University of Vermont

School of Business Administration

Student Profile: Jennifer Swain

MBA and Ecological Economics Certificate Candidate

Jennifer Swain

In the May 2014 issue of IMPACT, we are pleased to introduce Jennifer Swain. Jenn is a Master's candidate in UVM’s MBA program and a candidate for a Certificate in Graduate Study in Ecological Economics, as well as the Vice President of the Graduate Student Senate (GSS). Jenn is also a Sustainable Investing Intern for the Rainforest Alliance and a Gund Institute Graduate Student Fellow.

IMPACT: Jennifer, tell our readers a little bit about yourself…

JS: I grew up in Jericho, VT, not far from Burlington and the University of Vermont. I was fortunate to be raised in an area that places high value on community engagement and a healthy environment. It is therefore not surprising that I pursued an academic focus in community and the environment. I earned my bachelor's degree at UVM in Community and International Development with a minor in Food Systems. Many of the courses I chose were based in environmental studies and ecological economics.

IMPACT: Those areas are certainly very strong at UVM. What inspired you to go on to graduate school at UVM?

JS: My interest in returning to UVM was driven by three main factors: the faculty, the students, and UVM's increasing focus on sustainability. During my undergraduate studies it was clear that although faculty were busy, many were very receptive to students and took an interest in their current and future work. The students at UVM are full of energy and a large portion of the student body is actively involved in groups that improve life on campus and beyond. And the university administration increasingly demonstrates support for more environmentally and socially responsible practices in campus operations and through academic programs.

Academically, UVM offered the opportunity to pair two sets of graduate studies that together support my interest in promoting corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. I am pursuing a Master of Business Administration as well as a Certificate of Graduate Study in Ecological Economics.

IMPACT: Tell us about your experiences in grad school -- what it is like to work with faculty members and to do your own scholarship or research?

JS: Although the MBA program does not require a research component, I was fortunate to receive two semesters of research experience through a funded graduate research position. During the 2012-2013 academic year I supported Dr. Rocki-Lee Dewitt in exploring the role of family business in the emergence and evolution of the western wear apparel industry. Working with Dr. DeWitt helped to strengthen my analytical skills and introduced me to new approaches to qualitative research. It was a highlight of my time as a graduate student.

CASE team (l-r): Katharina Schaal, Chloe Cangardel, Jennifer Swain, Erin Creley, Patty McShane (Photo: John Molson MBA International Case Competition)IMPACT: You are very fortunate to have worked with Dr. Dewitt; she is an outstanding scholar and teacher. Did your research lead to any conference proceedings or publications?

JS: Yes it did. I presented on the findings of my western wear research at the 2013 University of Vermont Student Research Conference.

Additionally, in January of 2013, I joined four classmates in Montreal to compete in the John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the largest and oldest case competition in the world. The competition is open by application and involves 36 teams that together represent students from four continents. It is a weeklong program with five initial rounds before the semi- and final rounds. Going into round five our team was in fourth place overall. However, after round five we were tied for eleventh place, and so did not proceed to the semi-finals. We finished as the highest-scoring team from the United States. We left the competition feeling like we’d achieved a great deal, both in representing UVM and in improving our skills in strategy and presentation.

IMPACT: Congratulations. You and your teammates should be very proud of that accomplishment. Tell us where you are in your graduate education and what you plan to do after graduating?

JS: In May I will complete both the MBA and graduate certificate. I am actively searching for jobs and engaged in the interview process. I hope to find a position that will support my interest in effecting positive social and environmental impact. But following graduation, I first plan to take a long road bike tour before I get started on my career!

IMPACT: Jenn, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, and we wish you the best of luck!