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.
This post was written by Cy Kupersmith ’19
Sustainable Innovation Cohort of 2019
What is a cohort?
You must be a bunch of hippies in there.
Base of the pyramid you say?
A fortune in there?
Do go on…
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.
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:
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.
This post was written by Joe Humes ’19. He’s reflecting on his first week in the program at the conclusion of Orientation Week.
It all started on the bus. That familiar feeling of butterflies fluttering through my stomach as Burlington’s #2 bus made its way astutely up Pearl Street. It felt like many first days before it: the first day of high school, the first day of my last new job, etc. but also brought those old nerves to a totally new level. I mean…this is grad school. This is our final step on the journey to a fruitful and meaningful career. We all know objectively what we hope to get out of the program we’re stepping into, so that’s not the scary part.
The truly daunting part of this experience is the slew of intangibles that you don’t prepare for: the people you might meet, the things you might say, or the unexpected things you might learn. I think I speak for much of my cohort when I say that the first steps into Kalkin 110 on Monday were some of the most exciting and terrifying steps of my life.
I don’t know about the rest of my classmates, but as I sat down in the lecture hall on Monday I genuinely thought we were gearing up for the stereotypical Orientation Week. I expected syllabi, icebreaker games, and a few basic conversations about the program. I had no clue that we would be getting a totally different experience.
“This week was like Orientation on steroids”
This week was like Orientation on steroids. We’ve already had hundreds of in-depth conversations about teamwork, sustainable development, renewable energy, and orangutans. We used LIFO to jump inside each other’s personalities for a morning and we got way too close to each other on the UVM ropes course in an afternoon. To top it all off, we’ve already had an utterly fascinating corporate meeting with an executive from Ben and Jerry’s (or Seventh Generation). It all was completely unexpected, and it’s been completely incredible.
I realized something very interesting over the last four days. I usually get to Kalkin a little early and have a few minutes to listen to some Phish and sip coffee as I wait for everyone else to arrive. On Monday, I felt like this group had the potential for chemistry. I noticed above-average chatter and smiles around the classroom. On Tuesday, I noticed the room was slightly louder as everyone switched their seats and met more people. By Wednesday, the room was rumbling like Grand Central Terminal as we greeted each other like lifelong friends. On Thursday, it was so loud I didn’t even try to listen to music.
And that’s when it hit me: this week was about forging us as a unit. The subject matter is what it is and we’ll either learn it or we won’t. It’s the conversations we’ve had this week and the activities we’ve done that will build the unbreakable foundation between us. I realized the true goal of Jones, Hart, and Fusco, the three-headed captain of our cohort’s maiden voyage, was to spark a unified fire between us that will guide us through the wild ride ahead of us. Now, as I sit tranquilly on Thursday night with a Switchback in my hand, I think our entire cohort will agree that they’ve unquestionably succeeded.
Editor’s Note: The Sustainable Innovation MBA Class of 2019 arrived on campus this week for orientation, the beginning of an intensive year of learning, discovery, and shaping of their futures. The following message to the new cohort was written by Kevin Hoskins ’18, reflecting on his own orientation week, his class’s recent graduation, and everything in between.
It’s hard to believe it’s over. It all went by so fast.
Last August, I packed up a van filled with my belonging and headed north, first on I-93 and then on I-89. I had come to Burlington to participate in a one-year, intensive MBA program. I had resisted graduate school and more formal education for a while, but something about this program spoke to me.
I soon found myself in a room surrounded by people that felt the same. We had come from different backgrounds, different work experiences, and from different areas of the country, a few from other nations.
What we soon found out is that we shared a similar feeling: that business-as-usual was no longer working and that it is time to transform and, if necessary, create businesses to respond to society’s challenges in a way that is more sustainable. That is, we need more market-based solutions to the challenges that face the world today.
“It all goes by so fast.”
In fact, it was a year ago today that I first met the other members of my cohort. They are, and remain, some of the most amazing people I’ve met. And I feel honored to have spent a year in a windowless room with them.
We began the year with a quintessential UVM activity: a trip to the university’s ropes course. In the first of many surreal moments this year, we also took turns looking at the solar eclipse that happened to be taking place that day. Then we played games to get to know each other, followed by other trust-building activities on the actual course. As I walked home that evening, reflecting on the experience and the first day of class, I remember thinking, “This is going to be a wild year. Enjoy the ride.”
We began the year studying business foundations: finance, strategy, brand marketing, and organizational behavior. We learned about the sustainability challenges facing the world. But soon enough, we found ourselves exploring topics that get at the heart of those challenges: strategic CSR, entrepreneurship, innovation, supply chain issues, public policy, and community development. And before we knew it, we were applying what we had learned in the classroom with businesses and organizations with real world challenges.
I tried to go into this year with no expectations for the experience. My initial goals were only to work as hard as I could and enjoy every minute of it. We know not if we’ll ever pass this way again…or something like that.
So, my advice, both to this next cohort and anyone that happens to be reading this, is to enjoy every minute of your time here. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Soak up every moment of it. Take advantage of every opportunity. Enjoy the time you have with the people you’re lucky enough to share a room with. Learn from them. And approach it all with a growth mindset: your intelligence and talent got you here, but the world needs more people that also have a love of learning, that communicate effectively, that work well on a team, and that have the resilience to get across the finish line.
The time flies by. Before you know it, you’ll be saying goodbye and moving onto your next opportunity. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be sitting here a year from now being thankful for every single minute that you got to spend with some of your new favorite people. Enjoy the ride. It all goes by so fast.
This post was written by Samuel Carey ’18
This year three Sustainable Innovation MBA students, ambitiously seeking to foster a greener economy, took on an additional workload outside their already busy schedules to prepare, practice and pass the test to become LEED Green Associates. Samuel Carey, Christopher Norcross, Robert Hacker (in photo, below, left to right) attended a LEED training workshop late in the fall, and spent the spring preparing. The final exam was not easy, but they all did fine. They are even contemplating going after the next level of certification becoming LEED Accredited Professionals, which would allow them to work as auditors.
Today, the importance of LEED is underestimated, and the students believe that it will soon become the norm, becoming part of all building codes. The built environment accounts for more than a third of our total energy usage, as well as an immense amount of fresh water. And buildings take up a lot of space, disrupting natural drainage systems and increasing the urban heat island affect. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification system made to create greener buildings and more livable urban environments. It is estimated that people will spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so it makes sense to prioritize both healthier and more environmentally friendly buildings.
Rob: “I like it because it’s making the human built landscape better work with and co-exist with the natural environment.”
The students were impressed by the organization and stages of development of a LEED project. They saw significant overlap amongst topics and core concepts from their SI-MBA course work. LEED projects start with stakeholder engagement and cross-functional team planning in a process called a Charrette. There, they must decide what characteristics the design will prioritize, and in which LEED categories it will receive points (i.e. Energy, Water, Sustainable Sites, Transportation, Materials and Resources, etc.). There are certain prerequisites that all LEED certified buildings must adhere to, but the remaining points are awarded as credits from a list of many. This enables the design team some flexibility and creativity. LEED awards more points for certain aspects based on overall priorities. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the highest priority goal, so more credits are awarded for implementing energy efficiency, benign refrigerants and renewable energy.
Chris: “It’s awesome that they’ve been able to standardize sustainability in building infrastructure.”
Overall the LEED GA certification was an incredibly rich learning experience. The students think that some LEED training should probably be integrated into the SI-MBA program as the concepts and strategies are indeed incredibly impactful to continue transforming today’s businesses and creating tomorrow’s ventures!
Sam: “The fact that LEED certified buildings deliver on the triple bottom line really proves the case for sustainable business.”
This post was written by Ian Dechow ’18 and Randy Baron ’18
Entering Kalkin 110 on a particular mid-April day was unlike any day before it; a lively if not curious environment awaited inside the classroom.
Against the auditorium style seating a table was set up and laid out with what could be confused as the tools from Dexter’s laboratory, a motley assortment of pliers, saws, metal files, and safety goggles were spread over a black tarp. On a second look around the room you notice a type of pinball style launching devices affixed to the front desk, a ping pong ball loaded into its cartridge, aimed at narrow vertical strip of peg board. On the ground in front of the desk beyond the pegboard barrier were two lines of tape outlining what we would come to learn was a landing strip of sorts. We were not sure what to think of this odd display as we took our seats, but were quickly informed by the excited and jovial explanation from Mike Rosen, our guest lecturer for the day.
Mike, an engineer and Research Associate Professor at University of Vermont, had come to the Grossman School of Business to teach a workshop on Design Thinking for The Sustainable Innovation MBA 2018 cohort. Mike, after telling us a little about his background, passed out an eclectic set of supplies to the pre-divided teams and told use what the challenge for the class would be. Using the launcher at the front of the room, the tools, and materials provided: pegboard, small metal sheets, PVC piping, ping-pong paddles, and various other connector type elements, we were to construct a device to divert a ping-pong ball around, over, or through the vertical pegboard barrier and land within the landing strip on the ground designated by red tape. Each team after understanding the challenge would get opportunity to ideate, prototype and test a device in order to achieve the unconventional task.
The Sustainable Innovation MBA Class of 2018 is entering the home stretch.
On May 11, the cohort, faculty, and sponsoring companies gathered on UVM’s campus for what has become an inspiring demonstration of how the students have “put it all together.” Students spent the day “pitching” the scope and framework of their practicum projects — a capstone of The Sustainable Innovation MBA experience. Practicums call upon all the skills, insights, experiences, and learning the students have acquired over the past nine months.
The three-month practicum project is a full-time, hands-on experiential engagement with either existing companies or new ventures from the US and around the world focused on real challenges and opportunities in sustainable entrepreneurship. Practicum projects are composed of teams of 2-3 Sustainable Innovation MBA students each. Projects run from May until August, and culminate in a final report and presentation right before graduation.
Students pitched scoping for projects at companies such as Keurig Green Mountain, Griffith Foods, Essilor, Seventh Generation, and Caterpillar.
The deliverable for the practicum is a detailed and comprehensive business/action plan for the host organization.
This post was written by Julia Lyon ’18
On a day in April, The Sustainable Innovation MBA students started a particular morning considering the question: What is your favorite organism? With answers ranging from sea turtles to willow trees, to ants and fungus, we began to explore the organisms in nature that intrigue and inspire us.
Mike Dupee, Lecturer in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program and a Certified Biomimicry Professional, introduced us to biomimicry, which is the innovation approach centered on the “conscious emulation of nature’s genius.” As humans strive towards innovation – doing things faster, better, more creatively, and at lower cost – looking more closely at the natural world around us shows that this is one of the oldest processes on the planet. The plants, animals, and microbes that have survived the 3.8 billion years of our planet are the ultimate innovators and as businesses seek to solve problems and develop new strategies, there is much that can be learned from them.
“There are three core concepts of biomimicry: Emulate, Reconnect, and Ethos.”
There are three core concepts of biomimicry: Emulate, Reconnect, and Ethos. Emulation means that biomimicry is centered on learning from nature, not just copying it. Nature’s design can be learned from and adapted, and biomimicry is not simply using an exact design copy as found in nature. Reconnecting is based on the notion that biomimicry in practice will be better if you have a connection with nature and a relationship with the environment. Ethos asks the simple question: what kind of work is worth doing? This is our respect for the environment and the responsibility to our fellow species. Biomimicry in practice also centers on six central life principles that are lessons from nature based on design. These range from being resource efficient to adapting to changing conditions.
There are many fascinating examples of how businesses have used biomimicry to create innovative designs. One such example is Sharket Technologies, which was created when the U.S. Navy was in search of a solution to prevent aquatic life from attaching to ship hulls; the only solution that had been found thus far was a toxic paint. It was realized, however, that sharks do not have the same problem of organisms attaching to their skin and researchers took a closer look at sharkskin under a microscope. It was found that the shape and pattern of sharkskin made it resistant to algae and barnacles attaching themselves. This insight was developed into a special material that has been used to create a commercial coating for boats as well as sterile surfaces for hospitals and laboratories that reduce bacteria growth.
During the workshop, student groups were given different organisms with innovative features to examine and design potential commercial uses. With organisms like the nautilus, red pine, and the abalone, and students designed eco-friendly adhesives for snowboard manufacturing, fire-retardant clothing, and sturdier bike helmets.
Though biomimicry is not a new concept, its approach can be applied to help solve sustainability challenges and improve life on our planet for generations to come.