University of Vermont

School of Business Administration


The mission of the University of Vermont's SEMBA program is to prepare and train individuals to create profitable and sustainable business opportunities in a world undergoing transformational change. SEMBA aims to develop the next generation of leaders who will build, disrupt, innovate, and reinvent sustainable business and enterprises in a world that demands it.


  1. Beyond "Saddlebags"
  2. Offering More in Less Time
  3. What does SEMBA Prepare Me To Do?

We're looking for people like you - people not content to do things the way they've always been done, the disrupters, innovators, and visionary entrepreneurs; people who think differently and know there's a better way to do business, and who are ready to embark on a business education that will prepare them to live differently, lead differently, and profit differently. SEMBA is a business degree that has been specifically designed from the ground-up for people like you that understand that these times demand a new approach.

Beyond "Saddlebags"

Over the past 25 years, most major business schools in the world have added some kind of initiative, center, or program focused on sustainability, corporate citizenship, or social entrepreneurship. The problem is that virtually all of these initiatives, centers, or programs tend to hang off the side of the existing business school edifice. Like the proverbial "saddle bag" on a horse, the issues are contained within separate compartments that are readily visible from the outside, but have little impact on the behavior of the animal itself. Sustainability has joined other business school "saddle bag" issues such as ethics, entrepreneurship, and emerging economies, as a way to recognize, but stop short of fully integrating them into the core DNA of the institutions.

It is high time to move beyond saddle bag sustainability in business education. The social and environmental challenges we face call for nothing less. That is why the SEMBA curriculum is so unique and important: It seeks to fundamentally reinvent business education and the MBA degree to address the challenges we face in the 21st century-environment, ethics, entrepreneurship, poverty, and inequality. With SEMBA, we have taken off the saddle bags and designed a new horse. The curriculum is new and focused 100% on sustainable entrepreneurship.

Offering More in Less Time

Give us a year. Together we'll reinvent the way we do business.

Traditional full-time MBA programs take two years, with the first year dedicated largely to “core courses” and the second year dedicated to electives in an area of specialization. So how does SEMBA deliver the critical content of an MBA program, plus a substantial amount of new material focused on sustainability and entrepreneurship… and do it in only 12 months?

As the Figure below shows, we achieve this through three primary means:

  1. Focus on the Critical MBA Toolkit: Since we designed SEMBA from a clean sheet, we were able to select the most critical sets of core knowledge, skills, and capabilities that an MBA must know and include them in a redesigned format of one and two credit courses, each taught from the perspective of sustainable entrepreneurship. In addition, some of the “traditional” core content that could be easily learned remotely, is included in a carefully designed on-line module that students take before the actual start of classes. This allows us to bring everyone up to speed on the basics in areas like accounting, finance, and economics before you even start.
  2. Reduce or Eliminate Legacy Material: Like anything else, traditional MBA programs that have been in existence for a period of time have come to include material and content that might have served an important purpose at one time, but may no longer be crucial. It remains because it has become institutionalized as part of faculty teaching loads. With SEMBA, we were able to examine closely the curriculum and reduce or eliminate some non-essential “legacy” content. For example, with our focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, we were able to eliminate some content related to administration of on-going enterprises; we also significantly reduced the time spent on areas like factory optimization, queuing theory, statistics, and manufacturing. Finally, the traditional focus on extensive manual calculations and problem sets has been reduced in favor of knowing where to go to get the latest and best quantitative work done.
  3. Bring an Integrated Focus on Sustainability. What makes SEMBA truly unique is its integration of the social and environmental challenges that the world faces into each and every course in the curriculum. In addition, we have added substantial new content that typically is not included (certainly not required) in traditional MBA Programs, including a focus on world challenges, natural capital, clean technology, innovation through collaboration, leading for transformational change, base of the pyramid business, poverty contexts, and co-creation skills.

The summer Practicum Project provides the “capstone” to integrate and apply all the knowledge, capabilities, and tools garnered in the first nine months to a practical challenge in an actual venture or corporate innovation setting.

What Does SEMBA Prepare Me To Do?

SEMBA aims to develop the next generation of leaders who will build, disrupt, innovate, and reinvent sustainable business and enterprises in a world that demands it.

The mission of the SEMBA program is to prepare and train individuals to create profitable and sustainable business opportunities in a world undergoing transformational change. But what does this look like in practice? What sorts of jobs and opportunities does SEMBA prepare graduates to do? What kinds of organizations and networking opportunities does SEMBA offer that differentiate it from “traditional” MBA Programs?

The Figure below provides an explanation of SEMBA’s unique and clear focus. The horizontal axis in the figure represents stages in the organizational life cycle, starting with start-ups and new ventures, progressing through established businesses with clear strategies, and ending with mature (or even declining) businesses that require reinvention and transformation to survive and prosper.

Traditional MBA Programs focus on training people for “executional” jobs in established firms—jobs in marketing, finance, operations, and consulting, for example (the lower part of the vertical axis in the figure). Large, established firms send recruiters to interview and hire MBAs into clearly defined jobs in brand management, investment banking, corporate finance, and consulting. This is where the “mass market” for jobs is located—with established firms looking for people with functional MBA skills to help them deliver and continuously improve current businesses. Now let us be clear: If working in these sorts of jobs is the goal of your MBA training, then SEMBA is the wrong program for you!

The SEMBA team works to build an unparalleled global network of partners and collaborators who can help us create the entrepreneurial initiatives and jobs of the future. We endeavor to create change agents rather than implementers (SEMBA’s focus is on the upper part of the Figure). SEMBA therefore focuses on four primary domains for placing our graduates:

  1. Intrapreneurs: Growing numbers of existing businesses and corporations have reached maturity or have even begun to decline. Many base businesses are built on yesterday’s unsustainable thinking and technology. Many more fail to reach the majority of humanity in the emerging and growth markets in the developing world. SEMBA builds the business skills to both incubate new, disruptive or leapfrog businesses within existing corporations, and to help lead the process of corporate transformation for those companies seeking to fundamentally transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
  2. Consultants: Increasingly, the world of consulting is turning its attention to innovation, disruption, and corporate transformation rather than simply the continuous improvement of existing businesses and strategies. Our graduates are well suited to the emerging consulting practices focused on sustainability-driven innovation.
  3. Entrepreneurs: We target new ventures and start-ups that focus on tomorrow’s environmentally sustainable technology and socially inclusive business models. Our graduates are perfectly suited to help imagine, craft, and build such ventures. Some may—and already have—started their own.
  4. Investors: Increasingly, the world of finance is turning its attention to “impact,” “social,” and “sustainable” investing. SEMBA develops graduates who are well suited to understanding how to invest in and build new ventures that generate triple bottom line returns—socially, environmentally, and financially.

The SEMBA Program’s Advisory Board comprising local and global leaders in sustainable business, Council of Mentors, Entrepreneurs in Residence, and Practicum Projects provide the vehicles that create the opportunities of tomorrow for our graduates.

Last modified October 06 2015 09:21 AM