Making Time for Reflection: Module 2 Comes to An End

This post was written by Greg Paylor ’18

The final two weeks of Module 2 have arrived! As have exams, the due dates of many individual assignments, and many team related deliverables. It’s an exciting time and the pressure dial has been cranked up a few notches. In an intensive MBA program such as this one, especially now, I find myself completing tasks and moving on to the next in rapid succession.

Finding time to both reflect on and celebrate successful team projects, or debrief on things that could have worked better, has often taken a backseat to other pressing needs.

One of my favorite assignments from this module came in our Leading for Sustainable Innovation class with Professor Kenneth De Roeck. We were asked to write two “Leadership Reflection” papers on past experiences we have had pertaining to leadership and motivation. Professor De Roeck would then use student responses (anonymously) in class to frame course concepts and organizational behavior theories.

At a very high level, some of the questions that we were prompted with were: “Describe an Experience with Injustice (Unfair Treatment) in the
Workplace”, “Insights about Your Own Less-Than- Ideal Performance,” “Describe a Leader that Inspired (or Inspires) You,” and “Describe Your Experience(s) with Organizational Change.” Sitting down to write
these papers was truly an experience. I found myself thinking about things that hadn’t crossed my mind in years.

As Module 2 comes to an end and winter break begins, first and foremost I am looking forward to spending quality time with my wonderful wife. I am also looking forward to reflecting on these first two modules and really  reexamining and interpreting the experiences that I have had in this program because so much has happened already. It is with reflection that we gain a new understanding and making time for this will be a priority for me going forward.

Work Hard, Play Hard: Making Time for A Little Fun

This post was written by Kaitlin Sampson ’18

As the semester ends it’s important to reflect on the amazing amount of work we’ve accomplished — and the fun we’ve had.  After spending our days in class and our nights reading, writing, and studying it’s hard to believe we might have a free minute, but there’s always time for a little fun.  This semester The Sustainable Innovation MBA cohort enjoyed a variety of activities outside the classroom.  Here’s a small recap of the many events and activities we participated in outside of The Sustainable Innovation MBA classroom.

Hiking & Biking and More

With some very experienced hikers in this year’s cohort we’ve had a handful of successful hikes including Mt. Mansfield and Starks Nest.  Other classmates have hit the road and enjoyed a charity bike ride for Old Spokes Home and one of our very own classmates, Becky Miller, led a local yoga class that many attended.  Being a graduate student at UVM means you get to enjoy a beautiful landscape and a vibrant community. Beyond the university offerings, Burlington has a variety of outdoor offerings for everyone.

Intramural Sports

During the semester, almost half of our class participated in intramural sports offered by campus recreation. Campus Recreation offers a variety of options from multi-week team sports to one-night clinics, all free, or practically free.  As a class we competed in broomball, kickball and volleyball. Games are weekly and the games and the season-ending tournament usually last from 4  to 6 weeks.  While we didn’t take home any campus-wide championships this semester, we won some games, worked off some steam and got a little exercise, which is always nice after sitting in class for most of the day.  There were also awesome events like a “Learn How to Curl” event in which a local curling club taught us the basics of curling.  Due to our busy schedules, we won’t be joining the 2018 Winter Olympics, but we might shoot for the 2022 Winter games.

Pot Lucks

Who doesn’t love food?  Luckily our class is blessed with some amazing cooks and bakers alike, making any pot luck gathering irresistible.  From our first fall BBQ, which included way too much food, to our “Simbagiving” dinner we always enjoy gathering outside of the classroom to share a meal.  It’s a great opportunity to try some new cuisine and learn more about our classmates.  Next up on our agenda is an Ugly Sweater Party to celebrate the end of the semester!

A Little More Fun…

Other Fun Activities have included group trips to get our flu shots, concerts, and many magical trips to the UVM Medical Center’s Harvest Café where we enjoy breakfast, lunch and snacks.  Later this winter, we’ll be taking a trip to King Arthur Flour and are looking forward to enjoying our student ski passes at Sugarbush, Stowe and Bolton.  All in all we’re busy, but don’t let our many academic blog posts fool you — we still have time for a little fun.

Alumni in Review: Margaret Arzon, Class of 2017

Margaret Arzon is currently working with the Ethical Shareholder Initiative (ESI) as a business consultant. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

Why did you choose to attend this MBA program?

To learn the skills and tools necessary to build and run social enterprises.

What was your favorite part about the experience?

Networking, learning about teamwork and leadership, and how to run a business.

How are you applying the tools/skills you learned in the program, post-MBA?

I apply tools and skills from the program every day. Just today I was in a meeting and referenced the business canvas model I created with my team in Module 2, for RevitaFiber, and how some of the questions we received about the business applied to the project I am working on now.

What would you tell someone who is considering the Sustainable Innovation MBA?

Definitely do it.

Alumni in Review: Meghan Whirley, Class of 2015

Meghan Whirley ’15 is currently working as a Sustainability Procurement Manager for Food Service Partners Inc. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.

What have you been up to since graduation?

Following graduation, I moved to northern California and been working in sustainable food systems and institutional purchasing. I first worked at the University of California – Davis as Dining Services’ Sustainability Manager, then in December 2016, I took a position as the Sustainable Purchasing Manager and Account Manager for FoodService Partners based in South San Francisco.

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

I chose the program for multiple reasons. Primarily, I was seeking to transition into a for-profit business role and to take my experience to the next level. The Sustainable Innovation MBA is unique because it provided me with business skills, and the way to leverage my knowledge better, but truly it trained me to look long-term and with a systems-based mentality in every respect.

What was your favorite part about the experience?

Working in teams taught me a lot in how to communicate and work together in a professional capacity, as well as furthering lessons beyond the classroom. I learned so much from all aspects of the practicum experience, not simply from the material but also by working with Aaron Sonk, my practicum partner.

How are you applying the tools/skills you learned in the program, post-MBA?

I learned so much about myself during the year in The Sustainable Innovation MBA, about my strengths and weaknesses. I carry this love of the truth and feedback — as Joe Fusco would put it — everyday. Applying that to each interaction, and reflecting afterwards, has been so helpful. But also I find that I have more skills in project management and thinking broadly and systemically than many of my colleagues.

What would you tell someone who is considering The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

I have told prospective students that if you’re looking for an MBA there are so many great programs, but if they’re seeking to marry business skills with creating positive impacts, long-term results, and problem-solving in a way that isn’t “business as usual,” then UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA is the place to go.


Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Kaitlin Sampson

Kaitlin Sampson ’18 came to The Sustainable Innovation MBA from the hospitality industry, most recently with Marriott International, where she was an Area Sales & Marketing Manager. She was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.  

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

I wanted to pivot my career path toward work that was more meaningful.

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

The organizational behavior courses have been my favorite part of the program.  Our courses teach you how to go from a good leader to a great leader and how to use those skills to create a transformational culture within the workplace.

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

The amazing network that the program provides, the diversity in classwork and the diversity of students.

How has the Sustainable Innovation MBA helped you?

It has helped me reflect on my passions and strengths, and given me the confidence in the business world for post SIMBA.


Alumni in Review: Chris Howell, Class of 2017

Chris Howell ’17 is currently working as a finance and investment consultant. He was interviewed by Isabel Russell, an undergraduate at UVM.  

What have you been up to since graduation?

I’m currently working with mission-driven businesses who are raising investment money to fund expansion: structuring a Series A for a SaaS business, working with a farm to purchase additional land, and advising an equity crowdfunding platform.

 Why did you choose to attend this MBA program?

I chose the UVM MBA program to deepen my Vermont network and broaden my business skill set.

What was your favorite part about the experience?

My favorite part of the experience was the people. The academic experience was top notch—thanks to the professors, staff, and classmates who worked hard to create a supportive and engaging learning environment.

How are you applying the tools/skills you learned in the program, post-MBA?

Working on diverse consulting projects after the program has allowed me to use the broad range of tools we learned—from organizational design to finance and venture capital.

What would you tell someone who is considering the Sustainable Innovation MBA?

Dive in. The program was an exceptionally challenging and immensely rewarding learning experience.


UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA Ranked No. 1 Best Green MBA in America by ‘The Princeton Review’

This article was written by Jon Reidel and originally appeared at

Six years ago when Sanjay Sharma took over as dean of the Grossman School of Business, he set his sights on an ambitious goal: to become the top MBA program in the country for sustainable innovation.

On the rise. UVM has been ranked No. 1 on The Princeton Review’s 2018 list of “Best Green MBA” programs. (Photo: Sally McCay)

That dream became reality on Oct. 31 when The Princeton Review ranked the University of Vermont Grossman School of Business’ Sustainable Innovation MBA program No. 1 on its 2018 list of “Best Green MBA” programs. UVM took over the top spot from the University of Oregon, which dropped to No. 4 behind second-place Yale and Portland State, followed by No. 5 Stanford.

The decision to replace a traditional 38-year-old MBA program with the nation’s first one-year AACSB-accredited MBA focused entirely on sustainable innovation seemed risky, but according to Sharma, was perfect timing. A growing demand by companies seeking managers to convert global sustainability challenges into business opportunities for triple bottom line performance – a measure of a company’s financial, social and environmental impact – was undeniable.

“We were fortunate that the Vermont brand and UVM’s strengths and identity resonated with the sustainability ethos,” says Sharma. “While it was a major risk for the school, we decided to take a big leap and go ‘all in’ because we were convinced that the future of business education was to educate managers for tomorrow so that they could develop profitable business solutions to societal needs and demands for the next 50 years.”

The “Best Green MBA” rankings are based on students’ assessments of how well their school is preparing them in environmental/sustainability and social responsibility issues, and for a career in a green job market. The Grossman School of Business’ Sustainable Innovation MBA was also included in The Princeton Review’s list of the 267 Outstanding On-Campus MBA programs. This list was based on data from surveys of 23,000 students attending the schools and of administrators at the graduate schools.

Worldwide practicums with top companies, access to exclusive job network set program apart.

A number of aspects of UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA set it apart from other programs. The course curriculum, based entirely on sustainability and innovation, is delivered by world class faculty in this arena under four modules: foundations of management; building a sustainable enterprise; growing a sustainable enterprise; and focusing on sustainability.

Following coursework, students engage in a three-month practicum – a capstone experiential project to address issues such as poverty, climate change, and the environment – with companies like PepsiCo, 1% For the Planet, Philips, Ingersoll Rand, Burton, Keurig, and Facebook. Students traveled to India, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, Denmark, China, Kenya, and Guatemala to complete practicums, which have led to sustainability and innovation-related jobs at Ben & Jerry’s, King Arthur Flour, Pottery Barn, Seventh Generation and others.

Students also have access to a new career management system called “Launch” designed to propel them into careers in renewable energy, clean tech, affordable health care, inclusive business, entrepreneurship within larger companies, start-ups, and other innovative ventures. The program’s Changemaker Network, composed of more than 125 companies and individuals focused on sustainable business, puts students in direct contact with mentors who help them land jobs within the program’s condensed 12-month format.

“We devote one hundred percent of our energy to creating a robust back end that injects people into an opportunity network that helps students realize their personal and professional dreams,” says professor and Sustainable Innovation MBA co-director Stuart Hart, the world’s leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. “If you are a student interested in figuring out how to use the power of business and enterprise to make a positive impact on the world, that’s all we do.”

The Princeton Review ranking comes on the heels of a No. 8 ranking by Corporate Knights – a Toronto-based media and research company focused on clean capitalism – in its “Better World MBA Rankings.” The UVM program moved up two spots from last year and is now ranked third among U.S. schools, trailing only Duquesne University and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Corporate Knights ranks programs based on the number of core courses, institutes and centers, and faculty research produced in the last three years related to sustainability, including corporate responsibility, human rights, and ethics.

“We are excited to teach and help launch the next generation of innovative leaders who will create the kinds of transformative sustainable business models and strategies that the world demands,” says professor and co-director David Jones. “We are also honored to have our unique MBA program recognized by these organizations after just our third cohort of graduates.”

Innovator in Residence: Marilia Bezerra Offers Nine Lessons and One Question

This post was written by Sarah Healey ’18.

Marilia Bezerra spoke recently to The Sustainable Innovation MBA cohort as the third Innovator in Residence for the year. She is the Managing Partner at CARE Enterprises, CARE’s social enterprise venture that links producers in the world’s poorest communities with the formal markets necessary for those producers to sell their products and services. It focuses on business ventures with the potential for exponential growth and to become game-changers in the fight against poverty.

Marilia’s life has led her on a career path full of sharp turns and road blocks that created her story.

In telling her story she offered nine lessons and pieces of advice to
aspiring entrepreneurs:

Nine Lessions…

  1. Figure out how to become the connective tissue for the problems we need to solve. A fundamental ingredient for all of us stepping into the world is to figure out how to connect people to each other to solve problems.
  2. Telling your story can be limiting.
  3. Be keenly aware of your privilege –- Bezerra talked about how she won the privilege lottery. She grew up during a relatively stable time in Brazil and was raised in a middle-class family that afforded her opportunities in life, but gave her a sense of value of the most basic things.
  4. If you are going to say something, know what it means. When using metrics, many of the numbers mean nothing. For example, the calculation of how many lives a program touched. What Bezerra learned was to ask yourself what it means three time when stating metrics and figures. If at any point you cannot answer, then the metric likely does not have meaning.
  5. Sometimes you will need to take sharp turns to figure out what you are doing, and you need to just go for it! Life takes weird turns, close your eyes and say, ‘Mom & Dad, I got this.’
  6. Fundraising is like running a marathon — it is going to be uncomfortable, but you just keep running through it until it gets better.
  7. How you feel now is not going to last — Bezerra talked about the importance of needing to detach yourself from your story for a point in time. This powerful mechanism allows you to step outside and detach from life to get past the disruption.
  8. Take time off & really take it! –- it is tempting to think about what is next, but Bezerra talked about the importance of taking a real break when you are burnt out.
  9. After doing cool things, the expectation of what is next can be limiting. When you are taking a break and looking for the next steps, people will ask what is next, but do not let that limit your story.

…And One Question

Bezerra finished with a question for aspiring entrepreneurs: How are you going to get really good at working at the edge of chaos?

Alumni in Review: Caitlin Goss, Class of 2017

This post was written by Camille Fordy ’18.

Caitlin Goss ’17 is Director of People & Culture at Rhino Foods, headquartered in Burlington, Vermont. In some ways, Caitlin’s role at the head of the firm’s human resources team is similar to the traditional human resources professional. But Rhino’s commitment to impacting the manner in which business is done creates a broader scope for her work and is aligned with her commitment to workforce development and The Sustainable Innovation MBA mindset and toolkit.

Originally from Hinesburg, Vermont, Caitlin left to pursue an undergraduate degree at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and later moved to Boston where she worked at Bain & Company, a top global management consulting company. At Bain & Company, Caitlin worked on analysis and employee engagement as part of the firm’s global human capital team to attract, engage and retain employees. Her success at Bain & Company enabled her to live in Shanghai for several years.

Looking for an opportunity to move closer to home, Caitlin discovered the University of Vermont’s Sustainable Innovation MBA. The program provided Caitlin with the opportunity to return to Vermont and to plug into the local professional community. While still a young program, The Sustainable Innovation MBA has already developed a strong reputation in the Vermont business community. Its growing network of graduates are focused on building future partnerships and synergies across all domains of business in the state and region. The program also gave Caitlin fundamental tools and business “fluency” to succeed in any business environment.  

Continue reading “Alumni in Review: Caitlin Goss, Class of 2017”

Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Camille Fordy

Meet Camille Fordy ’18, (LinkedIn) who came to The Sustainable Innovation MBA from the Washington, D.C. law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck where she worked in their government relations division. Prior to working at Brownstein, Camille worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staff assistant to Sen. Patrick Leahy and  the Senate Judiciary Committee. This interview was conducted by Peyton White (LinkedIn), an undergraduate Business Administration major in UVM’s Grossman School of Business.

Why did you choose The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

I was MBA-bound for a while. I took the GMAT once and was exploring future options for MBA programs. I did lots of research on two-year programs, which I liked. I was going to push the application process out a year to continue studying for the GMAT, but instead I applied to The Sustainable Innovation MBA. I liked that the opportunity cost of attending The Sustainable Innovation MBA program was only one year and offered me a great change of network, too, away from my primary one in D.C.

“I liked that the opportunity cost of attending The Sustainable Innovation MBA program was only one year.”

What do you like about The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

I know a few individuals who were in previous cohorts. Their growth and experience in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program is inspiring and I really like the uniqueness of the program. I have heard before that “if you don’t go to a Top 10 school, an MBA isn’t worth it.” But after one month, I can say I disagree for many reasons. The program offers many interesting perspectives, classes are intellectually challenging, and we are provided with many opportunities to work in teams. I have found that the teamwork projects have been a great tool to self-assess how I work with others and improve upon my communication, project management, and problem solving skills for use in my future workplace. I have had the opportunity to develop relationships with new people and new personality types that I may never have met in my former workplace. Working in these diverse teams in a low-stakes atmosphere has given me the space to take risks and grow.

Continue reading “Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Camille Fordy”