Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Kevin Hoskins

Kevin Hoskins  brings management and leadership experience in the music business and creative industries to The Sustainable Innovation MBA program. He was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I came back to Vermont because I craved the community and the spirit of entrepreneurship that seems to be part of the state’s DNA. I chose this program because I wanted to learn frameworks and strategies to better integrate my leadership, management, and entrepreneurial experience with the program’s sustainability and innovation focus. The Sustainable Innovation MBA program at UVM speaks to my goals and values: resisting business-as-usual, having the optimism to see challenges as opportunities, and needing to develop new business models (and market-based solutions) that incorporate sustainability and future-oriented thinking.

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

My favorite part of the program is the people: my cohort, the professors, and the greater community that surrounds this program. Every day, I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend eight hours in a room learning from people that want to get creative about solving challenging problems.

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

First, be willing to listen…and embrace collaboration. You’ll be put in situations where teamwork is essential to achieving your goals. Remember to listen to your teammates and be willing to collaborate to achieve something greater.

Second, follow the threads that interest you. The year goes by quickly and there’s a lot of information coming your way. It’s easy to fall behind if you don’t stay on top of the work. But don’t forget that you can always dive deeper on the subjects that you’re passionate about. Adopt a learning mindset. And stay curious.

Lastly, be prepared to challenge yourself. Be willing to re-frame your mental models. Ask questions. Be flexible. And get comfortable with uncertainty. It’ll serve you well in the program, but also in your future work.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

The Sustainable Innovation MBA has helped me learn analytical tools and financial models to help improve and thus transform businesses. This program is a great reminder that people are not only the greatest asset of any business, they’re our greatest tool for innovation and our greatest opportunity to build a better world.

Anything else?

Vermont is a unique place. And this is a unique program. Embrace the magic. And if you’d like to know more about the program, I’m happy to talk. I can be reached via

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Ariella Pasackow

Ariella Pasackow ’18 left her previous position as Program Officer for RefugePoint to join The Sustainable Innovation MBA program.  She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I grew up in Vermont, but built my career out-of-state and overseas, so The Sustainable Innovation MBA was the perfect bridge to return home and grow my professional network in Burlington. With a background in nonprofit administration and international development, I wanted to gain business tools and frameworks for growing sustainable enterprises and inclusive company cultures. I am passionate about social justice issues, gender equity, and refugee resettlement in Vermont, and plan to work in greater Burlington for the foreseeable future.

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

I have learned just as much from my peers as I have from my professors, and am so grateful for my cohort community. Unlike more traditional MBAs, we have cultivated an incredibly supportive learning environment, where all different types of learners can thrive. By building trust, respect, and strong interpersonal relationships, we have been able to communicate effectively through periods of stress, confusion, and anxiety. We cheered each other on before tests and presentations, and made sure to keep the the classroom energy high despite too many hours indoors.

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

REST. Do whatever you need to do to take time off before the program starts, and allow yourself the time and space to transition. Classes start Day 1, and orientation is no breeze! Whether you are coming from undergrad or a career, moving across the country, or commuting from down the street, take time to rest and rejuvenate before the program starts. You will be nonstop for twelve months.

REFLECT. Taking one year out of your career to be a full-time student is an incredible privilege and opportunity. Don’t let the weeks slip away bogged down in the daily grind without reminding yourself why you are here, what you want to learn, and where you want to put your energy. You can’t do everything, but you can commit to prioritize, plan, and proactively work towards your personal and professional goals. The Sustainable Innovation MBA students have shared values, but often very different expectations for during and after the program. Celebrate this, and learn from each other.

PRIORITIZE TEAMS. Every module, you will be assigned a small group to work with for eight weeks on every class assignment and deliverable. Teamwork is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of The Sustainable Innovation MBA experience. It will be fun, frustrating, time consuming, and hilarious. You will design and create products you would never think of alone, and test processes and procedures on how to best work together, designate roles, delegate, and download. You will learn how to brainstorm without judgement, make decisions under stress, and maximize the quantity and quality of your work despite minimal time and resources. Individual assignments are few and far between, and readings can always wait until later. Your grad school success is dependent upon the success of your team. Cherish them.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

The Sustainable Innovation MBA has introduced me to more people, ideas, and resources in the last eight months than I could have ever imagined. I have gained a vocabulary and confidence to ask questions and solve problems I had only thought about through a nonprofit lens. It has shown me the immense value of my previous work experience, and the endless possibilities for leadership, growth, and opportunities in sustainable business with a triple bottom line approach (people, profit, planet).  The Sustainable Innovation MBA could have not come at a better time in my life as I seek to pivot into for profit ventures and social entrepreneurship. I am immensely grateful for my peers, professors, and alumni network that has grown to create a true community.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Julia Lyon

Julia Lyon left her previous position as an Internal Communications Manager  for Enel Green Power to join The Sustainable Innovation MBA program. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

When I was an undergraduate student at UVM and took my first course on corporate social responsibility (CSR), I had an epiphany. I knew that I wanted to create environmental and social good using the power of business and that earning an MBA was likely in my future. I chose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA for several reasons. I was drawn to the one-year accelerated program, the program’s holistic approach to incorporating sustainability in all coursework, and the opportunity to return to beautiful Vermont.

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

My favorite part of the program has been getting to know my peers. We’re a group with a diverse set of backgrounds and interests and I find that I’m continuously learning from my classmates. With the amount of team assignments required throughout the coursework (there are a lot!), you get to know your classmates very quickly.

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

  1. The leadership component of The Sustainable Innovation MBA curriculum. If developing strong leadership capabilities is of interest to a potential student – I recommend this program. We have multiple leadership-focused courses, a year-long leadership seminar, and many opportunities to connect with local business leaders to learn from their experiences.
  2. The amount of team collaboration that’s involved. At various points in the program you’ll have as many of three different teams that you complete projects and coursework with. This is a great opportunity to learn from one another that really develops your time management, communication, and collaboration skills.
  3. Practicum projects. These summer consulting projects are a way to apply the skills you’ve developed over the year, so it’s important to explore early on what you’re looking to gain from your practicum experience.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

The Sustainable Innovation MBA has helped me explore my quantitative skills in finance and accounting and made me realize that I do really enjoy finance. The leadership component of the program has also helped me understand the importance of leadership of any business and think more about my future impact as a leader.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Kathrin Kaiser

Kathrin Kaiser ’18 left her previous position as EU Associate Category Manager – Business Manager for Wayfair to join The Sustainable Innovation MBA program.  She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I always knew I wanted to get an MBA in the U.S. to learn all the necessary skills it takes to be an entrepreneur, but after working in an exclusively profit-driven environment, I wanted to make a career change and use my resources to do “something good.” I felt that The Sustainable Innovation MBA would teach me fundamental business skills and combine them with a sustainable perspective to create profitable businesses that benefit the environment and society — plus Vermont seemed like the perfect environment for a green MBA program.

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

I really enjoyed the quant classes of the program – we were lucky to have had amazing finance and economics teachers who made learning about numbers really fun. I would say in general, the teachers are the greatest part of the program – they are so enthusiastic, caring, patient and knowledgeable.

The class discussions are also one of my favorite parts – sometimes we completely lost track of time because we had such engaging and interesting discussions and its amazing how much you learn from hearing all the different perspectives from your class mates and their large variety of backgrounds. The level of engagement in our cohort is just amazing!

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

  1. You might not notice the amazing development you and your classmates make throughout the year – suddenly, it will be March and you will look back and compare yourself and your cohort to last summer and realize what amazing progress you all have made together.
  2. Your cohort will be more than just your classmates — your classmates will become a big family that supports, encourages, and empowers each other.
  3. You will become very confident with public speaking.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

One of the greatest things is the broad network we’ve been building in the program and all the different perspectives we get to hear about — numerous guest speakers, events with the Advisory Board, or just engaging in discussions with my classmates have tremendously broadened my horizon and changed the way I look at things.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Julia Barnes

Julia Barnes ’18 joined The Sustainable Innovation MBA program after spending the past decade working in progressive politics to further access to affordable healthcare, combat income inequality and take on the growing threat of climate change.

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

I chose The Sustainable Innovation MBA because I wanted a different MBA experience that approached business and startups from a disruptive, innovative perspective. I don’t feel invested in historical takes on economic growth and was more connected with designing a MBA that connected with my progressive values.

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

For me, my favorite part is the challenge. We are capturing all of the content and value of traditional business school, but are always pushed to think about with a sustainable, triple-bottom-line approach. In this way, I find our experience is more inline with the reality of what we will face in applying our MBA and less in simple academic recall.

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

1.  The commitment is serious. 7 hours a day of class with double the work load of a normal program means you have to take this seriously.

2.  Value your time with your classmates and lean on them to help you get through. You get to know people really well in our module learning teams and those friendships can really help you succeed.

3.  Explore things you never knew would be important to you. I found a significant draw to marketing and impact investing, which was definitely not what I had expected, but The Sustainable Innovation MBA affords you that exposure instead of tracking you into something that may not be your passion.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

So far, it’s helped me set aside time in my life to clarify my purpose, to make some great new friends and connections, and to find an environment to have a rigorous business education while staying true to my values.

Anything else?

Burlington is the best place to live in the country. Seriously. There really isn’t a place where you can get whatever you could want in a big city in the most beautiful part of the country with all the attraction of a small town. I love it.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Arielle Tatar

Arielle Tatar ’18  left her previous position as Aquatics Director at the YMCA Southcoast to join The Sustainable Innovation MBA program.  She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

Image result for Arielle Tatar Why did you choose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?

I studied business in college and found it extremely interesting and applicable in daily life. I grew up in a sustainable household where the values of The Sustainable Innovation MBA were lived every day, so it’s always been important to me. Attending this program was a way to bring these two passions together!

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

Although brief, our “Marketing Under Uncertainty” class was extremely interesting to me as I am very interested in marketing. Also, the field trips we have taken to Ben & Jerry’s and Rhino Foods, among other places, offer a real opportunity to see what we learn in action.

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

1. Be aware of the weekly time commitment. You’re fitting a lot of information into a short period of time, so you’re going to work a lot of hours every week.

2. The faculty are experts in their fields and really want you to succeed. Realize that this program is top notch and take advantage of the opportunities that it gives you.

3. The relationships you build here are strong and with amazing people. I get to go to class every day with some of the smartest and most influential people I’ve ever met and I get to learn and grow from them. We are not a traditional MBA where we compete with each other to survive. We are a family that helps and raises each other up.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

It has given me so many opportunities to connect with influential business people, as well as learn from top professors. It has also helped me to better understand the issues we face in the sustainability sector and how I can create change.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Robert Hacker

Robert Hacker ’18 joined The Sustainable Innovation MBA program upon completing his undergraduate degree from James Madison University.  He was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I chose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program to gain the tools necessary to make an impact on the world. More specifically, I attended this program because I wanted to learn how I could use business as a tool to increase the impact I could have with my environmental biology degree.

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

My favorite part of the program thus far is my practicum project and my classmates. My practicum project is with Propagate Ventures, an alumni-founded (Editor’s note: Harrison Greene ’16) agroforestry and permaculture start-up, which allows me to use my biology background and my newly gained skills from The Sustainable Innovation MBA. This cohort is a great gathering of people with diverse backgrounds with a similar impact oriented mindset, which is a awesome environment to be a part of every day!

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

1. This will be one of the busiest, most informative years of your life.

2. Good time management skills are so important in this program.

3. You may never want to leave Vermont after the program.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

I have learned so much in the past months, from financial skills to people skills. My classmates have taught me just as much as my professors, and I am lucky to be able to learn so much from my them, since I am one of the younger members of the class.

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Sarah Healey

Sarah Healey ’18 comes to The Sustainable Innovation MBA after a career in retail management. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I chose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program because I wanted to gain the skills necessary to have a productive role in my family’s business. The program drew my attention because of its small size and focus on sustainability and entrepreneurship.

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

My favorite element is the cohort itself. I really enjoy getting to spend five days a week in class with people who have similar interests to me. I feel like the cohort really allows you to develop strong relationships.

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

1) it is very accelerated! but definitely doable. 2) there are so many support systems in place to help you through the challenging parts of the program. 3) Even when it is busy it is so much fun.

How has The Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

The program has helped me in ways I never imagined. It has greatly improved my emotional intelligence and provided me the toolkit to continue to improve  into the future.


Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Shari Siegel

Shari Siegel ’18 came to The Sustainable Innovation MBA progam with an extensive background in law. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

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

I have been a practicing lawyer in various areas of corporate life and a wildly eclectic number of industries (private investments, finance, airlines, manufacturers, software, telecommunications, real estate, mining, retail, etc.).  Much of what I have done professionally has been interesting, challenging, and often fun, and my experience has given me terrific insight into how all sorts of industries and  businesses work and myriad points of view that may come to bear on a question, but I was ready to make a change and to play a different role.

I believe that business can be a powerful force for good in the world when long-term thinking is put into practice, and I want to be among those who are making that happen.  I really wanted to be able to live a more integrated life.  My professional life has accommodated, but not usually incorporated, other aspects of my life that I am passionate about: building community; creating opportunity for aspiring artists and professionals; and promoting ethical stewardship of our environment and natural resources. Those activities have been limited to volunteering in my “spare” time.

For my “next act,” I’m exploring the use of capital investment and the creation and implementation of long-term business strategies to further creating or contributing to a healthy, sustainable business environment with ample career (not just job) opportunities for those who want them.  The Sustainable Innovation MBA program was a perfect opportunity to take the skills and experience I came to the program with and add new skills and perspectives that will allow me to pivot to a satisfying next step.  The insights I get from my professors and fellow students about aspects of business life that have been outside my focus or areas of responsibility are fascinating, and the opportunity to talk to members of the Vermont business community has been invaluable.  UVM has a robust network that is affording me a terrific opportunity to talk to people about various opportunities to put my new and old skills to work in the way I want to.

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

The exposure to all of the people who have been working in fields that are very different from my own and living in other places.  Sharing experiences is enlightening.  Variety truly is the spice of life.

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

Expect to work really, really hard–this program crams a lot of content into one year, and the students who are in the program are serious about their learning experience.  That said, we have some pretty extraordinary professors who go above and beyond to make sure we’re really learning the material; a few have even given up some of their own free days to offer extra classes for us.

Teamwork is crucial.

If you come visit us this year and see the construction we’re living through, don’t worry: it’s supposed to be over for the next cohort.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

It has made me really excited about the possibilities out there.  We’ve also gotten to meet current professionals working in areas we’re studying, tour numerous local businesses and engage in conferences of interest.

‘Shark Tank’ Effect Real For SAP!

This post was written by Jon Reidel, University Communications, and first appeared at

The Sustainable Innovation Review has previously profiled SAP! here, and here.

(Photo: Courtesy Disney/ABC)

It has been a whirlwind few weeks since Chas Smith G’15 and his cousin Nikita Salmon, co-owners of maple beverage company SAP!, appeared on ABC’s venture capital/entrepreneur pitch program “Shark Tank” on Jan. 28. Smith, a graduate of the Grossman School of Business’ Sustainable Innovation MBA program, took a break at a local café to talk about his Hollywood experience and answer a few key questions, mainly: is the “Shark Tank” effect real, and does he regret turning down $600,000?

Is the so-called “Shark Tank” effect real?

It’s definitely real. Our online sales right now are insane. We hit over $100,000 in new online sales within 10 days of the show. It has generated a lot interest and gotten people to try it who wondered, “What the hell is this?” They only let us know ten days before it was going to air, so we rushed to rebuild our entire website to make it e-commerce friendly. We had tens of thousands of hits during the show and we were really worried the website was going to crash. Fortunately, we came through the spike well and were able to process a huge amount of orders.

Another upside is that we are learning a lot about consumer behavior and how people make purchasing decisions online. The show re-airs in July, so we’re preparing for another spike.

How did you manage to get on the show?

They actually sent us a message. We thought it was a joke at first because they wrote into our website and it looked like spam, but then they called us up and we said, “Wow, this is real.” Typically, there’s a long application process, and they have casting calls all over the country. I think someone on the show liked our product because an assistant called us and said, “We want you in LA in three weeks.”

It was sort of risky, because did we really want to take the chance of being roasted on national TV? We are a small company and know what we need to improve on. Ultimately, as we thought about it more, we said, “how many opportunities do you get to talk to four million people about your brand?” All press is good press as far as we are concerned.

Speaking of being roasted, what did you think of some of the jokes and harsher comments the judges dished out?

It may have looked harsh a times, but they do that to everybody. You are not going to come out of there unscathed, this is reality TV! It is supposed to be sensationalist.

They joked about us looking like stereotypical Vermonters. One of them said, “you guys look like you are straight out of central casting. Are you sure you aren’t from LA?”

The most infuriating moment actually was when Mark Cuban said, “Oh, this tastes like Aunt Jemima.” Our products taste nothing like that; he was trying to create an association with something and he clearly just didn’t grasp what real maple is. For the Vermont maple community, there is nothing more offensive than saying that, right?

But you take the good with the bad, and this has been a hugely positive experience for us and our company.

It seemed like a quick pretty decision to reject the $600,000 offer and 30 percent stake in SAP! from judge Robert Herjavec. Did you have a pre-set number that you weren’t willing to go below?

Well, that negotiation happened over about 20 minutes. The producers just have to cut it down for the episode. We were actually in the “Tank” for about 90 minutes overall. We came in with the mentality that if the deal is not perfect, we were not going to do it. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we didn’t need a deal. Sure, we could have used the money, but we have a core set of investors who are really supportive and there’s a lot of new interest in the business since we’ve been on the market.

Overall, though, it sounds like the positives of being on the show outweighed the negatives?

People have asked if we thought it helped us or hurt us by going on the show. The answer is that this has been resoundingly positive for us when you look at how many people are now interested in our business and how our sales have spiked. I think being from Vermont you are more grounded in reality. We were like, “yup, our marketing does need some work, and we know that, and we’re figuring it out.”

It’s this really unique moment in time where all of these people from across the country are trying our product for the first time, so we’re developing a new e-commerce strategy behind it. A one-time sale is great, but it’s not the basis of a company. We have the opportunity to cultivate a huge amount of new customers and we intend to do just that.

How did you and Nikita come up with the idea for SAP!?

His side of the family has a deep history in the maple syrup industry. We’re both 28, but come from very different parts of Vermont. I’m from Burlington and he grew up on a farm in Enosburg. He started his own businesses right away and is smart in so many ways that I’m not. He has a very practical mindset and can just solve problems and get things done where I have more of an analytical mindset, so I think that’s why we make such a good team. We’ve been making these types of drinks in our family for a long time. We were experimenting with it for a few years and then got more serious when I came back to Vermont for the SIMBA program, which is really where all of the pieces came together.

Did your Sustainable Innovation MBA experience help you with SAP!?

I learned a lot of the necessary skills in the Sustainable Innovation MBA program, but what really attracted me to the program was its focus on how to create a virtuous business model. If our product can ascend and be really successful, it could be a second outlet for maple sap in the State of Vermont, which could help stabilize maple prices and create prosperity throughout the rural Vermont economy. Secondarily, if birch sap takes off it could be a whole new industry in Vermont where you are making birch trees productive instead of cutting them down. The social aspect of providing healthier products for people to consume is important to us. It’s really about how to create business models that create mutual value.

If you could do the show again, would you do anything differently?

If we could rewind, I would just simplify our pitch more. I think we tried to over explain the products a bit and it got confusing for the Sharks. When you are in the Tank, it gets chaotic very quickly with questions flying in from the Sharks non-stop. You have such a short window of time to control the narrative and get your main points across.

But ultimately, the Shark Tank experience has really forced us to be better in a lot of ways. We had to sit down and say, “OK, this really confirmed some things we already thought and this is the direction we really want to take it.” What didn’t get aired in the episode, but was part of the discussion in the Tank, was a lot of the positive reactions on where we want to take the company in the future with new products.  We are fortunate to be off to a great start with our company, and are excited to take the next steps with our business in 2018.