January 1, 2016

‘Green’ degrees gain momentum

Provided. This is a group is undergoing the Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA Orientation at the UVM Adventure Ropes Course

Provided. This is a group is undergoing the Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA Orientation at the UVM Adventure Ropes Course

“Going green” in academia extends beyond the desire to make campuses more energy efficient and sustainable.
Growth has been in the form of new courses on sustainability and greater attention to changing the status quo on campus, whether that’s reducing emissions or educating people. Some colleges, like Green Mountain College (GMC) in Poultney, Vermont, have undergraduate curriculum built around environmental sustainability. The college also infuses sustainability into every major — from business to biology, from art to agriculture.
The University of Vermont (UVM) and GMC are two colleges in the vanguard offering a masters in business administration (MBA) in sustainability. The programs are very distinct from one another and offer opportunities that may appeal to different kinds of students. GMC’s Sustainable MBA program (37 credits), which they introduced in 2006, is online. The Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA Program (SEMBA) at UVM is an accelerated one-year program (45 credit hours) and was reinvented to take advantage of Vermont’s business strengths. Both programs are designed to minimize time out of the work place.
Applications for conventional MBA programs in the U.S. have been on the decline, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, but there is a rising demand for specialized business-related graduate degrees. Green MBA programs would seem to be well-positioned for growth.
GMC has been teaching sustainability for nearly 20 years and has been recognized for that. The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll ranked GMC second in the nation in 2015 and has recognized the college in each of the last three years. Sierra Magazine awarded GMC a top 20 national ranking in four of the past five years in its “Cool Schools” issue. The college is no newcomer to the field and “green” isn’t just a buzzword; they practice what they teach.
UVM’s new SEMBA, which launched in the fall of 2014, gained momentum quickly. Although there are a number of business schools that offer sustainable entrepreneurship or business, many of them simply have extra courses in sustainable business. At those schools, “It’s the same MBA, the same business as usual,” said David A. Jones, associate professor and co-director of the SEMBA at UVM’s Grossman School of Business. “We wanted to start from scratch. Every single course in SEMBA — finance, accounting, entrepreneurship — sustainability and innovation is in every single course we teach. And it’s unique.” Indeed. Based on SEMBA’s launch in its first year, the influential Princeton Review of the “Best Green MBAs” ranked it 4th in the nation. The annual review also included UVM’s Grossman School of Business in its 2016 “Best 295 Business Schools” edition.
“While inclusion among Princeton Review’s list of outstanding business schools is a validation of our process of continuous excellence, the No. 4 ranking for our SEMBA program confirms the innovative nature of the program and the high value it adds to our students and corporate partners in the program,” says Sanjay Sharma, business school dean. “We have just only graduated our first cohort and our eyes are set on the No. 1 rank.”
Green Mountain College’s online Sustainable MBA program requires one residency per year and uses residency time to build relationships and learning among students, faculty, scholars in residence and sustainable business leaders. Each course lasts six weeks, with a one week break before the start of the next. Courses are capped at 20 students, but typical class size is 10-18 students, promoting individualized attention and quality group discussion. According to GMC, they have been teaching online longer than any other sustainable MBA program.
Under the leadership of Sanjay Sharma, dean of the Grossman School of Business, UVM spent a year putting SEMBA in place. They also hired Stuart L. Hart, one of the world’s top authorities on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy, as a consultant to help develop the program. Students have 30 individual courses in the accelerated one-year program. Courses are all one- or two-credit courses. “But they are drinking from the firehose. It’s truly what would be a two-year program in one year,” Dr. Jones said. “Instead of taking two years out of work life, we do it in one year. Students are getting that MBA tool kit but with innovation and sustainability throughout it. When we say entrepreneurship, we’re talking about entrepreneurial thinking. Not just entrepreneurship but rethinking an existing company.” The faculty includes members of the business community such as Taylor Ricketts from Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, and Cairn Cross, the co-founder and managing director of FreshTracks Capital, a venture capital firm focused on Vermont companies and entrepreneurs (Cross is also on the SEMBA advisory board). “The advisory board is an amazing group of sustainability businesses. It’s the Who’s Who of sustainability in Vermont.”
The growing demand for these programs suggests that sustainability in business is gaining importance. The consulting firm Accenture surveyed 766 CEOs in 2010 and found that 93 percent believe sustainability will be important or very important to their firm’s success. Investors are increasingly scrutinizing businesses for their energy efficiency and sustainability strategies. Sustainability is critical to business success.
The University of Vermont, Grossman School of Business, is located at 55 Colchester Ave., 101 Kalkin Hall, Burlington, VT 05405. SEMBA inquires can be made by calling 802.656.4611 or online at semba@uvm.edu or www.uvm.edu/business. v

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