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.

Family Matters

This post was written by Jeffrey Lue ’19.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For an enhanced experience with this post, please take a listen to this 1990’s throwback.

The Sustainable Innovation MBA Advisory Board member Don Droppo, CEO of Curtis Packaging (and UVM ’96) accepted the U.S.-based Multi-Generational Family Enterprise Award.

It’s a rare condition, this day and age, to find emphasis being placed on the importance of family businesses. But at the Family Business Awards in early October, the Grossman School of Business and supporting community has the opportunity to acknowledge family businesses who are leaders in their respective industries. This year, we celebrated Lake Champlain Chocolates, Curtis Packaging, and Foster Brothers Farm / Vermont Natural Ag Products Inc. for their innovation and commitment to sustainability.

Hearing the stories of the three 2018 winners and their 2017 counterparts were a beautiful example of love and tradition of the grand design. Since 1983, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been aspired to providing extraordinary chocolate moments. In addition to creating wonderful chocolates, LCC has demonstrated their commitment to sustainable business practices with their certifications (B Corps, Fair Trade) and community service.

It’s impressive enough to find a business in operation since 1845, but some people say it’s even harder to find one with the vision to incorporate environmental stewardship into its core competencies after all those years. Curtis Packaging achieved both accolades, becoming the first packaging company in North America to use 100% renewable energy, be carbon neutral, and a zero-waste-to-landfill facility.

The Lampman family of Lake Champlain Chocolates.

What’s the secret to the success of these small businesses? Well there must be some magic clue inside these gentle walls in the new dairy barn at Foster Brothers Farm. This fifth-generation farm has innovation engrained in their DNA. They built one of the first of New England’s methane digesters back in the early ’80s, expanded their portfolio to include an organic line of compost (MOO), and recently implemented a heat recovery system designed to capture and repurpose the heat created during the aerobic composting process.

These families are an inspiration of how business should be done. At today’s ceremony, there was real love burstin’ out of every seam of Ifshin Hall, and it was clear to see that it’s the bigger love of the family that will keep these businesses going strong. Congratulations again to all the 2018 winners!

Princeton Review Names UVM #3 Top Green School

The University of Vermont has again been named a Top 50 Green School by the Princeton Review, climbing to the #3 spot this year, up from #4 last year.

This annual ranking of the 399 most environmentally responsible colleges takes stock of the efforts schools are making to adopt sustainable policies,prepare students for citizenship and careers in a world defined by climate concerns, and provide a healthy and sustainable environment on campus.

The Sustainable Innovation MBA is currently ranked the #1 Green MBA by Princeton Review.

Click here to read more.

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.

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.

Here Goes Something

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.

“Enjoy the Ride”

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.

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 www.kevinhoskins.net

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Madeline Brumberg

Prior to joining The Sustainable Innovation MBA program, Madeline Brumberg ’18  spent her career in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field and worked as an analyst for both the private and the public sector.

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

I chose to attend The Sustainable Innovation MBA program because I want to find real-world solutions for the social and environmental issues we face today. I see deficiencies in the private, public and NGO worlds that are preventing each of these sectors from properly addressing these issues. I think that business has the most opportunity to transform itself to become an engine for change in the world. I hope to be a change agent in the business world to leverage its power for good.

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

I have loved the leadership and teamwork component of this program. I was not expecting this to be such a big focus of the program but I am eternally grateful that it is. I am so excited by it because companies are nothing without their employees so to make the best companies, you need to make your employees the best. I am excited to be gaining the skill set to help employees reach their full potential.

What are three things someone considering the program should be aware of?
1. There is a huge focus on leadership and you will learn more about yourself than you knew was possible.
2. This program is not greenwashing. Sustainability is truly at the heart of the program and we are reminded of it at every turn.
3. Community is a central tenant of this program and it will serve you well. You will be supported by your classmates and you will support them throughout the year. It will be frustrating at times but ultimately you will be in it together.
How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?
The Sustainable Innovation MBA program has helped me to see a future in business that is meaningful and has impact. It is a very fuzzy path that I am beginning to see but it is a path.