How Cal State Long Beach is preparing sustainability professionals

Published October 2, 2023


MSSMP Cohort

 MSSMP 2023 Graduates (from left): Nicole Macatrao, Hailey Wesling, Serena Palmer, Marie Anne Villanueva, Mary Niehaus, Lisa Camille Anderson, Tara Huhn, & Isabel Reveles

Cal State Long Beach is serious about making an impact in the field of sustainability. 

So serious that when campus leaders discovered their inability to find skilled professionals who could teach sustainability courses, they knew what was needed: create a program to produce the caliber of professionals the market needed. 

Today, The Beach is proud to introduce its very first graduates of its Master of Science in Sustainability Management and Policy Program (MSSMP) through a collaboration with the College of Professional and Continuing Education (CPaCE), the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Business.  

“This program was the first sustainability-focused program in the California State University system," said Monica Argandoña, coordinator of the MSSMP program. “There were no other programs available in Southern California either.”  

In fact, CSULB is one of only two campuses in the CSU system to offer a graduate degree in sustainability, according to Jennifer Sanchez Biedermann, campus sustainability manager at the CSU.  

With a growing demand for sustainability professionals, “this program has the ability to fill a niche that has a growing job market,” Argandoña added.  

Here’s a look at three of the participants of the first cohort and the impact they are having on the community:

Nicole Macatrao: Building Strong Bonds in Education


Macatrao, who currently works as an environmental scientist with CalRecycle, said having a cohort allowed her to succeed despite the difficulties of the demanding schoolwork. She found the close connections she made within the program to be most valuable and supportive of her personal and professional growth. Although there were some growing pains involved with being a part of the first cohort, Macatrao feels that the program has a promising future, stating, “I have a lot of hope for the program. I think it fills a very particular niche and its emphasis on catering to working professionals makes it truly unique.”   

Macatrao can now take what she has learned in the program into her work at CalRecycle, where she is making an impact by supporting the implementation of SB 1383, a state law mandating the expansion of organic waste diversion.

Nicole M

Lisa Anderson: Rooted Dreams 

Anderson, who has a background in science, had not originally considered sustainability as a career field but decided to pursue the MSSMP degree with the intention of creating a positive change.  

During the pandemic, she thought about what she wanted to do in her future and realized her underlying driving passion was rooted in the desire to be of service and to leave the world a better place than she found it.  

She was able to explore the diverse ways in which sustainability could be incorporated into a career after being mentored by Alben Phun and Holli Fajack, two of the professional advisory board members.  Anderson is committed to helping future students in the program succeed and suggests that “cohort alumni return to share their experiences with new cohorts, helping them understand how they can secure jobs and use their program degree effectively.” 

Lisa A

Serena Palmer: Major Opportunities 

Palmer was inspired to join the MSSMP program to help solve the urgent global climate change crisis. 

During her time in the program, she was able to achieve first-place awards for projects submitted in the Green Generation Showcase at CSULB. She also gained a valuable internship opportunity with the Better World Group (BWG), an organization that helps advocate for progressive environmental policies in California. Her internship with BWG resulted in a job offer and she now works with them as a full-time research Analyst and Associate. 
For Palmer, one of the most valuable components of the program was its professional advisory board, which is composed of individuals working in sustainability-related positions in various sectors.  

Through mentorships with board members, Palmer was able to learn about sustainable procurement and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), two areas of focus in her final capstone project. 

 Palmer is proud to be part of the first cohort and has great expectations for future program graduates. “There’s work to be done,” says Palmer, “and we need bright and resilient young minds at the center.”  

Serena p