Help Build a Sustainable Energy Future
Under growing pressure from environmental impacts, resource constraints and increased demand from a developing world, global energy systems are shifting towards a more sustainable energy future. Channel your passion for energy, engineering, and the environment and equip yourself with the skills required to engage in this global energy transformation with an online master’s in sustainable systems engineering.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program focuses on preparing you to understand the policy, science, engineering and economics of tomorrow’s clean energy systems and sources.
How You’ll Benefit
The Sustainable Systems Engineering program builds on the strengths of UW-Madison as a leader in engineering, energy and environmental sciences.
Students in the Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program are attracted to this field for a variety of reasons. Some are looking to advance within their existing organization and want to gain additional knowledge and skills. Others are looking to pursue their personal missions and break into renewable energy or energy efficiency industries such as energy service companies, energy efficiency consulting, renewable energy design, utilities, public service or start-up firms.
When you complete the program, you will not only have an understanding of tomorrow’s clean energy principles, but you will understand the structure of today’s conventional energy systems, positioning yourself as a navigator in the ongoing clean energy transition.
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The Sustainable Systems Engineering program is designed for practicing engineers seeking both professional advancement and a personal desire to improve the world.
Students in the Sustainable Systems Engineering online degree benefit from:
- Knowledge and skills that can immediately be applied to work situations
- Project-based learning with experienced professionals
- Award-winning distance learning design
- World-class faculty and a highly respected institution
The program comprises engineers and technical professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries, including energy, construction, architecture, manufacturing and consumer products.
U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report—Veterans Ranking
Ranked in the Top 10 Online Engineering Graduate Programs in 2016, for the fifth year in a row
Ranked No.5 Online Engineering Graduate Programs for Veterans in 2016
Succeed With a 100% Flexible, Online Program
All UW–Madison Sustainable Systems Engineering courses are available online.
Convenient distance learning formats allow you to complete the degree from any location without interrupting your work and family responsibilities. Homework assignments are posted well in advance so you have time to plan.
Course materials and necessary tools can be accessed from any internet connection, anywhere. If you’re traveling you can still call in to participate in course web conferences without access to the internet.
Learn Theory and Application
Nearly all courses will conduct a weekly one-hour live session with classmates and faculty using online meeting tools. These sessions include class discussions, faculty lectures, student presentations and guest lectures.
Faculty will sometimes record their lectures and use the live sessions for interactive discussions. Student projects are typically presented during these times as well. Student attendance at the live sessions is required, however if you have an unavoidable conflict the sessions are recorded for later viewing.
Most of the courses require the completion of at least one or several student projects. Many of these projects are flexible and can sometimes be applied to applicable situations in your own workplace. Projects also allow you to focus on topics that hold particular interest for you, allowing for a degree of individual customization.
Get Feedback On Your Work
A typical week often includes a one-hour live discussion with faculty and classmates. These sessions give you an opportunity to talk about the week’s content, attend lectures, and present your work for feedback.
You will also interact with classmates and professors throughout the week when you participate in online written discussions. Participation in the online discussion is often part of the weekly course requirements. The discussion forums are where classmates learn from each other – you will find your peers to be a wealth of knowledge reflecting varied perspectives, experience and employer backgrounds.
Most weeks contain some reading assignments – textbooks, papers, articles or websites. Many courses also include weekly assignments requiring problem solving, writing, discussion or presentation. To provide you with feedback on your progress, some courses utilize online quizzes to test how well you’re doing.
Courses in the Sustainable Systems Engineering program are designed to provide foundational knowledge in the policy, science and economics of energy systems and sources. You will apply this knowledge to both energy efficiency and renewable energy production within the broad context of global sustainability. You will learn to wield your new knowledge effectively through professional development courses and pull it all together into a final capstone project.
The Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program consists of 30 credits, including a series of foundational and applied courses, business and professional courses and a capstone project. The standard completion time is three years.
Courses range in topic from renewable energy systems to energy efficiency to sustainable building systems.
Core Competencies of Sustainability
Industrial Ecology: Sustainability Tools in Context
Gain an introduction to real-world pragmatic skills and applications in sustainability competencies. Content in this course reaches across engineering expertise, from chemical engineering to building design to product design and energy. Course modules cover ecological footprinting, lifecycle assessment, resource use and integrated engineering practice.
Sustainable Approaches to System Improvement
This course introduces sustainability frameworks and teaches you how and when to use a range of tools with systems thinking perspectives (e.g. Mass Flow analysis, Footprinting, SLCA, among others). You will construct an evaluation matrix to assess tool application contexts, and discuss the relationship between optimizing systems and larger sustainability issues and goals.
Sustainable Systems Engineering Capstone
Learn innovative system-improvement concepts and approaches that sustainably strengthen mission-central concerns such as quality, cost, customers, markets, revenue, profit, brand, reputation, sourcing, quality of work life, natural capital, buildup of concentrations and base of the pyramid.
Connected Learning Essentials
Demonstrate your ability to think globally, sustainably, and creatively. Students in the Capstone will apply theory, tools, and research to conceptualize, analyze, and design a solution to a problem within a social and environmental context. Projects showcase the knowledge and analytical skills acquired during the Sustainable Systems Engineering program, and integrate tools, science and communication to address a need. Prerequisite: Completion of at least 21 credits in the Sustainable Systems Engineering program or consent of instructor.
Learn how to get the most out of your online learning and collaborative networks. This course teaches strategic skills that are critical to digitally literate professionals.
In this highly interactive course, targeted strategies for improving delivery skills, presentation visuals, and audience interaction will be addressed.
Renewable Energy Systems
Explore the environmental impacts of commercial and residential buildings, including energy, water, materials, transportation, waste, human health, and land use impacts. Also learn about improvement opportunities in each phase of a building's life cycle, case studies, benchmarking tools, related public policies and their effectiveness, emerging concepts, and the role of human behavior and innovation in building performance.
Learn about state-of-the-art renewable energy applications, including biomass for heat, electric power and liquid fuels, as well as geo-energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower. Perform engineering calculations of power and energy availability of renewable energy sources and learn about requirements for integrating renewable energy sources into production, distribution and end-use systems.
Develop the ability to explain how resource quality impacts the implementation of renewable and nonrenewable energy systems, and assess the sustainability of natural resources that currently support both systems. You will also evaluate alternative pathways to mitigate the negative consequences of energy use.
- Sources, availability of fuels.
- Energy conversion and efficiency.
- Consumption patterns and trends.
- Environmental consequences of energy production and use.
- Policy considerations and alternatives.
Sustainable Energy Challenges and Solutions
In this course, you will gain an engineering overview of electric microgrid technology.
Independent Study (348-699)
Learn about sustainable energy challenges and solutions with weekly seminar topics.
Study a research topic of interest with oversight from the SSE program director. Pursue the study of a particular technology or process, research a product or business idea, or evaluate the feasibility of a sustainable engineering project. Enrollment is limited each semester. Summer is limited to one credit. Contact SSE program director before semester of interest.
Elective Courses from Foundations of Professional Development
Fostering and Leading Innovations
Companies and organizations prosper or die based on their ability to creatively innovate to capture opportunities and avoid obsolescence. Leaders of technical organizations need to develop vision, culture, and practices that value and drive innovation. Learn how you can help build an enterprise that values, pursues, and delivers innovative services and products.
- Roots of innovation
- Customer-driven innovation
- Infusing innovation throughout the organization
- Organizing for innovation
- Incubation and assessment
- Developing the creativity of personnel
- Case studies
Effective Negotiation Strategies
Learn methods of influence and strategies for productivity within complex organizations. This course prepares professionals for success in organizations both big and small.
Much managerial activity involves bargaining, negotiation, and settling of disputes. Managers bargain with superiors, peers, and subordinates; suppliers and customers; competitors and allies. Effective negotiation can improve outcomes for everyone involved. Ineffective negotiation, in contrast, usually leads to poor outcomes for those who negotiate poorly, can also lead to poor outcomes for others, and sometimes result in failures to agree even when agreement is possible.
This course provides students with foundational knowledge to develop and implement a change management strategy using proven processes and tools.
Senior faculty and experienced professionals in the industry facilitate the program’s courses. Our instructors stay connected with students and are highly accessible, which enables them to address the specific interests of students.
Altwies is a program director for the Department of Engineering Professional Development, UW-Madison. Altwies applies her knowledge of high-performance building design and construction to the development of continuing education courses for professionals. Previously, she worked as a consulting engineer in energy efficiency and environmentally responsible building design. She earned her PhD from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison, where her interdisciplinary research focused on technology innovation and energy policy. She is an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and ASHRAE and is a LEED Accredited Professional (BD+C).
Carroll is a professor in the Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Geofuels: Energy and the Earth
, a unique and engaging overview of energy sustainability that is based on the premise that all energy systems depend on the use of finite natural resources (published by Cambridge University Press). His research focuses on sedimentary basins (where coal, oil, and natural gas are found), and on the geologic history and paleoclimatic archives of ancient lakes. Carroll teaches courses in physical, field, and sedimentary geology, and in energy resources. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 1991.
Lee is program director for the Department of Engineering Professional Development, UW-Madison. DeBaille has more than 20 years of engineering experience, primarily in building energy efficiency. He has worked with clients in the public and private sector, including design firms, utilities, non-profits and federal and state agencies. Prior to joining UW-Madison, DeBaillie provided expertise in energy efficient building design, energy analysis, campus energy management and energy modeling training. DeBaillie is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arizona, a Certified Energy Manager with the Association of Energy Engineers, a LEED Accredited Professional with USGBC, and a Building Energy Modeling Professional with ASHRAE.
Doran is an adjunct professor primarily affiliated with Civil and Environmental Engineering, believes that public policy for water quality protection must focus on the effective use of financial resources and that goal attainability and related cost-benefit must be principal factors in establishing criteria and standards. With respect to plant design, Doran promotes a holistic materials-balance approach, considering the impacts of processes on other plant components, an understanding of the impacts of peak loading periods and their implications for design, effective plant hydraulic design, and process configuration and layout to facilitate meeting future capacity and treatment requirements. Additionally, Doran's research interests include water and wastewater engineering, process modeling and plant engineering, biological wastewater and wastewater residuals treatment and stabilization, sustainability and sustainable practices, and environmental economics. Doran attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he attained a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, and a master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Eagan is a professor at UW-Madison with research interests in exploring frameworks that can move public and private institutions toward "sustainable development." A primary interest is how both public and private institutions will deal with climate change effects and environmental management issues. In 2006, he was on sabbatical at University of Aalborg, Denmark, and Design for Sustainability group at TU Delft, the Netherlands. In addition to his research, Eagan conducts adult professional education programs on sustainability, water resources, industrial environmental engineering and management, and related environmental issues. Responsibilities also include program technical content and presenting selected lectures. He has coordinated over 250 programs to over 8,000 professionals worldwide.
Finster is an associate professor in the Wisconsin School of Business. He serves on the executive boards of the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management, the Global Studies Program, and the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Program. He is also a contributing member to the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement, the Energy Institute, and the Center for Quick-Response Manufacturing. Finster is a five-time National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholar and chaired the NSF session that established a national research agenda in organizational excellence. He has received the Gaumnitz Distinguished Faculty Award and the Mabel W. Chipman Excellence in Teaching Award from the Wisconsin School of Business. Finster received his PhD from the University of Michigan and served as a professor at Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities.
Jouini is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a certificate in Business, Environment and Social Responsibility from the Wisconsin School of Business, and a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Jouini has professional and research experience in energy systems and hydraulics, and has taught sustainability education, sustainable systems engineering and sustainable systems improvement. She received her master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Stuttgart in Germany with minors in Energy Technology and Energy Economics.
Mark Millard is Director of Learning Design and Technologies for the Department of Engineering Professional Development at UW–Madison. Mark has published extensively on online education and educational innovation, and leads courses at UW-Madison to teach faculty effective practices for online instruction. Previously, Millard was Assistant Director of the Office of Instructional Consulting in the School of Education at Indiana University. Millard holds an MS in information science from Indiana University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Nicometo is nationally known and respected for her ability to teach effective communication and presentation skills to technical professionals. She has taught at Michigan Technological University, University of Minnesota (Iron Range Engineering), and Finlandia University. Nicometo’s book on technical presentations was published in 2014 by IEEE-Wiley. An active member of ASEE and IEEE, she also worked on a multi-year National Science Foundation study about how people learn engineering. Nicometo received her MS in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University. email@example.com
Noguera is Wisconsin Distinguished Professor at UW-Madison in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Noguera focuses on Environmental Biotechnology within Environmental Engineering. His current major areas of research are bioenergy, biological nutrient removal during wastewater treatment, biofilms and biofouling, and fundamental studies of DNA/RNA hybridizations in whole cells and bioinformatics. Bioenergy research is related to production of next generation fuels and bio-based chemicals within the biorefinery contexts, and nutrient removal research is related to reducing energy consumption in activated sludge processed. Noguera has a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has also been awarded several distinguished awards, including the Fair Distinguished Engineering Educator Award from the Water Environment Federation and the Bill Boyle Educator of the Year from the Central States Water Environment Association.
Potter is professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His current teaching and research interests are in hydrology and water resources, and include estimation of hydrological risk, especially flood risk; stormwater modeling, management and design; adaptation of hydrologic design to climate change; assessment and mitigation of human impacts on aquatic systems; restoration of aquatic systems; and sediment and phosphorus control through management of streams, drainage ditches, and wetlands. He has been a member of numerous National Research Council committees, including the Committee on Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, the Committee on New Orleans Regional Hurricane Protection Projects, and the Committee on Levees and the National Flood Insurance Program: Improving Policies and Practices. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academies.
Reinemann is professor and Department Chair of Biological Systems Engineering. He has been working at the interface between energy and agricultural systems for the more than 20 years. Reinemann is a member of the sustainability group of the UW Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which examines the environmental impacts of biofuel production systems. He has been actively involved with the Midwest Rural Energy Council. His studies have included energy use and energy production in agricultural systems. Reinemann received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from UW-Madison and his PhD.
Schauer is a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UW-Madison. His research and teaching interests focus on understanding and mitigation of the impacts of air pollution on human health, climate change, regional haze and environmental degradation. He is currently involved in air pollution research and impact studies around the U.S. and worldwide. Schauer has authored and co-authored more than 300 peer reviewed publications and has served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report on the Mitigation of Climate Change. He received his master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and completed a PhD in Environmental Engineering Science from the California Institute of Technology.
Venkataramanan is a professor in electrical and computer engineering at UW–Madison. His areas of expertise include applications of power electronics in building lighting, climate conditioning, industrial motor control, electric generation, transmission and distribution and transportation systems; renewable power generation systems; and operation and control of microgrids and smart grids in distributed generation, energy storage, combined heat and power, electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Venkataramanan received the Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008. He received a bachelor’s degree from the Government College of Technology in Coimbature, India, and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Williams is research and education coordinator for the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His primary duties at WEI include administering the undergraduate Certificate in Engineering for Energy Sustainability and supporting extra-curricular student programming. Scott also assists in the development of seminars and public forums for the Wisconsin Public Utility Institute. Scott obtained a Master of Public Affairs degree in May 2010 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed the Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate as part of his graduate program.
Graduate Program Coordinator
Harrison serves as the graduate programs coordinator for students in online programs in the Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil & Environmental Engineering Departments in the College of Engineering. She manages the admissions and advising for graduate students in these departments, and serves as a resource for students in working with offices across the university, the enrollment process, and graduation requirements. Harrison works closely with students to ensure they meet department course requirements, and acts as an advocate for student needs in the Departments, College of Engineering and larger campus community. She also collaborates with program directors, faculty and staff on all student related matters.
Admission requirements for the Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program are listed below.
Exceptions to standard admission requirements are considered by the admissions committee on an individual basis.
- A bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the ABET or the equivalent.*
- A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00. Applicants from an international institution must have a strong academic performance comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree. All GPAs are based on a 4.00 scale. We use your institution’s grading scale; do not convert your grades to a 4.00 scale.
- Applicants whose native language is not English must provide scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL is 580 on the written version, 243 on the computer version, or 92 on the Internet version.
- International applicants must have a degree comparable to an approved U.S. bachelor’s degree.
We do not require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
*Equivalency to an ABET accredited program: Applicants who do not hold a bachelor’s degree from an ABET accredited program may also qualify for admission to the program. Such applicants must have a BS in science, technology, or a related field with sufficient coursework and professional experience to demonstrate proficiency in engineering practice OR at least 16 credits of math and science coursework. Registration as a professional engineer by examination, if achieved, should be documented to support your application.
All applicants are advised to determine whether this program meets requirements for licensure in the state where they live. See the National Society of Professional Engineers website for contact information for state licensing boards
The admissions process has been designed to conduct a holistic review of your likelihood of success in the program. Decisions are based on your academic and professional background.
To start the process, please read the admission requirements to determine your eligibility. If you have questions about your eligibility, please request an eligibility review by e-mailing Daryl Haessig at firstname.lastname@example.org. This e-mail should include a copy of your current resume and informal transcripts.
Applications are accepted for admission during the Fall term. Applications are reviewed in the order received, on a rolling basis until the July 1 deadline. Admission is competitive and selective. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to submit application materials prior to the deadline.
Steps to Apply Now
Step 1: Email your Intent to Apply
Email the admissions committee chair and state your intent to apply and to which program. Attach your current resume or CV to your Intent to Apply email.
Your resume/CV should include at least:
- Educational history (including GPA, awards and honors received).
- Professional work experience (including specific details on your engineering experience, technical training, and responsibilities).
- Listing of professional association memberships, advanced training (such as a PE license) and other noteworthy, personal- or engineering-related details.
Step 2: Submit the Online Application
In the application be sure to:
- Upload a pdf version of your current resume/CV
- Upload a pdf version of your “Reasons for Graduate Study” essay
- Upload a pdf version of your transcripts
- Enter contact information for at least three professional recommendations, including at least one from a direct supervisor
- Important: Complete the application by submitting the application fee. Applications submitted without paying the fee cannot be reviewed and will not be acted on.
Step 3: Complete a Phone Interview
After all of your application materials have been received, the admissions committee chair will schedule a phone interview with you.
Once completed, your application will be presented to the Admissions Committee for evaluation at the next scheduled meeting.
Step 4: Application Evaluation
Admission decisions are made on applications in the order received. The Admissions committee will make one of the following decisions:
- Recommend admission to the UW-Madison Graduate School
- Request additional information before evaluating further
- Decline further consideration of your application
After a decision has been made on your application, the admissions committee chair will contact you by email to inform you of the decision and to schedule a time to discuss the decision and your next steps.
The admissions committee provides admission recommendations to the Graduate School. The Graduate School is the formal admitting office for graduate students and retains ultimate authority on all admissions decisions.
Step 5: Request Transcripts
If accepted into the program, arrange to have one copy of your undergraduate final official transcripts sent directly from your previous educational institution to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. International applicant’s academic records must include an official English translation done by the bachelor’s degree granting institution OR an official translator. See https://grad.wisc.edu/admissions/requirements/ for country specific information.
If your transcript does not have a degree and conferral date posted, the Graduate School will need a final official transcript before you begin your studies.
Directions to send official transcripts to the University of Wisconsin Madison Graduate School:
1) Order your transcript through your institution.
2) We prefer electronic transcripts if your institution offers that option.
3) If not, please send paper copies to the address below. Please do not send both a paper and electronic copy of the same transcript.
The Graduate School Admissions Office
University of Wisconsin-Madison
232 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706
(University of Wisconsin Madison students do not need to send official transcripts, since we have access to them.)
Tuition and Financial Aid
Tuition Cost |
$1,300 per credit (based on 2017-2018 tuition rates), payable at the beginning of each semester. Students are billed for courses in which they are enrolled each term. There is no lump sum payment plan.
Tuition Includes |
- Technology costs for Internet course delivery
- Live webconferencing
- Toll-free telephone line for the audio portion of conference calls
- Library use
- Use of the webconferencing software for group project work for program courses
Total Tuition |
Total tuition for this program is $39,000* for students entering in Fall 2017. (This tuition is based on 30 total credits, the cost will increase if for some reason a student needs more than 30 credits.)
*This total does not include textbooks, or course software. Software required for courses is typically available in educational versions at substantial discounts.
Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to receive some level of funding through the federal direct loan program. These loans are available to qualified graduate students who are taking at least four credits during the Fall and Spring semesters, and two credits during Summer. Private loans are also available. Learn more about financial aid at finaid.wisc.edu.
Many students receive some financial support from their employers. Often, students find it beneficial to sit down with their employer, look through the program booklet and discuss how this program applies to their current and future responsibilities. Other key points to discuss include how participation will not interrupt your work schedule or ability to travel, and your employer will immediately see and benefit from your progress as you apply your learning to workplace projects and responsibilities.
The Sustainable Systems Engineering program is designed to prepare your employees to become leaders in the clean energy transition, and in a larger sense move your organization and our society toward a more sustainable environment and economy. UW–Madison is committed to delivering the highest quality and best value in engineering education. Your organization immediately benefits as your employees apply new strategies and tools to improving real projects.
Immediate Results for Your Organization’s Sustainability Goals
- Through participation in SSE, your employees will benefit from:
- A broad and comprehensive background in global energy systems
- An emphasis on both energy efficiency and renewable energy production
- Multidisciplinary courses both within and outside of the engineering college
- A project-based approach allowing students to focus on issues of personal importance
- Instruction from tenured professors, industry professionals, and classroom peers
No Interruption to Employees’ Availability
- SSE is designed for full-time, working professionals. The format enables your employees to pursue world-class graduate engineering studies without interruption to work schedule or hindering availability for travel.
Students continue their studies from anywhere in the world they can connect to the Internet.
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