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Discuss: Where to Study Sustainable Business
Emily Gertz, 24 Oct 07

One question that seems to show up more frequently than most in the Worldchanging general mailbox is, "Where can I study sustainable [insert subject here]?" Business, engineering, conservation, design...I've gotten messages asking for direction on these subjects and more. A key part of creating a bright green world is educating today's students and younger professionals in the ideas, materials, and techniques that'll help build it, so it's kind of bugged me that even if I knew how to answer each one, I'm not sure I'd get any other writing done if I tried to respond to them all.

But I realized that this is a perfect question to throw open to some of the best informed (and widely educated ) people around: Worldchanging readers. You all know where to find the good faculty, the most supportive schools, the great alumni networks, the most challenging and productive programs.

Let's kick this off with the question, "Where can I do a sustainable MBA?"

Discuss!

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Comments

I am no authority on the subject, but I have observed that the most informed, innovative and consistent practitioners of sustainable [anything] are the poor. I would strongly recommend an internship amongst the world's poor as a must-have in any sustainable [whatever] curriculum.


Posted by: Arvind Lodaya on 24 Oct 07

I'm assuming you're looking for more here than "Google 'Green MBA'."

The program I'm familiar with is at Maharishi University of Management (http://www.mum.edu) here in Fairfield, Iowa. They don't offer a Green MBA per se, but they do have the first Sustainable Living undergraduate program in the country (currently the most popular major at the school), and you can follow that with various types of MBA at the same school or others with more reputable names. MUM's focus on meditation -- and its block-plan classes -- are not for everyone.

I look forward to reading other readers' suggestions!


Posted by: Ben on 25 Oct 07

Try Norwich Business School in the UK - MBA in Strategic Carbon Management (http://www.carbonmba.com/). Try googling "Carbon MBA".


Posted by: John Kazer on 25 Oct 07

Bainbridge Graduate Institute is the first (?) B-school that is entirely focused on sustainability. Sustainable business is not just an elective or subset of courses. Interestingly, they were just listed by Business Week as one of the top *design* schools in the country.


Posted by: Phil Mitchell on 25 Oct 07

I recently completed my MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. I chose to attend Thunderbird primarily for the school's emphasis on instilling a global mindset in each of its students. Again, while there is no explicitly "green" degree, Thunderbird's approach to studying the global business environment is marked by a holistic perspective of the world's markets & sustainability issues, particularly those in the developing world. An International Development concentration is available in addition to various internship & study opportunities around the globe.

Overall, I greatly expanded my worldview through my course studies, met amazing colleagues, and enjoyed the experience provided by Thunderbird in contrast to most other American B-schools.

(Additionally, T-bird has a network of over 35,000 alumni in more than 140 countries and the #1 ranking from the Wall Street Journal for International Business seven years running...)


Posted by: Adam on 25 Oct 07

I recently completed my MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. I chose to attend Thunderbird primarily for the school's emphasis on instilling a global mindset in each of its students. Again, while there is no explicitly "green" degree, Thunderbird's approach to studying the global business environment is marked by a holistic perspective of the world's markets & sustainability issues, particularly those in the developing world. An International Development concentration is available in addition to various internship & study opportunities around the globe.

Overall, I greatly expanded my worldview through my course studies, met amazing colleagues, and enjoyed the experience provided by Thunderbird in contrast to most other American B-schools.

(Additionally, T-bird has a network of over 35,000 alumni in more than 140 countries and the #1 ranking from the Wall Street Journal for International Business seven years running...)


Posted by: Adam on 25 Oct 07

er-- apologies for the double post...


Posted by: Adam on 25 Oct 07

The Presidio School in San Francisco is another new MBA program centered on sustainability as the core of the management curriculum.

The thing to consider is your personal willingness to pioneer and develop the institution's reputation and alumni network rather than compromising on focus in return for having a big established name on your diploma. As a former MBA professor, I can tell you it will take time to find enough qualified and enthusiastic faculty to fill out new concentrations at most existing B-schools. They'll have to fill in with adjuncts for the most part.

http://presidiomba.org/
An initiative developed by their faculty and students:
http://www.liveneutral.org/what_we_do_businesses


Posted by: Kathryn Fitzgerald, PhD on 25 Oct 07

The Presidio School in San Francisco is another new MBA program centered on sustainability as the core of the management curriculum.

The thing to consider is your personal willingness to pioneer and develop the institution's reputation and alumni network rather than compromising on focus in return for having a big established name on your diploma. As a former MBA professor, I can tell you it will take time to find enough qualified and enthusiastic faculty to fill out new concentrations at most existing B-schools. They'll have to fill in with adjuncts for the most part.

http://presidiomba.org/
An initiative developed by their faculty and students:
http://www.liveneutral.org/what_we_do_businesses


Posted by: Kathryn Fitzgerald, PhD on 25 Oct 07

I'll give my shout out for IIT-Stuart School of Business in Chicago (www.stuart.iit.edu). I am an alumnus of the Environmental Management MS program, and I loved it. Also, they were ranked #48 overall worldwide in the newest Beyond Grey Pinstripes (#11 for curriculum) and are the highest ranked MBA program in Chicago in the list.


Posted by: Greg Ehrendreich on 25 Oct 07

Got a press release in the Worldchanging inbox today: "CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS LAUNCHES MBA IN DESIGN STRATEGY -- First Program of Its Kind in the United States."

The programâ•˙s approach encompasses performance, strategy, innovation, and the encouragement of meaningful, sustainable social change. The curriculum combines lectures and seminars in business strategy, organizational development, management communication, leadership, entrepreneurship, and sustainability with practical studios and sponsored projects that put theory into practice in a dynamic, team-centric experience. Multiple media and approaches are used to explore customer and market needs, challenge assumptions, devise effective solutions, and communicate opportunities across a wide range of stakeholders.

To offer maximum flexibility to working professionals, the program is conducted through five once-a-month, four-day weekends of instruction and interaction, with online and networked study between these residencies. The schedule allows participants from all over the United States to maintain their careers while keeping in close contact with team members, faculty, and program staff.

The program has dedicated studio space on CCAâ•˙s San Francisco campus for local students. Also available are model-making facilities, metal and wood shops, a laser cutter, a 3D-prototyping machine, paint booths, and studios for editing digital media, film, video, and sound.

For more information about the MBA in Design Strategy, visit www.cca.edu/designmba.


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 25 Oct 07

I'm a student at the Presidio School of Management in San Francisco, studying Sustainable Management. I can honestly say that attending Presidio was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Never have I met a group of people so passionate about the environment and our ability to change the world and the businesses that run it. We use one another as catalysts of change, and learn about everything sustainable on a daily basis. This program fully encompasses sustainability into the accounting, economics, and management courses. Hats off to this focused, driven, and innovative program!


Posted by: Mary on 25 Oct 07

Dominican University of California has what looks like an excelent program, http://greenmba.com


Posted by: Jeanell on 25 Oct 07

I wrestled with this question for, literally, a couple of years. Ultimately I decided that, for me anyway, it wasn’t the right question. Taking the time to struggle with the question of “where do I get a sustainable MBA” was very useful and led me to the program that was the best fit.

My advice--be clear as to why you want to get this particular degree. Be honest--brutally honest--about whether the adjective “sustainable” or the “MBA” degree is most important. Pick one. Only one. Don’t waffle. If exploring the “what” of sustainability is more important to you than the learning the “how” skills an MBA will offer, you may neither want, nor need, an MBA. You could be happier in, and better prepared by, graduate training in things like public policy, natural sciences, environmental management, or public administration. Explore them all (and more) if you are looking to build a better vision of what “sustainability” means, the nuts and bolts of what it will take, and what success looks like.

If, in contrast, a business-oriented approach (following Peter Drucker’s admonishment that virtually everything non-governmental is in fact a business) is what you believe to be your best path to get the sustainable “what,” you desire, then it may not matter greatly if you receive specific training in sustainability. Explore a range of MBA programs, even if they do not offer specific courses in environmental finance, sustainable enterprise, or not-for-profit management. Solid business skills are, well, solid business skills. The details and nuance will (and must) come later--in the real world.

No matter which path you pursue, you must make another strategic choice. Are you going back to school to fill in weaknesses or build on strengths? This is a critical choice. It will lead you into programs of different styles and those, in turn, will present different challenges. This is a typical interview question in the admissions process, and while I have my own bias, you need to have thought your position through. In the MBA world, this means thinking through issues like: team-based v. individual work; case v. lecture learning style; theoretical v. applied emphasis; and the infamous quantitative v. “soft” curriculum. Going to a great team-based school could be a fabulous way to sharped your abilities “to work well and play well with others,”--if you can get in. Learning to use differential equations in econometrics or finance-theory classes might be a way to build your quantitative skills, if you don’t mind not sleeping for a few months (again assuming you get in and can stay in). Visit schools--spend time in class and with students and faculty. Get a feel for what you’re about to invest in. Ultimately, this goes back to “why am I doing this?”

Also think about full time, part time or (for MBAs anyway), executive (the senior citizen) program.

To make a long post just a little longer, my story is this. I went to business school to learn the language (accounting), codify my management skills (which had been inflicted on hundreds of employees by the time I went back), build some new skills (finance/capital structure), connect with an global alumni network, and, bluntly, to get a credential that was valued in the market place (I already have one “story” degree that takes paragraphs to explain.) I felt comfortable that the “sustainable” part was, for me, less important than those things (20 years of working in the field helped). I explored a wide range of programs including several mentioned above (Bainbridge and Presidio came after my time). I chose the University of Chicago because of how off of the charts smart the students (and faculty) were, because their executive MBA program is global, and because the program built on my strengths. I developed a profound respect for my classmates and their career choices. I made friends that I’ll keep for life, The training was immediately and deeply relevant in the not-for-profit/venture philanthropy space and has opened doors that would otherwise have remained closed. In closing (I was taught to say this because it gives the reader hope), think about why you’re doing this--if you do it right it will be (one of) the best decisions you will make.


Posted by: j david on 25 Oct 07

I am a student of the Green MBA at Dominican University in San Rafael. The best decision I ever made. The community is a your support cast as you develop the skills to take on new tasks, and become change agents in business. I am doing projects with alumni and with professionals from the field. I recommend it.


Posted by: Ryan on 26 Oct 07

I'm a candidate for an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise from Dominican University. The Green MBA program has far exceeded my expectations. Pragmatic, inspiring & challenging. If feel fully prepared to be a force for environmental and social change. Come and visit to build your professional network or consider attendance. www.greenmba.com
Thanks to all the programs that are preparing the next generation of business leaders to redesign the the for-profit sector.


Posted by: Emily on 26 Oct 07

Obviously, I am biased in my response to this based off of my MBA from the Green MBA program, now hosted at Dominican University of CA.

However, I have to agree with J David in the last posting in understanding a few things before you jump on the band wagon. Is it the sustainable portion or the MBA or is it establishing yourself as a niche hire that you're looking for? The Green MBA program is not a "patch" or "band-aid" for the current MBA programs around. It challenges your paradigm assumptions, asks you to completely analyze the system known as commerce and business; and then to discern what your role is in it. To challenge current established ways of thinking or doing business by creating a well reasoned judgment of the current system and how to create sustainable change. It requires patience, conscious thought, a willingness to put passion in front of many, and a toughness in accepting criticism in order to fine tune a place in this new marketplace that is actually sustainable. The Green MBA program is not for surface gliding or skimmming while reading. It is transformative, gives reasoning skills beyond measure, and allows those business skills received to be used in a refreshing way that brings innovative thought to the business world. Oh, and success that is fulfilling.
Sound a little overwhelming? Have no fear! The community is exceptional, innovative, supportive and ever-challenging! From talking to my Columbia MBA friends, at times this is the missing part of an MBA experience.
Discern what you want before entering...and...welcome!


Posted by: Candace on 26 Oct 07

j david: i like the way you spell out the decision making process in your post. one additional element that i think would be helpful is to know what you are doing now, after your mba from chicago. i think a sustainable mba is probably going to provide greater advantage to those who want to manage renewable energy start-ups or carbon consultancies, for instance, rather than for those who want to be senior managers at fortune 500 companies and implement sustainability from the inside. as long as the requisite business skills are taught at a high level to all students, the sustainability emphasis can actually be a leg-up for those who will, professionally, need to be the innovators, not just the implementers, approvers, or pitch-people. for everyone else in business, yeah, it's probably best to get a conventional mba and learn sustainability principles outside of school and/or on the job.


Posted by: worldchanger 23 on 26 Oct 07

I am a Green MBA alum (the Dominican University program) as well, and I thought the program was FANTASTIC. It accepts you in your individual approach to learning, and encourages the ultimate in creativity and critical thinking about sustainability. The program is also well-designed to offer extensive project experience in the real world and great access to inspirational entrepreneurs. Wonderful students, incredible faculty and a deep understanding of the importance of community. Loved it!


Posted by: Phoebe on 26 Oct 07

I'm finishing up my last semester at Dominican's Green MBA program. My experience there has been very positive. The program has evolved a lot over the last few years, and the professors keep getting better and better. As someone who came to the Green MBA from the non-profit sector, this program has been very helpful in examining the world of business from a critical perspective, while helping me to build a set of skills that will allow me to engage in the world of business and feel that I have the ability to change it, rather than be at it's mercy. In short, a very empowering, useful, and inspiring program.


Posted by: Orion on 26 Oct 07

I'm in the middle of the Green MBA program at Dominican, and have been nothing but amazed by the cutting edge faculty and approach to learning. I'm continually inspired by the visionary nature of the curriculum, the reading list and the guest speakers, and by the incredible brilliance and diversity of the students drawn to this program. The courses are balanced between cultural creativity and sound business skills, and the small class size makes for attentive and supportive teachers.
Check it out!
Melissa


Posted by: Melissa B. on 26 Oct 07

One other side of this that I believe needs to be pointed out is that for many people, picking out a 'green' MBA program regardless of geographical location or financial implications may difficult or impossible. I agree wholeheartedly with J David's post that for getting an MBA, the "MBA" part is more important than the "sustainability" part. The purpose of the MBA is to try and teach you the nuts and bolts skills you will need to either start and run your own business or become a leader in someone elses, how you use that MBA is up to you.

I am currently enrolled in the Part Time (Evening) MBA at the University of Maryland and would like to give a shout out to the Solar Decathlon team who just took second place in the international competition on the National Mall (Go Terps!). So even though my MBA program is not specifically a "green" MBA, I am sure I will be able to find opportunities to get experience with sustainable practices.

My advice to those looking for a green or sustainable MBA, if you can't aford to travel far or have limited time and budget, research your local state or private schools. Even though they may not tout a sustainable MBA you will probably still be very likely to get the experience you want.


Posted by: rwhiten on 26 Oct 07

В прошлом году ездил в Красную Поляну, останавливался в Вилле Уютной. Рассказал друзьям, те теперь тоже решили ехать и просят, чтобы я им фотки номеров в интернете нашел. Может, кто порекомендует хороший качественный сайт, чтобы можно было посмотреть фотографии этой гостиницы?


Posted by: Tretret on 27 Oct 07

In response to worldchanger23: I direct the project design and finance activities at a private, not-for-profit, corporation. We are a like a foundation, but our tax treatment is substantially different and allows us to have much wider latitude in how we pursue the mission of improving the ecological health of the Great Lakes. My team spots opportunities, helps build projects and project teams, does due diligence, and oversees implementation. As a corporate officer, I share (with the other two officers) fiduciary responsibilities for the whole business-including the endowment and pension trust.

Spotting and supporting innovation is our core business. We work with business, government, and civil society on the entire system. A necessary key skill set, and this can be developed in any number of graduate programs, is the ability to think critically and act strategically. Teaching critical thinking is a core strategy at Chicago. Preparing students to spot opportunity is more important than teaching "facts and formulas."

I agree with Drucker that management is a liberal art. (Full disclosure- I also did graduate work at his school at the Claremont Graduate University). If you have great critical thinking abilities, and seek education that builds those strengths (my bias here), and act on your convictions- you are doomed to succeed!

One last comment- I completely agree with those who say that programs that force you out-of-the-boxes of traditional curricula can help instill innovative thinking. In addition to those mentioned, you may want to have a look at how the Kellogg School of Management (http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/emba/curriculum/core_courses.htm) formats its Executive MBA Program. As I recall, they do not use just "traditional" classes, but includes others organized topically/thematically around the challenges executive face. This is perhaps why they've been at the top of the ratings for this kind of "traditional b-school" program. Other schools (and other degrees) do similar things. My bottom line recommendation remains to think about what you want, and when you're clear--go for it!


Posted by: j david on 27 Oct 07

Here on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada, the Institute for Sustainability, Education & Action (I-SEA) is offering a "Green MBA" certificate program starting in November.

For more information see their website at: www.i-sea.org


Posted by: Terri on 27 Oct 07

I've just been accepted to Arizona State University's School of Sustainability. It's much more engineering oriented, but you can get a CSTM there--Certificate in Sustainable Technologies Management. It's not an MBA, but you could probably couple this with one in either the WP Carey School of Management or Thunderbird (mentioned a few times above).


Posted by: Bolo on 29 Oct 07

The University of British Columbia in Canada has a sustainability specialization for their full-time MBA program. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this option is available to part-time students.

http://www.sauder.ubc.ca/Programs2/MasterofBusinessAdministration/MBAFullTime/ProgramOverview/Specializations/default.htm


Posted by: Melissa on 29 Oct 07

Oops... Thunderbird is not part of ASU, so I don't know if what I said above is possible. But you could probably couple it with a MBA from the WP Carey school at least.


Posted by: Bolo on 29 Oct 07

Rumors float through the air that the University of Arkansas could announce an MBA with a sustainability track. They already have a sustainability research department in their business college.


Posted by: Marcus on 30 Oct 07

Today I learned of a course called Masters in Strategic Leadership in Sustainability (MSLS) at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden. Fof details go to: http://www.bth.se/tmslm

The whole course is based on the Natural Step Framework applicable to industrial design, sustainable business, community-based activism, government policy-making, etc.

A comment from a graduate Michael Henson from USA:

"I chose the MSLS programme because it's completely unique. It's the systems thinking, authentic group learning, international community, and practical, applicable framework that really drew me in and inspired me."


Posted by: Wibowo Sulistio on 1 Nov 07

Before this discussion goes away, I want to be sure to point interested readers to The Aspen Institute's Beyond Grey Pinstripes site:

http://www.beyondgreypinstripes.org/rankings/index.cfm

Greg mentions this report above. Their effort tracks (and ranks) how business schools teach about the intersection of business and society. Their section on trends and facts is interesting and worth a read. They also attempt to compile literature produced on the topic and, although I have not tried to use this service, it might be a great place to learn about how academics think about sustainable business.

Enjoy!


Posted by: j david on 1 Nov 07

Colorado State University has a groudbreaking new program. It's called the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program, and it's a Masters of Science in Business Administration. It includes a core of MBA business classes with sustainability integrated, and also includes a heavy focus on entrepreneurship and delivering actual results at the end of the education...as opposed to just a student project. It's the one degree I've found that truly integrates all three aspects of the triple bottom line into it's curriculum. Plus, it's being run and facilitated by some great people. Everyone should check it out. www.csugsse.org

some press from the WRI blogosphere:
http://www.nextbillion.net/blogs/2007/10/27/colorado-states-global-social-and-sustainable-enterprise-program


Posted by: Joseph Darnell on 5 Nov 07

The Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) programme…

…at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden (www.bth.se/msls) seems to fit the bill for this topic of conversation (see also post above).

When I was looking to do further studies a few years ago, I was alerted to a new type of sustainability programme in Sweden. Coming from Australia it seemed a long way to go to investigate but as an alumni of the programme now, I can safely say that the journey was definitely worth it.

This is not specifically an MBA programme. It is based on a transdisciplinary approach open to all professions. This allows everyone to share perspectives and step out of their own specialisation drill-holes to ‘connect the dots’. That’s pretty essential for sustainability practice in my books.

If you’ve heard of TNS, this is definitely the place to go to learn about it since the programme was co-developed in partnership with The Natural Step and its founder, Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, is one of the professors at the university. Researchers at BTH have been involved in its development for a long time.

The programme offers more than just the science behind the framework though and I would say that the combination of 'strategic sustainable development' and 'organisational learning and leadership' is a unique and powerful approach to strategic planning towards sustainability.

Students in the programme are pretty diverse too so it’s a fun and international year away from work. Some students already have MBA’s, one had a PhD, and most have professional experience, ages range from 22-55, and around 20 countries represented.

Some of the buzz words: whole systems approach, backcasting from socio-ecological sustainability principles, transdisciplinary, international, peer learning, access to experts, learning from Swedish sustainability experiences, technology and social innovation streams, etc etc.

Despite all that the biggest drawcard for some is still that the tuition is sponsored by the Swedish government!


Posted by: Richyroo on 10 Nov 07

I'm doing the MSLS program at BTH right now. Although it's not specifically designed for business students, there are lots of options available for this type of study. I looked at doing an International MBA from Schulich School in Toronto, but decided this is a better move for me. It's only a 1-year programme so I can start working sooner, and there's no tuition!!!

The MSLS program is more open-minded and learner-led which means that I am benefitting from the diverse backgrounds in the class. As an economics major, I'm able to explore topics such as localization economies, sustainable investing, and the business case for sustainability. Tomorrow we are having a webchat with Bob Willard, which is amazing!!!

I think it depends what you're looking for. If you want an Business degree with a specialization in sustainability, look at green MBAs. If you want a Sustainability degree with a specialization in business check out www.bth.se/msls


Posted by: Timothy Nash on 13 Nov 07



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