Pittsburgh, the “Steel City,” may seem like an unlikely place for a cutting edge MBA program that emphasizes environmental responsibility, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the most livable cities in America, Pittsburgh has undergone a green renaissance. In 2009, the city ranked seventh in the United States for LEED certified buildings, including a cutting edge convention center. City and county government have sustainability officials, “sustainable prosperity” tops the agenda for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and green incubator projects abound.
Situated on a bluff overlooking downtown Pittsburgh, Duquesne University is the home of the internationally recognized MBA Sustainability program that I attend. Ranked among the top 25 MBAs in the world for social and environmental stewardship, the MBA Sustainability is an accelerated 12-month journey that combines classroom learning, real world consulting engagements, and immersive international travel. What sets the program apart from traditional business school approaches? According to Diane Ramos, who oversees and teaches in the program, “This MBA prepares early- and mid-career professionals to ethically manage financial, social, environmental and informational resources in an unpredictable global market. Students apply classroom learning to solve real problems. Our alumni call it a ‘transformative’ and ‘career-igniting’ experience.”
The Students – The MBA Sustainability enrolls one selective cohort per year. To date, students have come from five continents, seven countries, 25 states, and the District of Columbia. Our current class has 26 members who hail from twelve states and two countries. They bring experience in energy, nonprofit management, finance, engineering, insurance, journalism and politics, to name a few. “The diverse backgrounds of the cohort creates an incredible environment for constantly learning from each other and developing dynamic solutions in both the classroom and our client projects,” says Ashley Jones, a member of the Class of 2012. Ashley worked for a solar company in West Virginia and started a curbside recycling program before pursuing her MBA. Her comments are echoed by Brett McGreaham, a 2010 graduate, who oversees supply chain operations at Northwest Michigan Surgery Center and manages complex interactions among physicians and vendors: “What I do is a lot of stakeholder thinking (and) my MBA gave me extra dimensions to look at things holistically and be able to empathize with multiple people impacting multiple areas.”
The Projects – Beyond traditional businesses classes, Duquesne MBA Sustainability students work with local, regional, and multinational firms each semester to solve real world problems. Rudy Molero was part of a team that looked at the future of natural gas for a renewable energy firm. A robotics engineer and former Fulbright scholar from Peru, Rudy combined his MBA and engineering skills to develop a modeling tool that predicts short term pricing fluctuations for natural gas. “Being able to take our academic training and provide tangible results and recommendations for clients has been an exciting reward on both ends,” says Rudy. In other consulting engagements, students have examined greenhouse gas emissions, estimated carbon footprints, developed new product marketing plans, and analyzed water scarcity risks for global firms. Corporate partners in active learning include Heinz, PPG Industries, Alcoa, PNC Bank, Bayer, UPMC, FedEx, Westinghouse, Highmark and MSA. Not-for-profit clients have included city and county government, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Pittsburgh Green Innovators, Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Green Building Alliance, the Carnegie Museums, the Pittsburgh Zoo and the YWCA.
The Program – A full-time, accelerated MBA, the program is anchored by core courses in all the standard business disciplines. Signature sustainability courses focus on frameworks and structure for demonstrating the business case for sustainability. Beyond the classroom, students have opportunities to attend workshops in design thinking, innovation, leadership and project management. Students from the program are active members of the school’s Net Impact chapter, recently promoted to silver status. Additionally, students have the opportunity for international travel to study both best practices in corporate social responsibility and the needs of developing nations. This years’ class went to Germany in early spring and South America or Scandinavia in the summer where we did case studies and activities with graduate students in Germany, Sweden and Brazil. “The trips offer a unique global lens for understanding how developed and emerging economies leverage innovation and competitiveness from sustainability.” says Ramos.
The Alumni – When measuring the success of the program, look no further than the alumni who are continuously impacting sustainable business. “The program has chiseled me into the working professional I am today,” explains Kristopher Crown, adding that the nature of the one-year business program gave him a “superhuman-like” ability to manage his hectic workload. “I’ve reached an understanding and an ability to implement sustainability and to collaborate effectively with diverse, unique and talented teams.” Crown uses his complete Duquesne MBA toolkit to analyze the marketplace and build the brand share for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Other alumni are impacting sustainable practices around the nation and world.
Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability offers more than an MBA. We are getting the knowledge, skills and tools to improve the world. We are also getting the confidence to apply modern tools beyond the classroom through on-the-job management experiences and international study trips.
By: Maureen Coyle
About our Guest Writer:
Maureen Coyle will complete her MBA Sustainability in July 2012. She is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island. Prior to enrolling at Duquesne, she worked for a Boston based green non-profit and an energy brokerage outside of Philadelphia. As a graduate assistant, she manages the program’s social media presence and student blog.
Disclosure: Duquesne University is also the alma mater of The Green Connoisseur Co-Founder, Brian Mellett.