University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Sustainable entrepreneurship focus of new MBA

Kalkin Hall
Photograph by Mario Morgado


Sustainable entrepreneurship
focus of new MBA

"Sustainability challenges such as clean water, clean air, health and hygiene, poverty, communication, access to markets, education—governments have worked in these areas for a long time, but we also need to leverage the resources and power of business in order to tackle these problems in a significant way,” says Sanjay Sharma, dean of UVM’s School of Business Administration.

The school’s innovative new MBA program in Sustainable Entrepreneurship promises to help business leaders do just that. The one-year, full-time program is interdisciplinary, drawing from scholars in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Vermont Law School, and the School of Business Administration, among others. And it will also draw on the wisdom of executives from Vermont’s cadre of creative entrepreneurs, businesses such as Ben & Jerry’s, Burton Snowboards, and Green Mountain Coffee.

A complete redesign of the traditional MBA program puts sustainable business and entrepreneurship-focused curriculum at the core of the forty-five-credit-hour program culminating with a three-month practicum, where students start or expand a sustainable business.

“The Rubenstein School might focus on the science of clean water, while Vermont Law School’s focus might be on environmental regulation, but we are bringing all of the different stakeholders and elements together,” says Sharma. “There are sustainable MBA programs with theoretical courses that provide an understanding of sustainability, but none that offer a hands-on entrepreneurship program with a practicum focusing on how you go about establishing a sustainable venture.”

Since its launch over the summer, SEMBA has received strong interest and hopes to produce a cohort of no more than sixty students for the fall of 2014 (applications are being accepted through January 1).

Associate Professor Willy Cats-Baril, director of SEMBA, says the program was designed to significantly impact students’ understanding and approach to management and decision-making in order to solve critical sustainability issues, but also to ensure that their entrepreneurial ventures are profitable.

“Very few programs take a holistic approach and look at all of the stakeholders involved in running a business that is sustainable, profitable, and addresses all of those different constituents,” says Cats-Baril. “I think the program fits well with what Vermont is about. There is a perfect alignment between the values of the program, the values that UVM stands for, and the values of the state.”

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