Since the first MBA program was created at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business in 1900, graduate programs have prepared students to compete in the world of business. However, the world of business has changed significantly over the last century. In the book Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads, the authors Srikant M. Datar, David A. Garvin and Patrick Cullen argue that MBA programs aren’t giving students the tools they need to thrive in the current global business climate. Similarly, others argue that traditional MBA programs do not provide students the tools necessary to become the leaders of tomorrow.
In response to growing emphasis on effective leadership and environmental responsibility, universities across America have revamped their MBA programs to include these disciplines. Graduates of sustainability programs leave with a sound foundation in environmental responsibility, while graduates of leadership programs bring proven and effective leadership skills to their companies.
THE LEADERSHIP MS
The Master of Science in Executive Leadership program is one of several targeted degrees offered by the University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration. Offered in partnership with The Ken Blanchard Companies, the MSEL program is directed towards senior executives with at least fifteen years of professional experience who seek to improve strategic ability while enhancing the skills necessary to become effective leaders within their organizations. Classes are conducted face-to-face, three days a month for 22 months. “We believe the real learning about leadership is done through understanding human nature and being adaptable to every situation that you find yourself in,” says Kurt May, Director of the MSEL program at the University of San Diego Graduate School Of Business Administration.
USD’s MSEL program offers executives a holistic approach to improving their leadership skills. Faculty work with students to improve their business acumen and leadership competency at all levels, from the self to one-on-one interactions to the team environment.
“One of the key differences between the MBA program and the MSEL program is that the Leadership program is focused more on the mission for the organization,” says May. “We define success around achieving the missional goal of the enterprise.” While MBA programs train students in the different aspects of business, from keeping costs down to increasing profits, the Leadership program gives students the tools to achieve the organizational mission and accomplish things beyond the bottom line. “We’re a Catholic institution. Our message is, you’re here for a reason and it’s not just to make money. You’re here to accomplish good and if you do then you’re successful and if you earn a profit doing that, then that’s your applause,” says May. “That’s what it comes down to: focusing on what’s right, not just what’s expedient.”
THE SUSTAINABILITY MBA
A study by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture found that over 93 percent of Chief Executive Officers surveyed said that sustainability will play a key role in their company’s future success. Businesses have become more conscious of not only their activities, but the practices of their suppliers. If a company chooses the wrong supplier, it could affect the reputability of their brand among consumers. “What has changed is that it’s become a baseline expectation of many more consumers that companies will practice sustainability,” says Rick Bunch, Managing Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.
“Business schools can’t continue to keep their heads in the sand and teach what they’ve been teaching for the last 50 years without recognizing the importance of social, environmental and ethical issues,” says Mark Mallinger, Associate Dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management Social, Environmental and Ethical Responsible Business Practice (SEER) Certificate Program at Pepperdine University. “If you look at some of the leaders in the field you’ll see it represents not a fad but a future.”
Beginning in the fall of 2010, Pepperdine University is launching the SEER Certificate Program. According to Mark Mallinger, business responsibility has always been a part of the Pepperdine mission. However, the students demanded more. “We’re finding that among millennials [the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000s], there’s more of a commitment to sustainability and stewardship,” says Mallinger. “Students are demanding these types of programs.”
According to Murray Silverman, Professor and Chair of Management and Leader of the Sustainable Business MBA program at San Francisco State University, sustainability is popular because there’s more concern about what’s going on in the world. The Internet has created an awareness of resource and ethical issues. “Companies are finding that their stakeholders, including investors, customers and society in general, are asking them more questions,” says Silverman. This pressure has caused the majority of companies to issue sustainability reports in addition to their financial reports.
LEADING SUSTAINABILTY MBA PROGRAMS
The University of Michigan offers one of the oldest sustainability programs: a dual degree from the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise in which students earn an MBA from the Ross School of Business and a Master of Science from the School of Natural Resources and Environment. This unique combination trains business students to look further ahead, much the way scientists do. “Our students have the ability to understand environmental science and policy well enough that they can plan ahead and see the opportunities and risks that are arising,” says Bunch. This forward-thinking extends to the markets, which are used to address environmental issues. However, unlike in financial markets, what’s being traded—carbon—is tangible and valuable. “If you make a mistake in carbon markets, you could crash the environment,” says Bunch.
Though San Francisco State has always stressed sustainable business practices in their MBA program, they began to offer an emphasis in sustainable business two years ago, which comprises about one-third of the MBA coursework. “Our tagline is ‘Transforming Mainstream Business.’ We’re not trying to create sustainability managers. We’re trying to train MBAs, who will be the guts of the mainstream businesses, understand sustainability and can contribute to the transformation of those organizations,” says Murray Silverman.
MORE ABOUT THE MBA PROGRAMS
University of San Diego
Established in 2000 in collaboration with the Ken Blanchard Companies, the MSEL program has over 300 alumni. Using a cohort program, students establish networks with one another that last long after they have graduated from the program. Students begin in August and are together for 22 months. Coursework involves team deliverables where the team receives the same grade for the assignment. Since students have established careers, courses are condensed into 2.5 days per month, Friday through Sunday. Students fly in from other locales and receive full concierge-type service during their stay. Work is completed throughout the month via conference call or WebEx. According to Kurt , students tend to self-regulate and form groups consisting of people with experience for the task at hand.
Once a month, visitors and students can attend a free breakfast meeting to hear a renowned speaker to relate advice and discuss their leadership journeys. Previous speakers include Dr. Jerry Jellison, Ken Blanchard and Matthew Paul. Additionally, USD offers short non-degree courses, where professors of the program travel to the company for leadership training.
Pepperdine University: SEER Certificate Program
The SEER Certificate is comprised of six electives, a capstone course in responsible business practices, and required events. Designed for the two year MBA student, the elective and capstone courses are taken in the second year. For the 2010-2011 academic year, students will travel with Tetsuya O’Hara, Director of Advanced Research and Development for Patagonia, to work on a project in Patagonia National Park in Chile. Graduates from the program will leave with the experience necessary to thrive in the global business climate and a broad MBA background.
University of Michigan, the Erb Institute MBA/MS Program for Global Sustainable Enterprise
The program began in 1995 when the deans of the Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment created the Corporate Environmental Management program in response to the idea that businesses needed to take care of their environmental responsibilities better than they had been. Over time, the program became the Sustainable Enterprise Institute and began focus more on market strategy over operations.
San Francisco State University
San Francisco State offers an MBA with an emphasis in sustainable business, one that is recognized by the Beyond Grey Pinstripes national alternative ranking of business schools. Though the emphasis began two years ago, students have been required to take a course in sustainable business practices for the last 25 years. In 1995, SFSU developed a course in environmental leadership to offer to MBA students. SFSU has five full-time faculty dedicated to green and ethical practices. Located in the heart of San Francisco, many of the students in the MBA program are already working in the business world. “It’s as much an MBA program as it is a sustainability program,” says Silverman.