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Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership, Graduate Certificate

About the Graduate Certificate in food policy and sustainability leadership

To create the inclusive, diverse and resilient food systems of the future, we need bold and knowledgeable change agents to transform public policy.

The Graduate Certificate in food policy and sustainability leadership is built for rising stars from business, nonprofits, academia, and government, modeling the community necessary for food system transformation. The program operates with four primary goals for the next generation of food policy leaders.

  • Provide an in-depth understanding of present-day health, agriculture and environment policy and how it came to be
  • Deliver training on the strategic elements of a policy and agenda-setting campaign
  • Apply the new knowledge and skills to real-world policy problems
  • Gain access to a prominent and influential network of food and agriculture policy leaders and mentors

Equipped with sophisticated knowledge of how to advance food and agriculture policy in the public interest, program graduates will pioneer innovative solutions on which the health of our families and the planet depend.

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Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the Certificate, students will demonstrate a panoramic, interconnected understanding of food systems, including:

  • U.S. federal and state policymaking processes, including legislative, rulemaking, budgetary, and legal processes
  • History and operational knowledge of food-related government agencies and global institutions
  • How U.S. federal and state agencies and global institutions affect food systems
  • The interconnected social, political, economic and ecological factors that influence food systems
  • Integration of sustainability, policy and science issues, and major food and agricultural actors
  • Strategies to achieve food system policy transformation.

Application process

Applicants for the graduate certificate in Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership must meet ASU Graduate College Requirements. Students may enroll in the certificate along with another graduate degree program at ASU or may pursue the certificate by itself, as a non-degree seeking graduate student. Potential students are highly encouraged to make an appointment to discuss the program before applying.

To begin, apply directly to the ASU Graduate Application.

  • Admission to: Fall semester only
  • Complete application deadline: August 1st of the enrollment year
  • GPA requirement: 3.00 on a 4.00 scale (or equivalent)
  • Application includes: Educational history, resume/CV, transcripts, and 2 letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement: In no more than 600 words, please present a food policy issue of interest to you and explain why it is important to engage in policy related to this issue
  • Professional experience: 2 years of experience in food and agriculture is preferred


This 15-credit graduate certificate is comprised of six required classes over three semesters. Three courses offered online allow students to work on their own, supported by weekly discussion boards and class calls with a professor. Two immersion classes, each lasting one week, require students to join together in person and engage in various learning experiences lead by a professor. A final capstone project offered online allows students to apply their learning to real world food policy issues.

This certificate is well suited for working professionals, provided they are able to: (1) commit 10-12 hours per week to coursework; and (2) attend two weeklong on-site trainings, (fall week in Arizona; spring week in Washington DC).

Requirements and ElectivesHours
Online Core Courses8
In-Person Immersion Experiences4
Online Capstone Course3
Total Credit Hours Required15
Fall TermSFS 562
Managing Natural Resources for Food Production
(3 credits)
SFS 561
Food and Farm Immersion
(2 credits)
5 credits
Spring TermSFS 560
Tools and Tactics for Food Policy Change
(3 credits)
SFS 563
Applied Food Policy Immersion Experience
(2 credits)
5 credits
Summer TermSFS 564
American Ag in the Global Context
(2 credits)
SFS 565
Organizational Research
(3 credits)
5 credits

Online Courses

SFS 560 – Tools and Tactics for Food Policy Change (3)

This course gives students the concrete skills they need to analyze, understand and effectively engage in the policymaking process. It is a critical foundation course from those new to policy to seasoned veterans. Policy practitioner faculty will present competing theories, models, and analytical frameworks for policymaking and lead students in a discussion of how public problems are framed and described, the criteria useful in developing and evaluating policy choices, and how outcomes are mediated and influenced by individuals, organizations, and political institutions. We will use case studies to underscore lessons learned, with each class focusing on a timely food policy issue such as farm bill deliberations, executive branch budget woes, food labeling, or school lunch reforms. Students will leave the class with the skills necessary to strategically engage with both the content of policy and the policymaking process itself.

SFS 562 – Managing Natural Resources for Food Production (3)

This course provides an overview of issues critical to healthy agricultural, food and environmental systems and examines various policy approaches for implementing them. Producing food comes with many challenges from first selecting seeds and breeds all along the production chain. What is the state of the science to support alternative production schemes? What are the policy incentives and disincentives that determine whether people choose sustainable agriculture practices? In this course we examine such choices as they relate to crop breeding, nutrient management, plant-pest interactions, and livestock production. Students will gain basic scientific background on soils, water, air, energy, agroforestry, and fisheries and connect that background to the policies that govern these resources. There is great excitement over soil carbon farming as a partial solution for climate change, for example. What is the science behind this and how could policy help promote it? Guided by faculty, students will apply their understanding of natural resources to current policy controversies and debates and develop a deeper understanding of the forces driving American agriculture.

SFS 564 – American Agriculture in the Global Context (2)

U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables continue to grow year after year. At the same time, U.S. exports of commodity crops such as soybeans and corn continue to rise – about half of American farmland is used to grow crops for export. American agriculture both impacts and is impacted by the production and demands of other countries. In this class, we will discuss global food trends and the interconnected issues of food security and migration. Twenty million people now face starvation in East Africa; President Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change and has replaced NAFTA with the USMCA; and China is making massive agricultural infrastructure investments across the globe. What does all this mean and how does it play out in U.S. food and agriculture policy? In this class, we will consider the global context in which American food producers operate. Students will also become familiar with the global institutions and governance mechanisms (e.g., Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Trade Organization) that influence these issues on the world stage.

Immersion Experiences

SFS 561 – Food and Farm Immersion (2)

One week in Arizona, fall semester – A key component of the curriculum is the real-world exposure to agricultural production and food processing in the United States. The goal of the Food and Farm Immersion component of the curriculum is to supplement online and classroom learning with exposure to farmers, ranchers and supply chain businesses that are the focus of, or are otherwise directly impacted by, food and agriculture policies and programs. Through site visits over a week in Arizona, students will have a chance to ask questions, learn about barriers and opportunities, and put their classroom work in context while learning about the diverse range of farm and food businesses at work in the U.S.

SFS 563 – Applied Food Policy Immersion (2)

One week in Washington, DC, spring semester – Washington, DC is an ecosystem of policymaking. Lawmakers, researchers, issue-focused advocacy groups, communications strategists, lobbyists, data geeks, pundits, organizers, trade associations and visiting constituents each carry out their unique roles, interact with each other, and ultimately shape the policies that affect our lives. To understand the process by which food and agriculture policy ideas are developed, advanced and implemented, you must immerse yourself in that ecosystem. We will spend a full week doing just that, engaging in intensive conversation and meetings across the Capital. You may decide you don’t want to stay there forever, but the skills you gain from the experience will be invaluable, wherever you choose to apply them.


SFS 565 – Organizational Research (3)

Students will identify topics of interest and be grouped with others in their cohort with similar interests. Group project topics will be honed in close consultation with program faculty. These projects will focus on a specific, current real-world issue in food or agriculture policy. This project is a chance for students to take the knowledge that they have accumulated during the year and apply it to a present-day policy issue. The final report will be a tangible work product that demonstrates students’ capacity to analyze an issue, propose a solution and lay out strategies for advancing that proposal. Faculty will help students connect with lawmakers, researchers or other players in the food policy ecosystem who can advise the projects and who will benefit from the students’ end work product. Who knows – you may see your idea in the next farm bill!

For more information or to apply

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