LSE Course of Study

Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE)

Course of Study

LSE curriculum

The following are LSE foundational courses. These courses are generally offered on weekdays from 4:00-6:30pm.

  • ELP Professional Studies Core (16 credits)
  • LSE Foundational Courses (8 credits)
  • LSE Thematic Specialization (12 credits)
  • Electives (5 credits)
  • Culminating Experience: LSE Comprehensive Exam Course or Thesis (4 credits)

All LSE courses are offered in person, on campus, while ELP core courses can be taken a variety of formats including on campus, hybrid, and online. Most courses are offered in the evenings (4-6:30pm or 6:40-9:20pm) one night each week. Summer courses are offered both during the day and in the evening. Students typically take 2 courses during each quarter, selecting courses from the professional core, the LSE foundational courses, the LSE thematic specialization and electives. A master’s degree is typically completed within a period of two years, but some students choose to take more time to complete the degree.

Community-based learning

Most ELP courses carry with them a requirement for 30 credit hours of community-based learning. Specific requirements for community-based learning are set by the instructor. Community-based learning can be carried out in a variety of organizations and educational settings across the metropolitan region. LSE students with an interest in school and community gardens often volunteer or intern at the Learning Gardens Laboratory, assisting with classes for middle school students or with other projects. Other students volunteer in educational organizations or for nonprofit organizations. Students are advised to create a plan for their CBL hours that creates a variety of meaningful experiences that supports their future career goals.

LSE program of study

ELP Professional Studies Core: (16 credits)

Students may complete the professional studies core at any point in their program.

ELP 511 Principles of Educational Research and Data Analysis I (4 credits)
ELP 520 Developmental Perspectives on Adult Learning (4 credits)
ELP 551 Social Foundations of Education (4 credits) OR ELP 554 Philosophy of Education (4 credits)
ELP 568 Educational Organization and Administration (4 credits)

LSE Foundational Courses (8 credits)

The following are LSE foundational courses. Every LSE student should plan to take ELP 550 in their first term of study, and ELP 517 in their second term of study. These courses are offered on Tuesdays, 4:00-6:30pm.

ELP 550 Advanced Leadership for Sustainability (4 credits) Fall
ELP 517 Ecological & Cultural Foundations of Learning (4 credits) Winter

LSE Thematic Specialization (12 credits)

Students each develop a unique plan of study with their adviser to include three additional courses from the LSE program offerings.

ELP 510 Permaculture and Whole Systems Design: Principles and Practices for Sustainable Systems (4)
ELP 548 Global Political Ecology (4)
ELP 540 Urban Farm Education (4)
ELP 524 Spiritual Leadership for Sustainable Change (4)
ELP 508 Sense of Place: Cultivating relatedness through Forest Therapy (1)
ELP 519 Sustainability Education (4)
ELP 510 Conflict Resolution, Communication, and Nonviolence (4)
ELP 510 Soil, Soul, Society: Learning regenerative practices for earth-care, self-care and people-care (4) study abroad/experiential

Electives (5 credits)

Elective credits should be related to the student’s overall program and selected in collaboration with their adviser. Students may choose to take ELP 506 Special projects or ELP 509 Internship as electives, to work on a project of choice. Students may also enroll in graduate-level courses from within the College of Education or other departments at Portland State University. LSE students frequently choose electives from Conflict Resolution, Community Development, Geography, Environmental Science and Management, Women Studies, Gender, Race and Nations, Public Health or Urban Studies and Planning.

Culminating Experience (4 credits) 

Candidates for the Master’s degree in LSE must select, in consultation with their adviser, one of the two culminating experiences: LSE Comprehensive Exam Course (Comps) or Thesis. The LSE Comprehensive Exam (Comps) is a course in which students develop a problem-based paper that focuses on one sustainability education issue, and demonstrates a satisfactory level of knowledge and skill related to LSE key learning areas. This course, ELP 506 LSE Comps, is taken as Pass/No Pass. Students should have completed a minimum of 35 credits, including the ELP Professional Core Studies, before enrolling in this course. The Comps course meets 4-6 times during the term to help guide students through the completion of their Comps paper. Students give a presentation of their paper at the end of the course.

The thesis option requires enrollment in ELP 503 for a minimum of 4 credits (but usually requires more). The thesis is likely to require 4-5 quarters of work before the completion of the program. Thesis also requires the appointment of a thesis committee of at least 3 faculty members chosen by the student, two of who must be from ELP. Students who are opting to write a thesis should plan to include a research course as part of their program of study.


Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better to remain in good academic standing. No more than four credits graded as “C” are allowed and must be approved for use towards a degree by your faculty advisor.
Subject to the approval of the instructor, students have a maximum of one year to remove an I (Incomplete) grade.

Any course graded M (Missing) can be changed to a letter grade within one term. If the M is not changed to a grade after one term, it will become an X (No Basis for Grade), which cannot be changed to a grade at a future time. It is the student’s responsibility to monitor their grades after each term and contact the instructor if there is an inconsistency.

A maximum of 6 credits of ELP 506: Special Projects/Self-Directed Learning and 6 credits of ELP 509: Internship/Practicum can be used toward the master’s degree. Additionally, a maximum of 6 credits of ELP 501, 505, and 506 combined can be used. A maximum of 3 credits in ELP 508 can be used.

Internships/practicum: local, regional or international

Students also have the option of pursing an internship or practicum. Such internships must match the student’s interest, the content of the LSE program, and the host institution’s mission and needs. Internships are arranged on an individual basis by the student and must be approved by the student’s adviser. For international internships, all rules, regulations, policies, and procedures set by the International Studies Office of PSU must be followed.

Graduate assistantships

Only a few graduate assistantships are available each year. Graduate assistants are required to complete 9 credits of course work each quarter for the entire academic year. The Office of Graduate Studies keeps a list of available assistantships on their website. For other financial assistance information, contact the financial aid office, 503-725-3461.

Credit limitations

Graduate assistantship-related practicum or research credits, designated as 501a or 509a, cannot be applied toward the master’s or doctoral degree.
A maximum of 6 credits of 810 can be used towards the master’s degree, however, an adviser must approve use of these credits in advance, and the courses must be taken for a letter grade. 808 credits cannot be used toward a graduate degree.

All coursework applied toward the master’s degree must be letter-graded, except ELP 506: Self-Directed Learning, ELP 506: Comprehensive Examination Project, ELP 509: Internship/Practicum, and ELP 503: Thesis. These courses are only offered P/NP.

Students must be enrolled for at least one credit during the term they complete their comprehensive examination or thesis.

LSE Course Descriptions

Community Based Learning

What is Community Based Learning?

Community Based Learning (CBL) is experiential learning that takes place beyond the classroom and traditional academic settings. CBL takes place through volunteering and internship placements, and compliments coursework and theoretical concepts, allowing you to apply your learning in a work setting. CBL is a venue for engaging your head, heart, and hands by developing relationships and networks in the community and working in the field of sustainability education. You can use your CBL requirement as an opportunity to build relationships with various organizations, to try something new, or to engage in a long term project with one group or organization.

How many CBL hours are required?

This will vary from course to course, but typically 30 hours per term are required.

What do I need to do or to know before getting started?

The following questions and reminders are useful to bear in mind as you begin.

  • What do you hope to get out of your CBL experience?
  • Does the work that the organization/program is doing fit with your academic interests, career goals and/or personal values? Are you excited and invigorated by the work they do?
  • What time commitment does the program expect from volunteers, (hours/week, one-time, short or long-term)? Is this commitment expectation one you can fulfill?
  • Is the organization/program conveniently located for you? If not, are you willing and/or able to travel to get there?
  • Does the program/organization operate during hours that are conducive to your schedule?

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Be kind to yourself — find a place to volunteer and start volunteering early in the term. Many students procrastinate on finding a place to do their CBL hours, or wait until the end of the term to cram them in. This can be stressful for you and for the organization where you are volunteering.
  • Keep a record of the hours you have spent volunteering and what you did. Some instructors will provide guidance and requirements for CBL record keeping, and some will not.
  • Trying to recall from memory what you have done and how long you did it can be stressful. Find a method of tracking that works for you and keep up with it.
  • Be reliable, considerate and timely. Remember, volunteering is a service that organizations come to rely upon. Additionally, you are representing Portland State University, the ELP Department and the LSE program. On a personal level, leaving an organization with a good impression can often lead to future employment or very valuable references and connections.
  • Talk with your instructors and volunteer supervisor if you need to.  Your CBL hours should be meaningful and educational. If you are experiencing difficulty with your CBL hours or experience, don’t be afraid to talk to your instructors, advisor, or the person supervising your volunteer time. You’ll feel better if you do, and things have a way of working out.

Graduate Certificates

Some LSE students choose to earn an additional graduate certificate while completing a master’s degree. Depending on your interests, a graduate certificate can deepen and enhance your knowledge, enriching your LSE education. If you are interested in completing a graduate certificate, work with your advisor to plan a program of study that incorporates the courses you will need. Some graduate certificates to consider include: