ANNOUNCEMENT: Admissions for the Graduate Certificate in Integral Ecologies has been paused for Spring and Fall 2022

Our graduate-level academic certificate in Integral Ecology is open to students who have not matriculated to our program, including advanced undergraduates. The certificate is awarded after successful completion of 12 units of approved Integral Ecology coursework.

The certificate addresses the ecological crisis in a way that integrates nature and culture, facts and values, science and spirituality. The curriculum supports scholar-activists committed to eco-social justice and the ideal of a flourishing Earth community. Integral Ecology certificate students will learn to apply new ideas and skills to catalyze personal, cultural, and institutional transformation. Students are invited to explore a unique facet of the broader program vision, set within the deeper context of the evolution of consciousness.

Certificate students will be enrolled in our regular graduate courses, which are attended by matriculated master's-level students and taught by our world renowned faculty. Certificate students can enroll in online or on-campus courses.

Up to 12 units earned in certificate classes are transferrable to our MA.

Certificate Curriculum (12 units)

1. Foundations (choose 3-6 units)

  • Philosophy and Ecology: Toward a Green Metaphysics, Phenomenology, and Epistemology
  • Integral Ecologies
  • Toward an Integral Ecological Consciousness

2. Practicum (3 units, optional)

  • Touch the Earth

3. Applications (choose 3-9 units)

  • Cosmological Powers
  • Merleau-Ponty: The Body and the Earth
  • Next of Kin: Perspectives on Animal Ethics and Biodiversity 
  • Plants and People: Understanding the Plant World Through Relationships
  • Mind and Nature in German Idealism
  • Judaism and Ecology: Visions, Voices, and Practices
  • Spirit and Nature
  • The Great Turning 
  • Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s)
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Christianity and Ecology 
  • Buddhism and Ecology 
  • Earth Law: Toward a Flourishing Earth Community
  • Earth Law in Praxis
  • Integral Gaia
  • Ecologies of Liberation
  • Integral Permaculture
  • The Earth Journey
  • Nature and Eros

Course Descriptions

Some of our courses are described below. For further descriptions, please visit the CIIS academic catalog.

Touch the Earth. Through practical engagement with the larger San Francisco Bay Area socio-ecological community, students apply theoretical tools developed during coursework and gain experience in the practice of integral ecology. Students receive guidance in selecting a practicum site that suits their unique gifts and interests, and spend most of the semester engaged with projects at the practicum site. Monthly seminar meetings offer an opportunity to analyze experience in the context of literature on leadership, social change, service learning, activism, compassion, ecological restoration, and resilience. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).


Cosmological Powers. The universe uses a variety of processes, laws, and powers that are identified within modern scientific discourse as electromagnetic interaction, the second law of thermodynamics, and gravity. These fundamental and ultimately mysterious activities of the universe have given rise to all the complex beings throughout 14 billion years of evolution. The human being, from this perspective, is a new, holistic blending of these processes and powers. This course examines the way in which humanity can be understood as a "hominized" form of cosmological processes. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).


Merleau-Ponty: The Body and the Earth. In this course, we will read several texts from Merleau-Ponty and his heirs, focusing on how Merleau-Ponty's work builds a strong matrix for understanding how our very souls are intertwined with the earth, the foundation for a more passionate environmental sensibility. We will engage in various experiential exercises, inspired by clues from Merleau-Ponty, designed to extricate us from residues of the dualistic thinking that infects so many of us, making it difficult for us to feel fully at Prof. Don Johnson (3 units).


Plants and People: Understanding the Plant World through Relationships. Through this course, students will learn about the plant world from an interdisciplinary, relationship-based perspective. Doorways into relationship include gardening, farming, conservation, and restoration; philosophies rooted in indigenous wisdom, bioregionalism, deep ecology, and Gaia; and celebrations of these relationships found in imaginal practices, earth-based rituals, and direct communion/meditation with the plant world. The above relationships and philosophies form a rich tapestry of experience from which we will draw inspiration and tools for connecting to ourselves and the Earth. Explored concepts will find embodied expression as students cultivate their own unique relationship with the plant world and express that relationship through direct engagement and creative expression. Prof. Kathren Murrell Stevenson (3 units).


Spirit and Nature. This course explores the application to nature of an anthroposophical worldview and practice. It is situated within the broadly Romantic tradition and esoteric research advanced by Goethe and Emerson in the 19th century and by Rudolf Steiner and his followers in the 20th century. It includes a study of the Aristotle-Aquinas-Steiner tradition, Steiner's spiritual ecology, Pagacnik's esoteric Gaia research, Zoeteman's Gaiasophy, and Steiner's directions for biodynamic farming. The course will include a visit to one or more biodynamic farms, and one or more guest classes taught by biodynamic gardeners or farmers. Profs. Robert McDermott and Sean Kelly (3 units).


The Great Turning. Inspired by the philosopher-activist Joanna Macy's "work that reconnects," this intensive is devoted to facilitating the Great Turning-that is, the shift toward a life-sustaining society and a culture in harmony with the long-term interests of the wider Earth community. Through experiential exercises, lectures, and dialogue, students gain insight into such topics as deep time, ecological guardianship, and the systems view of life. Profs. Joanna Macy and Sean Kelly (2 units).


Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s). A critical examination of the social construction of scientific and ecological knowledge, through frameworks from science, technology, and society (STS) studies, reveals Western scientific knowledge as a contingent cultural phenomenon, vulnerable to critique from alternative epistemologies. This course compares the dominant forms of scientific knowledge about the natural world with countervailing epistemological understandings, such as situated knowledge, indigenous knowledge, citizen science, and traditional ecological knowledge, examining the ways that the social construction of knowledge shapes our understanding of the natural world. Applying feminist and non-Western epistemologies to environmental issues, it will seek to generate alternative ways of understanding ecological crises, which may in turn generate healing alternatives. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).


Environmental Ethics. This course surveys ethical approaches to the natural environment, with particular focus on the American context. It will trace the ways in which the natural environment has been theorized over time and the ethical approaches that derive from various views of the natural environment. The goal of the course is for students to construct, articulate, and defend a theoretically rigorous environmental ethics. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).


Christianity and Ecology. What is the relationship between Christianity and ecology? How have various aspects of Christian thought and theology contributed to the present ecological crisis? In what ways might Christian thought and practice help to heal our present crisis? By focusing both on the scriptural, theological, and spiritual background as well as on recent articles and monographs, this course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the way that Christians respond to the current concern over the human relationship to the creation in order to come to a fuller understanding of some of the spiritual, philosophical, social, and economic forces that have shaped this relationship and to imagine how Christian wisdom might contribute to answering many of the pressing ecological concerns of our time. Prof. Jacob Sherman (3 units).


Buddhism and Ecology. In this course, we will examine Buddhist perspectives on nature along with Buddhist responses to Asian and global environmental issues. We begin with historical texts that frame the Buddhist perspective on nature. We examine Buddhist foundations for ecological thought, the role of Buddhism in the development of the American environmental movement, and challenges in reconciling Buddhist positions with modern science. Works by Buddhist leaders and scholars, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sulak Sivaraksa, Joanna Macy, and poet Gary Snyder, illuminate the role of modern Buddhism in environmental discourse. Prof. Elizabeth Allison (3 units).


Integral Gaia: Ecology for the Planetary Era. Though we are now in the sixth century of the planetary era, it is only in our own times that a wider consciousness of the fact has begun to emerge. Global climate change, a looming mass extinction of species, widespread habitat loss, and increasing pressures of global economic and political interdependence are all forcing us as never before to "think [and sense, feel, and imagine] globally." Standard Gaia theory and established schools of ecology are the most important attempts to think globally from the perspective of contemporary science. The unparalleled character of our historical moment, however, also calls for more integral approaches to ecology and to Gaia. Prof. Sean Kelly (3 units).


The Earth Journey. The major contribution of modern science for the emergence of a planetary civilization is the detailed articulation of the evolutionary sequence beginning with the cosmic flaring forth 13.7 billion years ago and continuing through the appearance of the stars and galaxies and all the adventures of our living planet. This new empirically based creation story is simultaneously a radical expansion of our knowledge base and a deconstruction of the very form of consciousness that gave birth to it. The dualistic, reductionist, univocal modern consciousness can now be understood as the scaffolding that enabled the construction of an integral awareness capable of feeling in the ordinary events of one's day the vast unfolding of the Earth Journey. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).


Nature and Eros. This course is an engagement in holistic education. During the industrial era, education was understood primarily as the transfer of knowledge and information from teacher to student. The widely assumed world view of the industrial era regarded nature as something out there, something inferior to the human, something that humans learned about in their classrooms. But in the new evolutionary cosmology, nature is understood as both our primary matrix and our primary teacher. Nature is the source of existence and is an ongoing wellspring of wisdom for what it means to be human. This six-day intensive retreat employs conceptual, emotional, experiential, and intuitive learning processes in order to embrace nature as the multidimensional matrix, not only of our bodies, minds, and souls, but of our civilization as well. Prof. Brian Swimme (3 units).

Certificate Policies

  • Certificate students are not eligible for federal financial aid. Federal financial aid is only available for our degree programs. 
  • Certificate courses are offered in both residential and online formats.
  • Certificate students are invited but not required to attend on-campus intensives alongside our online MA students.
  • Students can earn a maximum of one certificate in our program.
  • Students can take up to two years to complete the 12 units required for their certificate.
  • Certificate students must enroll in at least 1 unit every fall and spring semester. (Summer enrollment is optional.) Students who do not enroll in at least 1 unit in a given semester must apply for a leave of absence through the Registrar's office.
  • Students can decide to apply to our MA program at any point during their certificate. Up to 12 units earned while a student is in a certificate program are transferable to the MA degree.
  • Students applying to our online MA degree program after earning our certificate are required to participate in three on-campus intensives (two at the beginning of fall semesters, one at the end of the final spring semester). It is recommended that certificate students considering our online MA participate in at least one intensive while still a certificate student, thus facilitating their completion of the MA intensive requirements. 
  • Students in our MA program may also be awarded a certificate upon completion of the required coursework. 
  • Students in other MA programs at CIIS may also earn our certificate, so long as their degree program grants them enough elective units to complete the required certificate coursework. Certificate courses taken outside this elective allotment are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Stay Connected to CIIS