Humans need an ecological understanding of their place in the natural environment to promote personal health and well-being, environmental awareness, sense of belonging in a community, sustainability, resilience and advocacy. If creating connections among humans, animals and the environment interests you, then consider a master of social work (MSW) degree with a concentration in Sustainable Development & Global Practice.

Coursework and specialized field education will prepare you for a career in environmental social work or international social work, where you’ll deal with such social and environmental justice issues as access to food, water and housing, and human and environmental consequences of conflict. You’ll develop your skills in assessment, community engagement, education, health promotion, mobilization, organizing, poverty reduction, environmental preservation and capacity building. You will learn about local and global policies and laws relevant to humane treatment of humans and animals, human security, sustainable development strategies in countries emerging from conflict, conservation of nature, biodiversity and sustainability, and land and water use.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GSSW now offers additional start dates and program tracks for the Two-Year and Advanced-Standing Denver Campus MSW Programs. Learn More and Apply Now.  

Two people working together

Your Career Options

With an MSW concentration in Sustainable Development & Global Practice, your social work career could include:

  • Applying the concepts of One Health in settings that address the relationships among humans, other animals and the natural environment
  • Working with nongovernmental organizations and local, regional and national governments on sustainable development projects such as food scarcity, food security and food justice
  • Working on projects connected to economic development locally, nationally and internationally
  • Working on issues connected to refugees both domestically and internationally
  • Developing policy related to One Health in organizations such as the Red Cross and refugee resettlement programs

“Faculty at GSSW were willing to go the extra mile for those who took their graduate education seriously, whether that was making a professional connection, asking you to make a meaningful contribution in a publication, or taking a few minutes to talk about life after school.” 

Gehrig Haberstock, MSW ’16, Disaster Program Specialist, American Red Cross Read More

Learn more about the Sustainable Development & Global Practice curriculum.


Explore some of our field education locations with a focus on Sustainable Development & Global Practice:

  • Denver Rescue Mission

    The Denver Rescue Mission helps people who are experiencing homelessness and addiction. Its primary goal is to see these lives transformed through personal accountability, education, spiritual development and community relationships. Interns work with single adults and families who are staying in the Denver Rescue Mission’s transitional housing program, The Crossing. Primary duties include case management, follow-up, resource information and referrals, and goal setting.

  • EarthLinks

    EarthLinks cultivates transformation and self-worth with people experiencing homelessness and poverty by creating opportunities through Earth-centered programs. Individuals step out of isolation and into community, restoring each other and the planet. Interns learn how to set professional boundaries and communicate with diverse populations while experiencing conservation social work and One Health — uniting the health of the planet with the health of humans.

  • Re:Vision

    Re:Vision is a community-based nonprofit working in southwest Denver neighborhoods. Re:Vision’s purpose is to cultivate thriving, resilient communities by establishing community food systems, building collective efficacy and igniting community wealth building. Interns help families improve their access to fresh food by growing fresh fruits and vegetables in their backyard. Through this program a community is formed as individuals share in the process of establishing a garden and celebrating their harvest.

  • Children’s Future

    Children’s Future fosters a generation of educated, self-reliant and compassionate role models for Cambodia by promoting children's rights and offering 21st century education and opportunities to the poorest children in rural Cambodia. The organization’s vision is a future where every Cambodian child is safe, healthy, educated and thriving. Interns support children’s rights, provide access to quality education and assist in community development in a post-genocide country.

  • Edge of Seven

    Edge of Seven generates capacity-building services, volunteer support, and awareness for projects that create access to education, health and economic opportunities for girls and women in the developing world, including Nepal, Kenya and Rwanda. Interns work with the executive director to refine strategies and plan for data collection, monitoring and evaluation in the program countries. Interns also create marketing-related efforts that promote the organization, the cause and the mission. Interns may travel to Nepal, Kenya or Rwanda as a part of the internship.

Key Faculty

Philip Tedeschi

Philip Tedeschi

Clinical Professor

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Sarah Bexell

Sarah Bexell

Clinical Associate Professor

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Rachel Forbes

Rachel Forbes

Associate Professor of the Practice of Social Work, Western Colorado MSW Program Director

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Ann Petrila

Ann T. Petrila

Professor of the Practice, Coordinator of Global Initiatives, Director of Global Practice Bosnia

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Daniel Brisson

Daniel S. Brisson


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Application Information

Upcoming Final Application Deadline: August 2021 Two-Year Denver Campus Program