute to cultural, social, economic and ecological wellbeing. An optional portion of the trip takes place in the Cusco and Machu Picchu areas where students learn further about cultural preservation and sustainable food systems. Students meet every other week in spring term and spend two weeks in late May/early June in Peru.
  • Permaculture Design Certificate (3 Credits)
    Instructors: Kate Heiber-Cobb, Marian Farrior
    Description: Our Permaculture Design Certificate Training will cover all the usual topics and skill sets around Permaculture Ethics and Principles, ecological principles, water, soil, food, wildness, observation, networks, food forests, plant guilds, systems thinking and more. This is a 7- hour course held over three 3-Day weekends. Attendance is necessary to receive your certificate. We will be holding our course this year out at Terra Simpla Permaculture & Retreat Center outside of Stoughton. We are dedicated to making this course accessible financially for all those who hold it in their hearts to attend and learn. The Madison Area Permaculture Guild has been supporting scholarship dollars and sponsoring these courses for 9 years now. We have graduated 150 people. We believe education and modeling are the best way to create healthy systems change. For more information and to register visit
  • Students can also take electives from our Master’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Organizational Leadership and Change

Tuition and Financial Aid

Attending graduate school is one of the best investments you will ever make in yourself and your future.  While the benefits to personal growth are priceless, our program can expand your career options and enhance your earning power in the marketplace.  When considering the total cost of your education, be sure to consider the lasting positive impact it will have on your personal and professional future.

Graduate tuition for the 2020-2021 year is $750 per credit.  Based on current tuition rates, the estimated total cost of your Edgewood College degree would be $22,500.  Please note that costs are expected to rise by approximately 3.5% per year.

Financing your Edgewood College Degree

We have worked with thousands of students who have questioned how they could afford to complete their graduate education.  Our dedicated counselors will work with you to find creative solutions including tuition reimbursement plans, third party billing options, monthly payment plans, and help you navigate the federal financial aid process.  Whatever your situation, we will work with you to support your future.

For more information, please contact Edgewood Central at or call us at (608) 663-4300.

Admission Requirements

We encourage students to submit their application and admissions materials by the priority deadline.  However, we will continue to accept applications on a continuous until the start of the semester.  Applications considered complete after the priority deadline can be considered for admission for the next session.

Priority deadline for Fall 2021:  August 1, 2021

To be considered for admission, applicants must provide the following:

  1. Completed graduate application. This application is for students who want to pursue a Master’s degree, certificate, or take courses as a non-degree seeking student. The graduate application fee is waived for graduates of Edgewood College and for veterans.
  2. Official transcripts reflecting completion of a baccalaureate or more advanced degree from a United States regionally accredited or equivalent post-secondary institution
  3. One letter of recommendation from college or university professors, supervisors, and/or professional colleagues who can speak to your potential for success.  Please review our Letter of Recommendation Guidelines
  4. written statement explaining what you hope to gain from your participation in the program, what you bring to the program, and how specific background experiences will aid in your success as a student.
Transfer Credits
You may submit up to 10 semester hours of graduate credit for consideration of transfer to Edgewood College for application to a degree program. Approval of the respective department is required. To be considered for application to a degree program, a course must have been taken within the past five years. For more information about transfer credits, please contact your admissions counselor.

Community Fellowship Application Requirements
Requirements include: Program Application, Admission Interview, and Essay (see PDF linked below for essay instructions).

Working professionals with significant experience in a particular area of social innovation and sustainability can apply for a Community Fellowship. This mutually enriching arrangement lets the Fellow share expertise with other program participants while receiving the framework and support to complete a significant social innovation and sustainability project.

Community Fellows receive a certificate of completion for participating in the program but do not earn graduate credit since they audit the courses at a reduced program cost.

In compliance with federal regulation, Edgewood College must disclose certain data regarding non- degree academic certificate programs, including program cost, time required to complete the certificate program, and certain employment information for those completing the program.
  • Tuition and Financial Aid (found above)
  • Schedule and Course Information (found above)
  • Right To Know

Students and Alumni


Program participants represent a wide variety of fields: social entrepreneurship non-profit, government, small business corporate management; economic development, planning and design; education; public health; and energy and utilities. Students enter the program at various stages of their careers. Some students have recently completed their undergraduate degrees and are looking for the skills, connections and project-based learning that will propel them into their careers. Others are already in their chosen careers, and are looking for the knowledge and skills to enhance the work they are doing by launching or furthering the social innovation and/or sustainability efforts of their current organization.

2019-20 Cohort 


AllisonMartinson BeatrizAguilar

Anneka BarrowAllison MartinsonBeatriz Aguilar

CarolynBetz CynthiaMuakaEvanStone

Carolyn BetzCynthia MuakaEvan Stone

GraceReutten HewanSchadePeterBeeson 

Grace ReuttenHewan SchadePeter Beeson


Sarah StoehrSujata Gautam


Our alumni are making a difference in the many complex social-emotional intelligence challenges facing our world today including equity, climate change, violence prevention, education, energy policy, green building, community development, equity, land use and water quality, biodiversity protection, food security and public health. They work for a wide range of organizations including: American Family Insurance, Boys & Girls Club, Community Groundworks, Environmental Leadership Program, GDS Associates Engineers & Consultants, Group Health Cooperative, Lincoln Elementary School, Madison Gas & Electric, Sustain Dane, Trek Bicycle Corporation, UW Health, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation.



Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership in Health Care

Michael Weber, '18

Michael Weber is the Executive Director of Sales, Client and Health Promotion Services Division for Dean Health Plan and Prevea360 Health Plan, one of the largest, most diversified managed care organizations in Wisconsin. As part of Dean's Executive team, Michael leads the Sales, Client and Health Promotion teams representing fully insured and self-funded health insurance products to large, midsize, and small employers, as well as to individuals on and off the Federally Facilitated Marketplace exchange. In addition, Michael oversees the Medicare sales team at Dean and the Health Promotion staff. He is a member of the MA Program class of 2018. In this video feature, learn how Mike's project, Gone for Good, an organized effort to rid our waterways of prescription drugs, has grown and evolved. He also speaks to the leadership qualities he has been able to bring to Gone for Good as a result of his participation in the SISL Master's Program.

Annette Miller, '17

Annette Miller is the CEO and founder of EQT By Design, LLC. Her passion is ensuring inclusion, and engagement is front and center in her work. She has 25+ years of strong professional policy and analytic skills, a wide network of community, government and business relationships, and extensive networks within Madison and Dane County’s diverse populations. Annette works as a strong connector between community, business, government and nonprofits. This results in developing and implementing ideas and strategies that are inclusive, resilient and evolve into a strong community backbone. Annette graduated with her Master’s degree in 2017.

Alex Law

Alex works for the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC) as a Program Manager for Energy Finance Solutions (EFS). In this role he manages existing energy efficiency and renewable energy loan programs throughout the United States, supervises two teams of loan specialists, coordinators and administrators, and consults new clients to guide the setup and implementation of new loan programs. EFS’ clients are state government agencies or large utilities interested in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy by making financing available to consumers or businesses. Some of EFS’ programs provide incentives for low income customers, and some programs also offer non-traditional loan underwriting criteria, such as looking at the utility bill history instead of credit scores or debt-to-income ratios

When Alex decided to pursue a graduate degree he wanted to combine his background in business and banking with his passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. Getting an MBA from UW-Madison at the same time as the masters in the SISL program provided him with this perfect merger of focus areas, and was key in getting into his current position and field, which needs unique and creative approaches to solving some of the most pressing issues of our times.

Program Initiatives

Students in the Social Innovation & Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program become part of a network of professional colleagues. The program’s project-based approach and integration of regional sustainability experts into the classes, either as guest instructors or through class field trips, builds breadth of knowledge, as well as social capital. Students have the opportunity to connect with many of our partners while in the program, and we can facilitate further connections based on student interest. Visit some of our partner organizations’ web sites:

  • Miller-web
    The Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership program gave me the confidence to think of myself as a leader and discover how I could empower myself and others to make an impact on issues involving equity and inclusion. I couldn't be more appreciative of the curriculum. The instructors, readings, guest speakers, and field trips gave us a perspective and access to knowledge that we wouldn't have necessarily found on our own.
    Annette Miller, Social Entrepreneur