Programs & courses

The School of Human Ecology (SoHE) provides a variety of degree and scholarship options that focus on exploring the human condition and well-being in relation to ecological settings – physical, social, community, and built surroundings. Each degree option provides exciting opportunities for research, outreach, and service consistent with each student’s scholarly interests and career aspirations.

Degree opportunities

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Community & Nonprofit Leadership (CNPL)

In smaller, inclusive, project-based courses, CNPL students collaborate with each other and community partners. Through service-learning, applied research, and internship experiences, students impact the community even before they graduate.

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Master of Science in Human Ecology (MS)

This applied program aims at preparing professionals who want to solve real societal problems and take on leadership roles within organizations that promote the well-being of individuals, families and communities.

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Civil Society and Community Research (PhD)

Through interdisciplinary coursework and research in community settings, students  become participant-scholars in change processes, and learn human ecological theory and application-focused research methods.


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Community & Nonprofit Leadership Capstone Certificate 

The Community and Nonprofit Leadership certificate embraces a multi-disciplinary, ecological, community-centered approach that focuses on community dynamics and community-led efforts in addition to organizational management approaches. The program encourages critical thinking and skill-building which acknowledges and addresses root causes, alongside the development of tactical, operational, and management skills typically associated with nonprofit leadership.

Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate/Professional Certificate

The Community-Engaged Scholarship Graduate/Professional program is designed to train graduate students in the practice of community-engaged scholarship (CES), which is defined as teaching or research that is done in collaboration with community organizations or community partners in equitable, mutually beneficial, respectful relationships.

School of Human Ecology Professional Skills Courses

  • These 1-credit courses take place over 4-weeks, featuring community-based speakers, field work, and application of skills learned to your area of interest. 
  • Courses will meet on Thursday evenings throughout the session, plus one additional class on a Saturday.
  • Enrollment is open to junior and senior undergraduates as well as graduate students from all departments.
  • Courses are available on a three semester rotation, repeating every third semester.
  • Click here to check course availability and enrollment information. 

Culturally Aware and Trauma-Informed Strategies (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

January 25 – February 20

In almost any professional context, we must work with and communicate with others. In this course you will:

  • Gain skills and strategies for approaching others with empathy, an awareness of your own biases, and cultural competency.
  • Learn about the principles of “trauma-informed” programming and approaches.
  • Explore a variety of illustrations and applications of these foundational strategies for being a better communicator and collaborator with others.

The Public Sector, Policy, and Regulation (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

February 21 – March 27

Whether working in nonprofit programming, business and entrepreneurship, or in public schools or agencies, your work and goals may depend upon public funding or regulation. Through this course:

  • Learn how to identify and navigate government and regulatory contexts that pertain to your future work.
  • Observe public sector hearings or processes, and gain an understanding about advocacy and relationships with government officials.

Strategies for Managing and Facilitating (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

April 4 – May 1

Professionals in a variety of fields must manage staff, and facilitate group decision making processes. In Strategies for Managing and Facilitating you will:

  • Hear from community professionals about legal elements, best practices, and strategies to managing staff effectively.
  • Learn about creative approaches to facilitation that support positive community engagement.
  • Practice skills that will be useful in your future career when working with a variety of stakeholders, colleagues, and collaborators.

Financial Management and Reporting Processes for Organizations (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

Even if you do not intend to serve as a CFO one day, you are likely to be more empowered as a professional in an organization or as an entrepreneur if you have a working knowledge of financial best practices, accounting principles, and financial reporting that may be required of your enterprise. Hear from professionals who have gained a command of financial processes through their career paths. Gain literacy with financial principles; examine the way that finances interact with mission.  

Creative Collaboration and Partnerships (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

Creative collaborations and partnerships are the way of the future in accomplishing innovative and effective change. Learn about regional examples of private-public partnerships as well as examples of international partnerships forged among organizations and actors from different countries. Explore challenges and benefits associated with these rich, complex, and often very powerful collaborations.  

Storytelling, Messaging, and Communication (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

Helping others to understand and appreciate what you do and how and why you do it can be as important as the work itself. Social change often depends on effective storytelling and communication. Learn about and experience a variety of approaches and media – including video storytelling, social media, and traditional paid and earned media — that can help you be an effective storyteller and communicator, in advancement of your mission. 

Design Concepts for Mission-Based Enterprise (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-001)

In nonprofit organizations and social service spaces, community development projects and neighborhood revitalization initiatives, and other social change, community-building, and service delivery efforts, designed environments and arts and design concepts can be important factors to consider and address. Negotiating and understanding the politics and history of spaces and their impacts on community is as important as thinking innovatively about applying design and arts concepts for positive user and community experiences. Learn about various frameworks and strategic approaches to incorporating design and the arts into a variety of mission-based efforts and gain familiarity with key considerations and critiques.

Health and Wellness Principles and Applications (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-002)

Applications of public health principles are exploding.  Learn about the exciting possibilities of examining the way that a public health lens can help build support for positive social change around transportation infrastructure, urban agriculture, gun violence, and incarceration, just to name a few examples.  Explore how your future work and mission might be bolstered by public health principles, and health impact assessment. Consider the way that “wellness” may be a useful guiding principle in your future work as a manager, advocate, entrepreneur, or leader.

Fundraising and Revenue Models (Interdisciplinary Courses 815-003)

How will your mission and vision be supported?  Learn from community professionals and experts about fundamentals of development, donor relations, grant-writing, and establishing fee-based or other types of revenue models for your enterprise.  Concepts of social entrepreneurship – making profit work for good – as well as the relationship between programming and funding — will also be included.

Other CommNS courses

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CSCS 742: Nonprofit Board Leadership I (Graduate level)

Wednesdays 6pm-8pm – Two semesters, with 2 credits in the fall and 1 credit in the spring

This course provides an overview of nonprofit governance and boards of directors, and pairs students with a community partner board of directors, engaging students in real-life learning; students work on and with the boards and ultimately deliver a final project that supports the organization’s board best practices.

CSCS 743: Nonprofit Board Leadership II is the second semester offering.

CSCS 743: Nonprofit Board Leadership II (Graduate level)

Wednesdays 6pm-8pm – Two semesters, with 2 credits in the fall and 1 credit in the spring

This course provides an overview of nonprofit governance and boards of directors, and pairs students with a community partner board of directors, engaging students in real-life learning; students work on and with the boards and ultimately deliver a final project that supports the organization’s board best practices.

CSCS 742: Nonprofit Board Leadership I is the first semester offering.

CSCS 501: Infrastructure and Operations for Community and Nonprofit Organizations (Undergraduate)

Fall Semester

Monday & Wednesdays 4pm-5:15pm – Listed in the catalog as CSCS Lec 001 Infrastructure/Operations NPOs

Join us for this robust overview course which orients students to a broad range of community and nonprofit organizations in context, and provides foundational and experiential learning related to how these organizations are structured and how they get their work done. In this class, students:

  • Gain understanding about contextual considerations – historic, regulatory, cultural, geographic, etc. – for different types of local to global nonprofit and community organizations with a variety of sizes, scopes, and missions. 
  • Understand various common, key aspects of operations and infrastructure for community and nonprofit organizations, and associated challenges and best practice considerations. 
  • Gain skills and experience in identifying gaps and strengths in organizations’ operations and infrastructure, and put those skills to practice for community organizations partners (i.e. assessing the best start-up structure for a new organization; creating a development plan or communications plan, just to name a few possibilities).   
  • Develop and practice soft skills relevant to the daily work of nonprofit organizations, especially related to communicating well with a diverse set of community leaders. 

CSCS 699: Getting the Work Done

Spring Semester

Join the CommNS for a 1 or 2-credit group independent study experience focused on providing direct support on operational, infrastructural, and strategic projects to advance the work of community and nonprofit partners of the CommNS.

Summer courses

Each summer the CommNS hosts a set of novel community engaged courses. Course topics have included Creative Communication and Collaboration Strategies, Virtual Service Learning with the Universidad de Guadalajara Museo de Ciencias Ambientales, and SoHE Professional Skills “Wisconsin to the World.”

Topics and course structure are decided the semester prior. For more information reach out to the CommNS at