Dr. Matt Cohen joined Furman in 2015 after completing a Ph.D. in sustainability from Arizona State University, where he was a member of the Sustainability Transition and Intervention Research Lab. Trained in transformational sustainability science, Dr. Cohen's interests lie in envisioning sustainable futures and solving complex sustainability problems that society faces today. Dr. Cohen's expertise includes urban sustainability, sustainability governance, public participation in urban development projects, and transformational sustainability learning.

Dr. Cohen's goal at Furman is to engage his students in particiaptory research and sustainability problem-solving in the Furman, Greenville, and Upstate South Carolina communities.

Teaching Philosophy

Dr. Cohen is a constructivist educator and dedicated to student-centered learning. In class, Dr. Cohen engages students through activities that foster discovery and facilitate students developing their own understanding and growth.

In labs, Dr. Cohen engages his students through project-based learning to empower them to transition from passive learners and to become engaged problem solvers. Under a model of Trasformational Sustainability Learning, Dr. Cohen's students work through a framework to analyze, understand, and solve real sustainability problems. Through this process, students practice and develop five key competencies required of sustaianbility problem-solvers: systems thinking, future thinking, values thinking, strategic thinking, and interpersonal thinking.

Name Title Description


Sustainability & Society

The grand challenge of sustainability science is to improve both the well-being of people on Earth and reduce the impact of humanity on the environment at the same time. What does sustainable" mean? This course explores the ethical obligations and realistic challenges of achieving this goal."


Sustainability Science

Introduction to the concepts of sustainability science and the complex problems associated with sustainability. In particular students will examine the challenge of supporting nine billion people without destroying the planetary resource base, social cohesion, and integrity of the individual. Labs will cover introduction to methods in sustainability.


Sustainability and Society

The grand challenge of sustainability science is to improve both the well-being of people on Earth and reduce the impact of humanity on the environment at the same time. What does sustainable" mean? This course explores the ethical obligations and realistic challenges of achieving this goal."


Social Systems

An overview of how comparative cultures conceptualize sustainability and the ways in which the actors, institutions, and policies at all scales (e.g., local, regional, national) shape societal well-being. Connections to the global environmental and human systems are emphasized and explored.


Envisioning Space & Place

In a project setting, students will learn from and partner with a local neighborhood and county officials, apply methods of inquiry and analysis, and create a community-driven vision for addressing a local challenge. May Experience ONLY.


Sustainability Solutions Wkshp

Sustainability science addresses pressing challenges facing society. But how do we understand these challenges and design actions to create desirable change? Through a one semester-long, guided group project, students collaboratively implement principles and methods of sustainability science to generate potential solutions for a local problem.


Sustainable Futures

Striving for sustainability requires a clear, long-term perspective on both sustainability problems and their potential solutions. Students will explore sustainability science as a future-oriented endeavor and practice methods including scenario development and visioning, among others.


Sustainability Sci Practicum

Capstone experience in the major emphasizing solution-based research. Students will have the opportunity to conduct rigorous, applied research and further develop critical analysis skills. Research analysis will be conducted at the local level in partnership with local organizations (nonprofit, public, or private), addressing a pre-determined research question. Exploring topics that allow students to grapple with how to reduce environmental impact and increase social welfare, designed to encourage engaged scholarship" to prepare students for interdisciplinary team-based research in their careers. "

  • Cohen, M., Wiek, A., Kay, B., Harlow, J. (2015). Aligning Public Participation to Stakeholders’ Sustainability Literacy—A Case Study on Sustainable Urban Development in Phoenix, Arizona. Sustainability, 7, 8709-8728.
  • Wiek, A., Bernstein, M., Foley, R., Cohen, M., Forrest, N., Kuzdas, C., Kay, B., Withycombe Keeler, L. (2015, in press). Operationalising competencies in higher education for sustainable development. In: Barth, M., Michelsen, G., Rieckmann, M., Thomas, I. (Eds.). Handbook of Higher Education for Sustainable Development (Routledge), pp XX.
  • Cohen, M., Schugurensky, D., Wiek, A. (2015, accepted). Citizenship Education through Participatory Budgeting: The Case of Bioscience High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Curriculum and Teaching, pp XX.

Dr. Cohen's research interests include urban sustaianbility, urban governance, public participation in urban development, sustainability visioning, and sustainability learning.

Ph.D. in Sustainability
Arizona State University
M.S. in Climate Science and Solutions
Northern Arizona University
Master of Community Planning
University of Cincinnati
B.A. in International Studies
Centre College

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