How Business Can Support Refugees

This post was written by Ryan Forman ’19

All around the world, refugees are being demonized for various political reasons. There is overwhelming academic and professional research into how much value refugees are to society. Therefore, civil society cannot help them adjust to their new country alone, but business plays a role in supporting them as well. There are multiple ways in which business can help the current refugee situation, but this article is going to focus on two key methods.

The first way that business can help refugees is by investing in refugee-owned/founded businesses. Research shows that refugees are more likely to hire fellow refugees. Because of this investment, businesses can support more than just one refugee; they can help many others get hired as well. One example of an impact investment organization that specializes in investing in refugee-founded businesses is the Refugee Investment Network (RIN). The RIN works to help move private capital to investment in financing of companies that benefit both refugees and their host communities.

An additional way that business can help refugees is by advocating for them in the workforce. Advocating for refugees could be businesses partnering with both governmental and non-governmental organizations that will help individuals get the skills that they need to be more competitive in their local job market. Ernst & Young (EY) in Germany have gone above and beyond in how to support refugees. EY Germany states, “Through EY Cares, the team got funding for a language-learning app, developed by an employee of EY Germany. The team has also supported Kiron, a social start-up providing higher education to refugees, and it has launched a pilot internship program for 10 refugees across EY Germany.” There aren’t many examples of this in the United States, but there is a similar situation here in Burlington at Rhino Foods. Advocating for refugees could be looking at leveraging their past skills to hire them for similar roles in a business that they did in their former country. According to Rhino Foods, “The cultural diversity at Rhino exposes us to each other’s favorite foods, traditions, and life experiences.” Currently, refugees make up 37% of Rhino Food’s workforce.

In our Entrepreneurship class, my group has proposed creating an incubator that would help address both of these methods to help refugees. We think that an incubator, that supports both investment in refugee-owned businesses and partnerships to help refugees get the skills they need to become competitive in their local markets, is a needed organization. I would certainly like to see more organizations place such an emphasis on, as RIN has described, “the greatest social challenge of our time.” Refugees are a boon to the local economy, and it is time for business to empower them.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Finding the Program’s Delicate Work-Life Harmony

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we approach the halfway point in the program’s intensive one-year experience, we’re publishing a number of student reflections on how found professional and personal balance over the last few months. This post was written by Tor Dworshak ’19

You can manage extracurriculars while in this program; just be sure you’ve got tact, a willingness to work at odd hours, and a vision of productivity.

While most incoming Sustainable Innovation MBA students were worried about academics or moving to a new city, my biggest concern was whether or not I would have the time for bike races. Maybe my priorities weren’t totally in order, but the drive to ensure that I made time to train and race my bike brought me some success in the program. On the first day of orientation, I had convinced myself I would be too busy to race, and that my focus needed to be on nothing but school. Being a bike racer though, I can be competitive at times, and decided that I would compete with myself to race as many times as I could between August and December. The thing standing in my way was fourteen courses. My only option was to create productivity strategies that forced me to stay far in advance of deadlines and deliverables.

There is no denying that this program keeps even the most astute students incredibly busy for the larger part of their waking hours. Case studies for breakfast, problem sets for lunch, research paper for dinner, and studying for dessert. The workload is predictable though. With some proper planning and forward thinking, assignments can be done far in advance, which offers the ability to take a day off for extracurricular activities.

Have a paper due on October 23? Why not force yourself ahead on it by scheduling a meeting with the teacher on October 2nd, at which point you’ll need to have some outline in progress. Two cases due on Wednesday plus a handful of readings on Thursday?  Forget about sleeping in on Sunday, get through as many of those as possible. Weekdays are busy no matter what, so the more you can lighten the load Monday to Friday, the more you can focus on larger deliverables during the week and get ahead on them. The ultimate goal is to avoid ever doing an assignment the night before it is due. This gives insulation in case something takes longer than expected, or you need a night to yourself. And just like that, you just freed up enough time to enjoy an extracurricular activity of your choosing!

And since I have been counting, I have raced nine times so far since the program started…

Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash

Shake it Up

This post was written by Elissa Eggers ’19

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

I first encountered this quote by Gandhi on Pinterest last fall, when I was beginning the grad school application process. I found it to be a comforting reminder that although my aspirations were large (telling people you want to save the planet can result in a lot of blank stares), I could find a way to make an impact on my own terms. While, I’ve never been a particularly loud or forceful person, I’ve never lacked conviction. Ultimately, I knew that because I would probably never be the person leading a protest or going door-to-door, I needed to find the avenue that best allowed me to use my interests and abilities to bring about change. This is what drew me to The Sustainable Innovation MBA. I knew it would hone my current skill-sets, provide me with the tools needed to make an impact, and expose me to avenues for change I didn’t yet know existed. In this regard, the program has most certainly not disappointed.

All of our choices have an impact. The key is figuring out in what ways, whether big or small, you can make an impact that is authentic to you.

In the mere 3 months (could it really have only be 3 months?) I’ve been in the program, I’ve met an incredible collection of human beings and been exposed to a plethora of new ideas and viewpoints. The real trick though, I’m learning, is remembering to look up and maintain perspective while trying to take in all this new information coming at you. This program is, without question, fast moving and its relentless pace can cause you to become stuck in the weeds as you focus on checking off the ever-growing collection of deliverables on your to-do list. I’ll admit, this has been me for the past few weeks. I’ve fallen down the rabbit-hole of cost models, business plans, and organizational behavior. However, my drive home from Burlington for the holidays mixed with the magic of Pinterest in periodically resurrecting old, previously viewed pins, provided me with some much-needed perspective.

My background is in retail management and I came into this program to learn more about how the product life cycle (specifically related to clothing) can become more circular as well as how to shift consumer behavior. With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season soundly upon us, I can’t think of better time to reground in why I started along this journey in the first place. What we buy matters, and how we use it can matter even more. All of our choices have an impact. The key is figuring out in what ways, whether big or small, you can make an impact that is authentic to you.

So, my question for you this holiday season and beyond, is how will you shake the world?

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Getting to Know the Class of 2019: Torsten Dworshak

Torsten — or, Tor — comes to The Sustainable Innovation MBA with a background in digital marketing and strategic management. While at the University of Rhode Island, Tor was a member of the varsity track and field team. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?

If ever there has been an MBA program designed with disruption and creative destruction in mind, it’s this one. This MBA isn’t a fast track to Wall Street, it’s a fast track to learning how to be a serial industry disruptor.

What has been your favorite element/part of the program so far?

Not a single day goes by when I don’t learn something new.

What are three things someone considering the program should be aware of?

1. This is a fast moving program. Don’t forget to breathe.

2. Always be ready for opportunity.

3. After you remember to breathe, breathe again.

While you are taking time to breathe, make time to reflect. Material comes at you so fast that if you don’t actively make time for reflection, it’ll be difficult to create long lasting takeaways.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA benefitted you so far?

We meet a ton of professionals who are incredibly passionate about what they do. The opportunity to learn from their successes and failures is a gift.

Anything else you’d like people to know?

All of the speakers from Ben and Jerry’s bring ice cream with them!

The Sustainable Innovation MBA Co-Hosts Global CEO Forum

On a beautiful autumn day in mid-October — the kind of day Vermont is famous for — the International Academy of Management came to the campus of UVM to host the Global Forum on Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation.

The event, co-hosted by the Grossman School of Business and The Sustainable Innovation MBA program, featured a keynote speech and conversation with Muhtar Kent, chairman of the Coca-Cola Company. Our MBA students also had the opportunity to listen to and network with some of the U.S.’s and Vermont’s most innovative business leaders.

Kent, who has made innovation and the transformation of Coca-Cola a vital focus of his time at the helm of one of the world’s most recognizable companies, told the Forum’s 150 attendees that, at Coca Cola, innovation flows from the power of partnerships — that the best ideas are often found on the outside.

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Kent also made the case that a “golden triangle” of forces — business, government, and social-mission organizations —  must come together to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Therefore, he said, business leaders must be master relationship builders.

The Forum also featured reflections by three forward-thinking business leaders. Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power; Brian Griffith, chairman of Griffith Foods; and Joey Bergstein, CEO of Seventh Generation, shared their own personal and organizational stories of transformation and innovation.

Getting to Know the Class of 2019: Esteban Echeverria

Esteban, born and raised in San José, Costa Rica, returned to his native country after living for six years in the United States and obtaining BSc. and MSc. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland.  He comes to the program from Ad Astra in Costa Rica, where he was a project engineer for its renewable energy and environmental sciences division. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?

As a mechanical engineer working in the renewable energy and hydrogen fuel sector for six years, I started to notice that the development of these disruptive technologies will not reach full commercialization out of pure environmental enthusiasm. I understood that the creation of new business models based on sustainable practices that serve the vested interests of not just some, but all of the stakeholders, should be the objective to be pursued. It was then that I realized it was time to go back to school. I chose to attend an MBA program because I saw business as a tool to complement my engineering background. However, I specifically chose this program because it has an primary objective that I did not find in any other MBA program ― to make the world a better place.

What has been your favorite element/part of the program so far?

Every classmate of the cohort has a similar story and reason to be in the program. We are all deeply passionate about sustainability issues and finding ways to solve them. This makes us create strong bonds as well as a respectful and caring environment to share our ideas and learn from each other.

What are three things someone considering the program should be aware of?

1. If you are not into sustainability and contributing to solve the global environmental and social issues, this might not be the program for you.

2. The program is only one year, which makes it really intensive. It is really hard for anyone to attend while having an unrelated side project or job.

3. The city of Burlington is a beautiful developed rural area, unlike anything I have seen before. It has a very strong sense of community, and their citizens are very much interested in being active participants and helping each other.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA benefitted you so far?

Before starting this program, I had only worked with engineers and I was used to their particular way of thinking, solving problems, debating. It has been quite useful to be exposed to such a diverse group of people, with such different backgrounds, ranging from international development to finance, art, and even fashion. This has taught me that there are many ways of solving the same problem, and its always better to bring different fresh ideas to the table.

Anything else you’d like people to know?

I am an international student, from Costa Rica, and I strongly recommend this experience to anybody who lives outside of the United States. Since I came, everybody has been very friendly and helpful to me. You will feel just like home.

Getting to Know the Class of 2019: Alyssa Schuetz

A recent graduate of Drexel University, Alyssa brings a passion for apparel, textiles, and product development to the The Sustainable Innovation MBA program. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?
As the #1 Green MBA program in the country, I knew the program could give me the skills, tools, and knowledge that I would need to in order to further my career in sustainability and the fashion industry.
What has been your favorite part/element of the program so far?
My favorite element of the program is the diversity of my cohort — it makes for lively class discussions that have taught me so much more than a textbook ever could.
What are three things someone considering the program should be aware of?
1) There is a huge focus on leadership and teamwork to make you the best leader and team player that you could be, 2) The group work bonds you to your cohort, and 3) Your cohort will become your extended family.
How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA benefitted you so far?
I have learned that there are so many ways to implement sustainability in a business model that is both ethical and cost-effective.
Anything else you’d like people to know?
The program’s location in Burlington, Vermont is inspirational as the culture here lives and breathes sustainability and the great outdoors.

Sustainable Innovation Poetic Attempt No. 1

This post was written by Cy Kupersmith ’19

Sustainable Innovation Cohort of 2019

What is a cohort?

Sustainable Innovation?

Green MBA?

You must be a bunch of hippies in there.

Base of the pyramid you say?

A fortune in there?

Do go on…

Renewable.

Regenerative!

Beef and whiskey with Hunter Lovins.

It’s a chariot race to hell, but at least we’re in the race.

Financially viable and environmentally sustainable.

Porter’s 5 forces.

Benefit Corporations, B-Labs and B-Corp Certified.

Shareholders, stockholders, and stakeholders.

Seventh Generation visitors in only marketing class for some reason.

Fusco’s test and VOMPing.  Form, Storm, Norm, Perform, and saying goodbye.

What’re the next teams going to be?

Finance with Chuck and WSJ articles

Willingness-to-pay with Slick Rick

Double Wednesdays with Dupee

Did you do the reading for strategy?  Some of it.  What was the case-study about?  Not sure.

A surprising amount of marriages.  Mozoltov to Steve and Maggie.

Launch with Paula.  We will all bleed UVM after this.

David Jones milking cows or running or something, we aren’t positive.

Every leader has a love affair with the truth

Shout out to team 10:  Alexa, Travis, and Matt.

I am really happy with my decision to come here.

Go cats.

Planning for “Launch”

The Sustainable Innovation MBA is a unique program in many ways. Above all, it is reinventing business education to produce leaders who aim to solve the world’s most challenging economic, environmental, and social problems through the lens of enterprise and entrepreneurship.

And, because it’s a one-year accelerated MBA, students begin their career exploration and planning right from the first day, aiming to develop the skills, networks, and insights to “launch” into opportunities post-graduation — just eleven months from now.

Last week, as part of our innovative “Launch” workshop series, students spent an afternoon building the foundations of self-discovery, articulating strengths and weaknesses, and beginning to think about various potential career pathways. Here’s a peek:

Developing an inventory of necessary leadership traits:

Meryl and Matt, building and practicing a personal elevator pitch:

Getting support and encouragement from the cohort’s honorary member:

Finding Tribe

This post was written by Cameron McMahon ’19 and is another valuable insight into the first days of our newest cohort as well as the ethic and mission of the program.

There is a tendency in many “green” and “sustainability” focused groups and conversations to view business as a dirty word. While this seems to be beginning to shift in positive ways it can still be difficult to find others who believe that it is possible to do good in the world while also making a profit. It takes a special sort of crazy to not only think about radically redefining capitalism, but to set about actually doing it.

I chose to join The Sustainable Innovation MBA program for a variety of reasons but one was the desire to find others who share the drive and fire to put their shoulders into the work that desperately needs to be done in the world. It is an odd thing to have the idea for that and then meet people who exceed your expectations. The excitement of being around actual humans with impressive and diverse backgrounds, rather than just concepts that such people exist, has been a pleasant condensation of reality.

“After several years of trudging this path working toward achieving greater sustainability in meaningful ways it is a relief to be surrounded by others on the climb.”

The first week of orientation is over and the class schedule is beginning to resolve as we stretch creaky academic muscles and gear up for the marathon this year will be. I had a platoon sergeant in the Marine Corps who constantly drilled into our heads that, “You don’t matter, the person to your left and your right matter.” As we come to know each other and build teams this has been rattling around in my head. A quote in class yesterday which seemed to echo this sentiment for me was, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” After several years of trudging this path working toward achieving greater sustainability in meaningful ways it is a relief to be surrounded by others on the climb. Here’s to finding tribe.