GWSB to expand sustainability courses

Students with an interest in both business and sustainability will see more course options, as part of an initiative to broaden GW’s academic approach to the study of environmental issues.

GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie said the business school is coordinating with the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to expand course offerings across the University.

“We live in a world in which environmental issues and renewable energy are important for sustaining the planet,” Guthrie said. “I am a big believer that sustainability and renewable energy are going to be the next wave in innovative business in the United States.”

Guthrie aims to create a business degree in sustainability at some point in the future.

CCAS already offers an undergraduate major in environmental studies and a master’s degree in environmental resource policy, while SEAS offers an undergraduate major and a master’s program in civil and environmental engineering. The business school’s partnership with the two schools aims to draw ideas from these programs and others at the University to develop a more holistic approach to teaching sustainability, Guthrie said.

“I think, to me, if we’re going to have a really robust curriculum in the area of sustainability, first it needs to really be about every aspect of the business of sustainability and it needs to truly be interdisciplinary and really draw on work in engineering and science along with public policy in addition to the business things that we can deliver,” Guthrie said.

To go beyond the green movement’s focus on environmentalism requires “deep thinking about the business of sustainability,” Guthrie said.

The dean said the school is considering a number of options and plans to engage students on developing ideas to rethink what sustainability means.

Members of Net Impact, a student organization that promotes social, environmental and economic responsibility among future business leaders, played an active role in helping the business school improve its curriculum across the board.

“We are certainly very excited and very involved in curriculum evolution at the business school,” Kirstin Gunderson, an MBA student and president of Net Impact, said.

Gunderson said members of Net Impact serve as supporters and sources of information for sustainable solutions within the classroom and in the business world.

“I think [sustainability] is critical to understanding the future of living in and managing a resource-constrained world,” she said. “In order to be fully equipped as business leaders, we need to know what it means to live in a resource-constrained world. Strategically managing our resources is going to be increasingly important.”

Leadership in CCAS and the business school are also working with Vice President of Research Leo Chalupa to improve GW’s Institute of Sustainability, which aims to advance research, education and policy on global climate change, sustainable organizations, sustainable communities, and infrastructure and urban sustainability.

“The focus of the institute is a broad perspective of sustainability with input from many disciplines,” Dean Peg Barratt of CCAS said.

Chalupa and Dean David Dolling of SEAS did not return requests for comment.

University President Steven Knapp has also spearheaded efforts to incorporate environmentally friendly activities across campus, forming an Office of Sustainability in 2009 and launching a Climate Action Plan in May 2010 to reduce carbon emissions.

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