Graduate Certificate Program Sustainable Food Systems

bunches of carrots to be sold at a farmer's market

Sustainable Food Systems Graduate Certificate Overview

The Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems provides students with a multidimensional understanding of the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the food sector. Courses are offered in a range of academic areas related to food systems, including public administration, community health, urban and regional planning, business, and education, allowing students to tailor their course selection to align with their interests and career goals. The Public Administration Department collaborates with the following Units to offer this certificate: College of Urban and Public Affairs, College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Business, and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Degree Details


  • GC
    Graduate Certificate
    Flexible
    Total Credits
    18
    Start Term
    Any

Sustainable Food Systems Graduate Certificate: Why PSU?

Portland State's program draws on the diverse expertise and interests of faculty across the university, allowing it to offer a truly interdisciplinary program. Our location in Portland is also a major asset; as a national leader in innovative work on sustainable food systems, Portland provides unique opportunities for students to expand their knowledge and experience of food systems and respond to the growing demand in the region and around the world. The city offers access to a wide range of nonprofits, businesses, urban and rural farms, government agencies, and other established community partners. Our students have many options once they complete the program; some have pursued additional graduate education at PSU or at other institutions, while others have gained employment in non-profit organizations, government agencies, or the private sector.

What can I do with a graduate certificate in Sustainable Food Systems?

The movement for sustainable and just food systems has gained tremendous momentum in recent years and with it the demand for policymakers, community organizers, and industry professionals to think holistically about our society’s food systems.

The Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems at Portland State University offers students the opportunity to explore the complex issues and relationships between food, people, and society. The program draws on the expertise of faculty from departments across the University, providing an interdisciplinary understanding of the issues, perspectives, strategies, and solutions involved in creating sustainable food systems. It connects a range of academic areas related to food systems, including public administration, community health, urban and regional planning, business, and education.

The certificate program provides students with a foundation of knowledge and practical experience to help them confront the pressing challenges currently facing sustainable food systems. These challenges include environmental degradation, corporate consolidation, and social injustices. Students will learn about new responses to these issues, such as sustainable agriculture, re-development of indigenous food systems, community land trusts, worker co-ops, farm labor organizing movements, and opportunities to shape policy at local, state, and national levels.

As a national leader in innovative work on sustainable food systems, communities within Portland, Oregon, also provide unique opportunities for students to expand their knowledge and experience of food systems and respond to the growing demand in the region and around the world. The city offers access to a wide range of nonprofits, businesses, urban and rural farms, government agencies, and other established community partners.

The Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems is designed to serve two types of students:

  • Graduate students enrolled in a PSU graduate degree program seeking to add expertise in sustainable food systems to their course of study.
  • Professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree and seek to broaden their training, increase their knowledge of current issues in food systems, or enhance their employment prospects.

The certificate program is relevant for people aspiring to work in a variety of settings, including Farm-to-School programs, urban agriculture nonprofits, regional food systems development and advocacy, farming, local, regional, or state policy, producer and consumer cooperatives, and B-Corps.

Course of Study

The Food Systems certificate utilizes a “Certificate Outcomes” approach, an innovative curriculum model that maps courses against 6 learning outcomes for the program. The learning outcomes and the courses that meet each outcome are listed below and can also be found in the course planning guide. A total of six courses are required for the Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems, with a minimum of 18 total credits. Please note that course offerings are slightly different each year.

Outcome 1: Theoretical Frameworks/Ways of Knowing
Identify multiple frameworks and ways of knowing: Students will describe the complex and broad range of theories and perspectives, including non-Western epistemologies/traditions/ways of knowing, that exist in the sustainable food systems movement.

  • GEOG 549 Geography of Food
  • HST 592 Research in World History: World of Commodities
  • PHE 510 Stress, Food, & Health
  • PHE 522 Health and Social Inequalities

Outcome 2: Power and Privilege
Explain systems of power and privilege in food systems: Students will give examples of how power and privilege affect the contemporary food system.

  • ELP 548 Advanced Global Political Ecology
  • GEOG 549 Geography of Food
  • HST 592 Research in World History: World of Commodities
  • PHE 522 Health and Social Inequalities
  • SOC 579/679 Food, Justice, and Social Movements
  • USP 568 Oregon Land Use Law
  • USP 576 Feeding the City

Outcome 3: Community and/or Field-based Learning
Engage in learning in a community based setting: Students will demonstrate knowledge of food systems through a community or field-based experiential learning opportunity. This outcome can be achieved through a relevant course on our course list or through an individual internship (you may only count one internship towards the certificate).

  • ELP 510 Permaculture and Whole Systems Design
  • ELP 540 Urban Farm Education: Leveraging Policy and Research to Cultivate Garden-Based Education in Practice
  • ELP 506/PA 509/PHE 504/USP 504 Independent study or internship: Students must get faculty approval to register for an internship or other relevant course, to count the field experience toward the certificate.

Outcome 4: Interdisciplinary Linkages
Examine the interdisciplinary and cross-sector nature of contemporary food systems: Students will critically examine the interconnected social, political, economic, and ecological components that influence food systems.

  • ELP 540 Urban Farm Education: Leveraging Policy and Research to Cultivate Garden-Based Education in Practice
  • ELP 548 Advanced Global Political Ecology
  • ESM 527 Watershed Biogeochemistry
  • GEOG 549 Geography of Food
  • PA 574 Food and Agriculture Policy
  • PHE 510 Stress, Food, & Health
  • SYSC 513 Holistic Strategies for Problem Solving
  • USP 542 Land Use Implementation
  • USP 568 Oregon Land Use Law

Outcome 5: Strategies
Evaluate strategies to address food system challenges: Students will critically examine strategies to address food system challenges.

  • ELP 510 Permaculture and Whole Systems Design
  • ESM 527 Watershed Biogeochemistry
  • PA 574 Food and Agriculture Policy
  • PHE 527 Food Systems and Public Health
  • SOC 510 Food, Justice, and Social Movements
  • SYSC 513 Holistic Strategies for Problem Solving
  • USP 542 Land Use Implementation
  • USP 576 Feeding the City

Outcome 6: Elective
Students will select a relevant course for their own learning and professional goals, and to enable specialization. Can be another certificate class, an independent study, an individual internship (though note that you may only count one internship towards the certificate), or a course from the list below:

  • PA 525 Grantwriting for Nonprofit Organizations
  • PHE 517 Community Organizing

Admission Information

First, check the application deadline for the program. Next, review the PSU requirements for graduate admission.

Before applying to the program you must:

  • Possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 in the highest degree earned

If you are currently officially admitted to a master’s, doctorate, or graduate certificate program at PSU and are registered for classes, contact the Educational Leadership and Policy Department for assistance with completing and submitting a GO-19 form to add the certificate at elpdept@pdx.edu

If you are not currently admitted to any master’s, doctorate, or graduate certificate program, complete the following:

  • Create an account or sign into the Portland State University Admissions Application system. When prompted for the program, select "College of Education" as the College, and then "Sustainable Food Systems, Certificate" as your program of study. Be sure to indicate the term you intend to take a course as your admission term. You must take a course during the term in which you have requested to be admitted. Should you not take a course in that term, your application will be cancelled and you will need to reapply. If you would like to change the term of your admission once you have submitted the application, please contact elpadmit@pdx.edu for assistance with completing a change of term form.

Required application materials:

  • Personal statement: Describe why you are applying to PSU's Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems, including: (a) scholarly interest in the program; (b) how it will advance your academic, personal and / or professional goals; and (c) what you hope to gain from the program. Note: We recommend reviewing the certificate's learning outcomes and considering them in your response. (500 word limit, 12 point font, 1" margins)
  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts are accepted by the College of Education for the program application. You must submit transcripts for all institutions previously attended, regardless of whether you earned a degree or not. If admitted, you must send official transcripts to the Graduate School in order to register for your second term of classes.
  • Acceptable unofficial transcripts are:
  • Web-based transcripts downloaded from an institution: institution and student name must be visible on transcripts
  • Photocopies of official transcripts: these must include the front and back of all pages, including transcript key
    Previous applicants:
    If you’ve previously submitted official transcripts to PSU, you are still required to upload unofficial transcripts to complete your application.

After you are admitted, you must submit official transcripts to the PSU Office of Graduate Admissions:
Electronic official transcripts should be sent to graddocs@pdx.edu
Paper copies can be sent to:
The Graduate School
Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207 - 0751

If you have any questions about the application process, contact askcoe@pdx.edu

Accreditation

Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).