Urgent issues.
Critical approaches.

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Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies

Note: the Nature–Culture–Sustainability master’s program is currently paused. It will relaunch in fall 2025.

Students in RISD’s Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies master's program develop scholarly expertise in the rapidly evolving fields of interdisciplinary environmental studies. Working closely with faculty experts in the humanities and social sciences, they embark on self-directed pathways of research in focus areas such as Anthropocene studies, climate change cultures, environmental art and aesthetics, green urbanisms and sustainable design futures.

Graduates of the program will be poised to pursue advanced doctoral study in the humanities and social sciences. They will also be well positioned to make vital contributions in the realms of environmental advocacy, public policy, education, urban planning and more.

Cross-pollinating ideas

In probing the interconnections between the natural and built environments, NCSS students come to see nature and culture as inextricably bound together, and to recognize that environmental and ecological issues can best be understood through multifaceted critical lenses.

The program invites a close-knit community of students whose diverse knowledge of environmental issues opens up opportunities for inspiring dialogue, research and collaboration. Ongoing conversations with both faculty and fellow graduate students in the Global Arts and Cultures program encourage NCSS students to situate their research within multiple global and historical contexts. Valuable insight into leading-edge practices in environmental arts and sustainable design emerges through exposure to and interaction with students in RISD’s 19 graduate programs.

The curriculum culminates in the creation of a unique, written master’s thesis. Working under the supervision of liberal arts faculty with expertise in a variety of disciplines, students pursue rigorous interdisciplinary research about a topic of their choosing related to their studies.

In generating radical new forms of intellectual idea sharing, students demonstrate the value of advanced research across disciplines to address complex problems.

Liberal Arts at RISD

RISD stands out among art schools for its emphasis on the importance of studies in the Liberal Arts. Comprised of four academic departments, the Liberal Arts division provides students with a strong foundation in the humanities and social sciences.

Faculty are recognized experts in their fields who challenge disciplinary assumptions and constantly discover new ways to innovate in both research and teaching. They come from around the world and frequently collaborate with studio artists and designers as well as with their colleagues teaching in a wide range of humanities and social science disciplines. In the classroom they encourage students to take risks, experiment with intellectual hybridity and produce work infused with meaning and relevance.