Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to present The School for Field Studies-Center for Coastal Studies (SFS-CCS) as a success story in sustainable development education. This success is based on a unique academic model, which incorporates sustainable development opportunities
and challenges faced by the local community into the program curriculum, and research and technical contributions the Center has made towards sustainable development. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The academic model includes a five year research plan, research projects, case
studies and coursework, as well as community service and outreach activities ‐ all of which are geared towards promoting ecosystem health and wise resource utilization of Magdalena Bay, in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Findings ‐ Throughout the program, students work with
clients/stakeholders in a professional setting, acting as collaborators, consultants, and participants in field research and problem solving. The community benefits through increased capacity for research and management of natural resources. Practical implications ‐ An analysis
of the key tenants contributing towards the success of SFS-CCS in sustainable development, and recommendations for other institutions for adopting similar approaches, are provided. Originality/value ‐ A description of the SFS-CCS academic model and program curriculum is presented,
followed by some highlights of successful sustainable development projects ‐ including green sea turtle education and population monitoring, water quality improvement, and aquaculture development.