University of Miami Business School Launches a Degree in Sustainable Business

University of Miami Business School Launches a Degree in Sustainable Business main image

The University of Miami Business School is developing an M.S. in sustainable business that will launch next fall. What makes the program unlike others is its reliance on science, says Dean John A. Quelch. Being able to rely on the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RASMAS), which is part of the university, is an asset, he adds.

Science courses from RASMAS at the forefront of the curriculum makes this program more than a traditional business course on sustainability, says Quelch. It makes science the cornerstone of these business theories and practices, mirroring Miami’s aim to lead the way in sustainable efforts in the corporate world.

David Kelly, professor of economics says, “It’s still early on in the process of businesses taking on sustainability. A program like this will teach students to find sustainability projects that provide good results at a low cost to the firm or even to the benefit of the firm.”

Predicting future business needs

To some extent, the administrators are reading the magic eight ball. They expect companies to demand these skillsets from new hires in increasing numbers. They expect an urgent need to spring up in light of scientific predictions and the realization that businesses can be more effective in addressing these challenges than government, says Quelch.

“In the US, the percentage of Fortune 500 companies looking to produce sustainability reports annually is low compared to Europe,” he adds. “But we expect the percentage to increase.”

Also, the school realizes Generation Z has shown increased interest and concern about the future of the world. However, current American politics runs counter to a belief in the science. US President Donald Trump famously pulled the country out of the Paris Climate Accord. In fact, numerous rollbacks of regulations aimed at protecting the environment has been a hallmark of the presidency.

But Quelch says businesses, “so long as they’re authentic, are able to make a difference faster than politicians.”

Quelch adds, “People in the corporate world are realizing they have to take ownership of this challenge. They can determine how to have the greatest impact at the least cost. Political gridlock has galvanized businesses to do more, both individually and through industry associations.”

Prime program location

In addition, the school’s location makes this kind of green coursework a perfect fit.

After all, Miami and south Florida are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the Western Hemisphere. Alumni in the real estate development business have expressed interest in getting more engaged in this area because of the future of their industry.

As they developed the program, administrators spoke with EY to get input on what the curriculum content should look like. They also engaged with other large employers, such as energy companies, that could potentially hire graduates.

The city of Miami has hosted panels and discussions about the existential threat of ocean rise. Streets have been elevated and the number of flood pumping stations in municipalities that can afford it has increased but aren’t always the places that need it most, says Kelly. The school will help through student internships, capstone projects, and all graduates becoming more studied in these topics.

The program’s benefits

As a one-year graduate program, the degree coursework will be intense with quarter-like courses, and material covered will be data driven and informed by science. Many of the students will be aspiring to hold chief sustainability officer positions, with potential job tasks including how to get investment in technology to improve the company’s carbon footprint.

One of the highlights of the program will likely be a sustainability project with a real firm. Applicants can anticipate a mix of core courses and science courses with electives often available to those in other programs. The aim is for 25 to 30 students to join the first class.

“Our ambition is to have a highly selective program of 55 to 60 students each year,” says Quelch.

The school’s vision

Before the program launches, the school is making a holistic effort to become as environmentally responsible as possible. For example, there’s no single use plastic, more recycling, and lower water use on campus this year. 

“It puts us on the hot spot to clean up our own operations,” says Quelch.

As the school aims to go green, it’s reaching out to the greater university, too. Kelly says, “People in other departments can help us build bridges to build up a culture of sustainability in the university.”

Ultimately, this degree comes from the business school but pays close attention to science and aims to help businesspeople make great changes in the world.

“We will have significant attention to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and risk management,” says Quelch. “It will be a reflection of the quantitative rigor of the program.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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