The McDonough School is deeply rooted in St. Ignatius’ Jesuit teachings. The most famous tenet is Cura Personalis or “Care for the whole person” – a responsibility for tending to others’ needs and growing their talents. Another value is Faith That Does Justice. Through this, Jesuits urge students to take action by protecting the vulnerable, tackling social issues, and promoting the greater good. It is in Faith That Does Justice where the McDonough School is increasingly devoting its resources and staking its identity.
Circumstances may change, but never purpose. For McDonough, the mission has turned to sustainability – developing practices that protect natural resources and balance economic growth with equitable treatment for all. Prashant Malaviya, McDonough’s vice dean of programs, considers sustainability to be the “duty of every citizen of every citizen on the planet.” In response, the school has made sustainability one of the cornerstones of its MBA programming.
This year, you’ll find more than a dozen sustainability-driven courses, not to mention a Certificate in Sustainable Business and a Master’s of Science in Environmental and Sustainability Management. In recent years, the school has launched a Business of Sustainability Initiative, a series of efforts ranging from sustainability-related research to partner projects that bring together business leaders, policy makers, and academics. The school even offers a Sustainable Business Fellows program for students to expose them to the field’s best practices and thought leaders. While sustainability is popular among students, it is a top priority for businesses, says Malaviya in a 2022 interview with P&Q.
“All CEOs are talking about it, and it is clear in talking to the senior leaders about sustainable business issues that they’re genuinely trying to learn,” he says. “They’re trying to figure out, ‘How does this apply?’ The most common thing you hear is, sustainability used to be compliance, ‘It was part of the legal department, and we just wanted to make sure we were not doing anything wrong’ — which is a good starting point. But what is clear is that sustainability and sustainable business practices have tremendous opportunity for innovation and creating competitive advantage, rather than making sure, ‘Let’s not break any laws.’”
In other words, sustainability is the future. Not only does it align with McDonough’s Jesuit values, but it also provides MBAs with an edge in the marketplace and greater influence once they get in the door. Even more, sustainability is gaining momentum – and is a wide-open space filled with possibilities. After earning his MBA from McDonough in 2013, Logan Soya pursued a career in sustainability, eventually founding Aquicore, an ESG data and analytics platform. Recently, he has seen interest in sustainability swell.
“We went from interesting to must-have status, I feel, in the last 24 months,” he says. “And so with a must-have status in the market, people are still figuring out what the disciplines are and the roles and the responsibilities that are required. And I think business schools like Georgetown taking the initiative to start to really kind of mold these programs together is a really good thing, because I need more talent at my business. Every customer that I talk to, ranging from Goldman Sachs to Tishman Speyer, needs more talent. The demand for ESG expertise is outrageous right now.”
Best of all, McDonough’s location is perfect for accessing industry influencers and making an impact, adds Prashant Malaviya. “We have a few unique assets that are difficult to replicate for other schools and other institutions, not just business schools. We are in Washington, D.C. This gives us access to government and policy and regulators and the lawyers and diplomats — all of that ecosystem is there, where a lot of the discussions around sustainability are playing out. Ultimately, they either nudge corporations to move in a certain way, or they provide the incentives. So the carrots and sticks are being wielded by all of those institutions.”
Sustainability isn’t the only high demand area that McDonough is prioritizing. In a 2022 interview with P&Q, Dean Paul Almeida laid four goals for the school in the coming years. The first ties into McDonough’s reputation for excellence in global business and international relations. The school has long been known for its required Global Business Experience, where students are assigned to a company and country. During the semester, they travel across countries like Germany, Morocco, and Chile to learn local business practices and present a business case to senior executives. Georgetown University itself boasts the School of Foreign Service, regarded as the best school in its field (and a program where McDonough offers a joint Master’s program). In the future, McDonough plans to provide additional ways for students to understand particular countries in greater depth.
“The College will allow students to go deep into a particular region, provided they have the language skills and understand international business from that perspective,” Almeida explains. “What we’re trying to do is not say students have to do A or B, but we want to give them choices. If they don’t want to do that, they can still do an international business major. But even there, we’re going to introduce a more regular track, which talks more about how to get work done or a track which relates international business to policy.”
By 2027, McDonough also intends to be a leader in faculty research, which is Almeida’s second priority. By the same token, he is looking to deepen the imprint of Jesuit values in the program. “Not just into programs, but into the culture, into the ethos. For instance, one thing we’re doing is we have first-year seminars on a variety of subjects in the small classes. All of them are going to do a social project, not just where they say, “I’ll solve your problems for you,” but they experience them. Now, again, walking in someone else’s shoes, seeing the world in someone else’s eyes, examining how business and management can solve bigger problems — I think that is so much a part of who we are.”
Finally, the school will be rolling out a “Fields of the Future” program that will channel research and teaching towards “what students need to know” over what faculty and staff know. To do this, the school will be offering incentives to faculty and staff to pursue learning in these fields, with the first two being identified as Business and Global Affairs and Sustainability.
“It’s reminding us that business doesn’t exist in ether, but has value in its association with law and medicine and policy,” Almeida tells P&Q in relation to Business and Global Affairs. “How do you solve the Covid problems? You have to understand the interactions, and this is very Georgetown. How do we embrace that in terms of our student projects, in terms of our internships, in terms of our programs, in terms of the co-curricular stuff?…One thing I want to say is, we are trying really carefully not to be making the moral case by itself…We want to try to understand where the business case exists and doesn’t exist and where it falls down.”
One case where it exists is in real estate, a field where McDonough launched a master’s degree with an ESG focus. That’s just one graduate degree program that McDonough started in 2022. In May, the school also announced that it was ramping up a blended “fast track” Finance master’s program , where students can earn their degree in 10 months instead of the standard 21 months. Three months later, the school entered the online education space with its part-tie “Flex MBA”, which will begin in August. Lasting 2-5 years, the program is a mix of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (recorded) courses, plus two in-person campus visits. For Prashant Malaviya, the Flex MBA is an opportunity to expand its reach to prospective students who buy into McDonough’s vision.
““More and more MBA programs and business schools are moving toward online degrees. We have two right now. Both of them have done well. So we know the model works, that there are students who are interested in this — and we also have a nobler goal, which is to increase access to the Georgetown education outside of the DMV region.”
What makes this access so life-changing for prospective MBA students? Dean Almeida asserts that it boils down to purpose – to making business a force for good. “That’s a part of our DNA, the idea of values and the idea of business serving the common good. I truly believe if we do business right, it can be the best solution to the world’s problems — not just economic problems, but social problems.”
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