Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) in Global Sustainability

Sustainability requires innovation and leadership on the part of public and private partners working together to solve complex problems at multiple scales.

Executive Master of Natural Resources students broaden and deepen their understanding of critical global sustainability topics through readings, presentations by subject matter experts, the engagement of dozens of core and guest faculty members, and the examination of both domestic and international case studies. All aspects of the program—including coursework, the Global Study, and capstone directed-study projects—are designed to bring about institutional and policy change, as well as personal and cultural transformation.


The XMNR degree is a cohort-based educational experience. This means that while students are enrolled in specific individual courses, the classroom experience is an exploration of a wide variety of sustainability topics, with a focus on systems thinking and leadership development.

Climate change has the potential to disrupt human civilization, reduce economic growth, harm human health, and degrade environmental functions. Students examine the causes, consequences, and responses to climate change, and consider the benefits and drawbacks of various approaches and strategies for adaptation and resilience.

Pulling a billion people out of energy poverty and meeting the needs of a growing middle class may require several doublings of energy demand. Students compare energy systems’ returns on investment and social/environmental impact and consider the relationship of energy to social, economic, water, and climate systems.

Meeting the demand of a more prosperous and populous humanity may require a doubling of food supply, yet current agricultural practices are the leading cause of water stress, biodiversity loss, carbon emissions, and other sustainability challenges. Students explore how we can meet future food demand, with a focus on our agricultural systems and their relationship to climate, water, and ecological systems and biodiversity. Food waste, farming production intensity (local, organic, industrial), technology, and diets are also examined.

Abundant but finite, water is critical to human health, food, energy, and economic production. Students learn how to prioritize managing our water systems, and consider factors that affect the supply and demand for water in agriculture/food, energy, public health, economic development, and industry.

Students review major sustainable development frameworks, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We examine market and governance transformations that support sustainable development and we address issues of equity and justice through cases, assignments, panel discussions, and international field work. For example, we study a domestic case of green infrastructure that contributes to workforce development and employment of minority-owned businesses to address urban stormwater challenges. In the final semester, we shift our focus to global issues and look at poverty alleviation in more detail, specifically regarding urban informal settlements, as part of the international residency Global Study experience.

Rapid urbanization means that, between now and 2050, 1 million people per week will be moving or born into cities. Students examine how to accommodate this new population while ensuring sustainable development in a manner that fuels economic growth, pulls people out of poverty, increases human rights, lowers per-person environmental impacts, fuels innovation, and supports good governance.

Students explore how to supply the material needs of a more prosperous and populous humanity by transitioning to a circular economy. Supply chains, markets, production-consumption, technological design and development, consumer behavior, service-dominated corporate behavior, economic opportunity, regulation, and corporate risk reduction are considered.

Human development has an adverse effect on biodiversity, but future development could lessen the pressure. Students examine strategies for reducing poverty, meeting the global demand for food, accommodating urban development, and countering the impact of climate change on biodiversity.

In January of each year, a fresh cohort of students begins a process of peer-to-peer experiential learning and collaborative problem-solving. By focusing on the needs of their own organizations and the needs of others, students gain a deep understanding of the opportunities to address a broad range of sustainability challenges in local communities and throughout global society. During the program, students work individually and in interdisciplinary teams to develop strategies for real-world challenges.
Major elements of the XMNR program include:

  • Orientation session
  • Series of core subjects of study
  • Modules and case projects
  • Peer-to-peer learning and mentoring
  • Skill-development seminars
  • Global Study (an international trip)
  • Capstone directed-study projects


All aspects of the curriculum emphasize the development of advanced leadership, management, and administrative skills for achieving local, regional, and global sustainability goals. Students graduate with competencies in leading people, leading change, business, and political acumen, and demonstrated results for their respective employer.

The program emphasizes a broad range of leadership skills and executive core qualifications identified by public and private sector employers, including:

  • Interpersonal and organizational communication
  • Financial, information and technology management
  • Program evaluation and policy-making
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Partnerships, team building, and conflict resolution
  • Entrepreneurship, innovation, and resilience

First Half
The first half of the XMNR curriculum focuses on specific cases and instances of environmental management and sustainable development primarily in the United States. Together, we will:

  • Review multiple cases and meet many stakeholders, at times working with them on specific projects.
  • Explore multiple systems to help develop your systems thinking skills, focusing specifically on water, climate, energy, urbanization, and food and agriculture systems.
  • Examine how these and related systems manifest in different contexts and specific places, including the Washington, D.C. metro region and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
  • We will look closely at how stakeholder strategies influence system outcomes, including corporate sustainability, smart growth, cross-sector partnering, collective impact, advocacy coalitions, boundary-spanning leadership, and social innovation processes among others.

Second Half

In the second half of the program, our focus shifts from North America to other regions of the world. Some of the frameworks and concepts introduced in the first half of the program will be revisited and applied in other geographic and political contexts. You will complete Global Study projects in one or more of the Center’s focus countries, e.g., Egypt, Morocco, Iceland, India, South Africa, Croatia, Cuba, China. Also, you will complete one or more directed study projects as part of the Individual Development Process (IDP).

  • Accelerated 12-month, 3-semester format, January to December each calendar year
  • Class meets one weekend/month (Saturday/Sunday) in the Washington, D.C. metro area
  • Individual and team coursework is completed virtually between class sessions
  • A 10-day Global Study in a developing country
  • Students partner with a faculty advisor to advance an independent study project
  • Professional career coaching included with tuition
  • Focus on global sustainability topics and leadership development
  • Access to the expertise of core faculty and dozens of guest lecturers and speakers
  • Networking with sustainability professionals from around the world

Requirements for admission include:

  • Undergraduate degree (minimum GPA of 3.0*)
  • Virginia Tech Application for Admission
  • $75 non-refundable application fee
  • Prior professional experience
  • Current resume/CV
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Official copies of relevant academic transcripts

No GRE required; TOEFL may be required for international students per Graduate School requirements.

*Talk to an advisor if your undergraduate GPA is below 3.0.

Application Deadlines

Admissions are processed on a rolling basis. The application process takes approximately two to three weeks. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible, as annual cohorts have only a limited number of students and tend to fill up quickly.


$1,000 for qualified applications submitted by August 1

Total program cost is $48,000 for all students, including a $2,000 non-refundable deposit to confirm a place in the cohort.

Program costs include:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Books, supplies, course materials
  • A tablet pre-loaded with tools to facilitate individual and team learning
  • Lodging during weekend class meetings
  • Nutritious catered meals during class weekends (including vegetarian options)
  • Parking during class weekend meetings
  • Global Study (round-trip airfare, lodging, meals, and activities)

Financial Aid

Most students opt for the Federal Stafford Loans to cover costs of attending the program. Merit and diversity scholarships are periodically available on a case-by-case basis. Contact Emily Talley, our academic advisor, to discuss further.

Employer Support

We encourage our applicants to involve their management and Human Resources decision-makers early on in the application process. This allows employers to understand an applicant’s motivation for pursuing the XMNR degree and appreciate the benefits of having their employees participate in the program.

Jerry Abrams
Senior Fellow
Seth Brown
Eric Eckl
Selma Elouradighi
International Fellow
Kieth Goyden
Fellow and Global Faculty
Bruce Hull
Senior Fellow; Faculty
Michael Mortimer
Senior Fellow, Founding Director, Faculty
Patty Raun
Fellow; Faculty
David Robertson
Senior Fellow, XMNR Director, CLiGS Associate Director
Marc Stearn
Fellow, Faculty
Emily Talley
Senior Fellow; Faculty
Paul Wagner
Fellow, Faculty
Holly Wise
Senior Fellow, Faculty