PRESIDIANS: A SNAPSHOT
What kinds of students come to Presidio? Well, for starters, probably not Republicans—at least not the traditional kind. Shutkin on Bill Clinton’s first presidential win: “It was a new day—an exciting new time after 12 years of let’s call it sub-par leadership from Washington, two Reagans and a Bush.”
But that doesn’t mean Presidio students don’t have a variety of work experiences. Though Farris Galyon grew up in Northern California with what he describes as “close to that of a hippie mentality,” he joined the military right after graduating from California State University-Sacramento in 2008, enrolling in officer candidate school and becoming a first lieutenant in the Navy by 2009. He had been in a rut, and he felt that joining the military would jumpstart his career and “quench my thirst for adventure,” he says. In June 2013, he finished up his military service as an operations and administration officer in Bahrain.
When Galyon decided to apply for an MBA—to him, the ultimate vehicle for turning any interest into a real-life endeavor—he knew he wanted to focus on more than just finance and marketing. “I was sort of raised with a bias for the environment and for social justice and stuff like that,” he says. His reach school was Berkeley, but when he didn’t get in, Presidio became the clear choice, beating out the University of California-Davis, Sacramento State, and San Francisco State. A close friend had attended Presidio while he was in the military, and she “entrenched the Presidio brand in my consciousness for a long time,” he says.
THE BELLE OF THE BALL
So far, Galyon feels like he made the right choice. Presidio isn’t well-known nationally. It doesn’t make any of the most influential business school rankings by Bloomberg BusinessWeek or U.S. News & World Report. But it has a solid reputation in the Bay Area, he says. A good number of sustainability directors at Google, Facebook, and Salesforce call the school their alma mater. The cost of the two-year program for a full-time MBA student is $62,400, while part-time students can earn the degree in four years at a cost of $15,660 a year in tuition or a total of $62,640.
Galyon’s summer fellowship also showed him how he and his classmates measured up to students from bigger programs. As a climate corps fellow with the Environmental Defense Fund, he worked with the U.S. Army to reduce energy costs at Fort Bragg. Out of 117 fellows total, six were from Presidio—and this was a group that included representatives from such business schools as Yale, Duke, Columbia, and Chicago. “If I can say so, Presidio was the belle of the ball,” he says. That fellowship was by far his big fish—“it’s a very coveted role,” he explains—and his experience there bolstered his confidence in the school. “I think over time our reputation is going to precede us,” he says.
Megan Crocker, a part-time student who spent ten years working at a hedge fund, was set on Presidio from the get-go. “I didn’t even think about some of the more mainstream schools,” she says. For her, there was an element of community that was missing from them. “I think in business it’s easy for people to be hyper-competitive, and it’s hard for people to be competitive while also caring for the people they’re working with and around,” she says. She feels that Presidio strikes the right balance. Plus, the structure of the program has allowed her to balance the coursework with raising three young boys. “I was a little hesitant about the online aspect of it,” she admits, but the amount of teamwork involved has made her forget that she’s not in class most of the time.
THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF A SHARED MISSION
One of the benefits of being at a school like Presidio is knowing that no one’s there to just check a box and move on to a higher-paying position. To even consider enrolling, you have to demonstrate a serious investment in using business skills for good. “We’re a mission-driven school,” Shutkin says. Simply put, people who attend the school believe in it.
But there are drawbacks to the environment, too. For one, Steven Crane, who teaches managerial finance at Presidio, would like to students from more varied walks of life. “In many ways, it’s an advantage not being diverse in terms of having this uniformity of value set,” he says. “But it’s also problematic, because at the same time, you get into this bubble where you’re only speaking to the choir, and particularly in the area of finance—which really needs change agents—you need to be able to communicate and be convincing to others well outside the choir, that you actually need to convert or find those leverage points to pull them into sustainability. I think one way to get at that is having more diverse bodies in the school, whether coming from different cultures, even the look—you know, our students are largely white, middle-class,” he points out. “I’d like to see a lot more diversity in that.” (To be fair, Galyon says that his cohort is one of the most diverse groups he’s ever worked with.)
It’s not like the students at Presidio stay in their environmentally conscious bubble forever, though. “We do not fulfill our mission if our students are not employed within a fairly short period of time after they graduate,” Shutkin says. Galyon says that there’s heavy competition for the relatively small number of sustainability-focused business roles, but Presidio’s latest employment data is not too shabby: 83% of the 50-person class that graduated in June found full-time employment after 90 days, and the average salary was in the low $80,000s.