A Pioneering Master’s In Sustainability Management Reinvents Itself

Kogod sustainability

Kogod School of Business is doubling down on its sustainability focus, including unveiling new school banners which features alumni who have thrived in the sustainability space.

In Bhagyashree More’s search for a master’s program in sustainability management, American University’s Kogod School of Business held a distinct advantage: Location.

American University’s Washington, D.C., campus sits in the epicenter of United States policy creation. Kogod students, like More, often get unparalleled access to witness the behind-the-scenes sausage making of sustainability policy and regulation.

It’s how, as a Class of 2023 candidate for Kogod’s pioneering MS in Sustainability Management (MSSM), More found herself in the audience to hear Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act. More attended this “historic moment in U.S. climate policy,” at the invitation of the White House, More tells P&Q.

Kogod Sustainability

Bhagyashree More, MSSM student

More had narrowed her search for graduate programs down to two world-class programs: Kogod and Columbia University’s MS in Sustainability Management at the Columbia Climate School’s Earth Institute.

“I chose Kogod because the school has the longest footprint in this space while the other program was comparatively new,” More says. “The way the curriculum is designed is by far the best. There is a great list of electives for students to choose from and curate the program as per desired career path. In addition to this, I was offered a great merit-based scholarship by the school which was an added attraction,” says More.

In a time when sustainability programs are all the rage at today’s top business schools, Kogod was a first mover. It launched its flagship MSSM nearly 10 years ago, becoming one of the first to launch such a sustainability master’s inside a business school.

It’s not resting on its laurels. This fall, it will launch a revamped version of the program complete with a new curriculum, a new online option, and expanded faculty expertise. It’s part of Kogod’s doubling-down on sustainability across all academic levels.

“Just like Stanford is known for entrepreneurship and innovation, Wharton for finance, and Michigan State for supply chain, we want Kogod Business School to be known as the premier school for sustainability in the country,” dean David Marchick tells P&Q.

Kogod sustainability

Kogod MSSM students prep sustainably produced meals with Sopkoket, a business whose model centers on the application of circular economy practices in food waste.


Long before Marchick took over the deanship at Kogod in August 2022, sustainability was embedded into the DNA of both American University and its business school. AU was the first carbon-neutral campus in the country. A decade ago, when most sustainability master’s degrees were located in environmental science departments, Kogod staked a claim for business schools.

Since then, B-schools around the world have come to realize that sustainability issues are in fact business issues. For example, one of Kogod’s most popular courses is on sustainable supply chains, delving into issues surrounding human rights, responsible minerals, and ESG-friendlier textiles. Every business that makes or sells things must confront similar supply chain concerns. It’s not just governments applying more regulatory pressure, it’s consumers demanding more responsible goods and services, and employees taking their talents to more ESG responsible companies.

Kogod sustainability

David Marchick, dean of American University’s Kogod School of Business

“As time passes we are seeing many companies struggle to keep up with the demands of sustainable practices from consumers and communities around the world. So it should be no surprise that the need for a sustainable workforce is exponentially on the rise,” says Kareem Ihmeidan, a part-time MS in Sustainability Management Kogod student who expects to graduate next spring. “Business schools that provide sustainability curriculum will single handedly reshape industries across the globe. And Kogod is at the forefront of that initiative.”

Beyond its sustainability master’s, Kogod has embedded the discipline throughout its programs. It offers both an undergraduate sustainability major and minor, and it’s one of the few schools that requires sustainability courses as part of its MBA core. Students can also add a sustainability focus to any Kogod Master’s degree.

“So, for example, you can take a Masters of Accounting with a focus on sustainability. They may be accountants, but accountants are increasingly required to report and measure sustainability outcomes,” Marchick says. “It’s a deep investment in sustainability throughout the entire curriculum.”

In February, it launched a one-of-a-kind speaker series, Gamechangers in Sustainability, in partnership with AU’s Sine Institute of Policy & Politics. The series features innovative leaders working to create a more sustainable world. This spring, Anthony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International, came to talk about not only how the largest hospitality company in the world is making itself more environmentally friendly but also how it is combating issues such as human trafficking.

“This is another side of how we’re getting on the map. CEOs increasingly want to come and talk at our school about what they’re doing in this space. We have the CEO of Ernst and Young coming, various entrepreneurs, and we had a panel of women founders,” Marchick says. “They’re coming to tell the story in our school in the same way that the best entrepreneurs will go to Stanford and talk about what they’ve done.”

Kogod sustainability

Kogod MSSM students visit the Swedish market Coop Forum as part of their Sustainability Food Safari. The MSSM program includes an international capstone program in applied sustainability management in Stockholm, Sweden.


Kogod’s STEM-designated MS in Sustainability Management is now its fastest growing degree program. Applications were up 62% this year, Marchick says, in a time when domestic MBA applications have been soft.

In June, the degree won the prestigious Page Grand Prize, an award recognizing excellence in sustainable business education. Past winners include Harvard Business School, Duke University, and Northwestern University, so pretty distinguished company.

So why did Kogod spend the last year revamping a highly popular, award-winning degree that consistently attracts students who studied in the Ivy League? In other words, why fix what ain’t broken?

“The sustainability field is changing rapidly,” Marchick says. “Students want more flexibility, and employers have been giving us signals about wanting more science, more specialization, and more core business skills. So there’s a really interesting article in the (Financial Times) where, basically employers are going to environmental organizations and hiring people with climate expertise, but they’re finding that they don’t have the basics in business. And so they have to train them. We’re providing the training in business, and folks can add their own expertise.”

Similarly, LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills Report 2022 estimates that demand for green skills in the workforce will surpass supply by 2026.

To reinvent its pioneering sustainability master’s degree, Kogod sought input from students, employers, faculty and sustainability experts. The result is a nimble curriculum that is more flexible, interdisciplinary, and has more options for specialization, says Marchick.

It balanced the split between core and elective courses – now 15 credit hours each – to give students more flexibility in specializing in an area that better suits their interests. The core includes courses in Social Sustainability, Managing For Climate Change, Business Fundamentals, Managerial Economics And Business Strategy, and Applied Sustainability Management.

It’s also the most interdisciplinary degree at Kogod. Electives are organized in three tracks – business sustainability, environment, and policy – and students can take courses from American University’s other top-ranked schools such as AU’s School of Public Affairs, School of International Service, and Washington College of Law. It designed new courses on ESG investment, sustainability analytics, sustainable entrepreneurship, and sustainable finance.

In particular, Kogod is working to more directly integrate the hard sciences such as chemistry and environmental science into its flagship program. That was a key recommendation from a member of its newly formed Kogod Sustainability Advisory Council, a core group of more than two dozen sustainability leaders in business, nonprofits, entrepreneurship, and government. Members include Mimi Alemayehou, senior vice president at Mastercard; Seth Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Eat the Change, co-founder of Honest Tea and Chair of the Board of Beyond Meat; and Demetrios Marantis, managing director and head of Global Corporate Responsibility at JP Morgan Chase.

As one council member told the dean: “I don’t expect someone coming from your program to be a chemist, but I want them to know the basic properties of chemistry, so that they can talk the talk and understand the changes we’re making to create a more sustainable product.”

Kogod sustainability

Kogod students visit one of the many local gardens used to sustainably produce fresh foods as part of their Sustainability Food Safari.


Kogod also offers six graduate certificates MSSM students can take to give themselves an edge in the market.

Brendan Powell, who will graduate from the MSSM in September, added Kogod’s Graduate Analytics Certificate to his master’s studies. He is a forester by training, previously working as a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, as a conservation crew manager for The Nature Conservancy, and a GIS Forester for Weyerhaeuser, a sustainable forest products company. He studied forest resources management at West Virginia University as an undergrad.

Kogod sustainability

Brendan Powell, MSSM student

When he started shopping for graduate programs, he wanted something that would both expand his understanding of sustainability systems in the private sector while enhancing his data analytic skills. Kogod’s MSSM and its analytics certificate checked all the boxes.

“I was accepted to Columbia, Georgetown, and Chatham (University),” Powell tells Poets&Quants. “However, Kogod’s strong Sustainability Management program, coupled with their welcoming approach and genuine interest in my enrollment, made it the top choice.”

For Powell, the degree bridged the gap between his STEM background and business sustainability. He also learned about sustainable investments and finance and just completed an internship in GHG (Greenhouse Gases) accounting and forest carbon verification. He aims to work in finding nature-based solutions to environmental challenges, leveraging his experience in forestry, conservations, sustainability and analytics.

“Sustainability is becoming essential across all organizations. Businesses recognize the demand and growing expectations from communities and governments to reduce their impact on people and the planet,” he says.


Kogod is also launching a virtual version of its flagship program which can be completed 100% online in as little as 12 months. Both the online and in-person programs mostly have condensed evening courses to allow working students to continue in their careers. Tuition for both versions is $57,660.

The business school is also making major investments in faculty. Kogod has 85 faculty, and it’s adding five in sustainability, Marchick says.

That’s in addition to two new positions that started in fall of 2022: Garima Sharma, assistant professor in the Department of Management, studies sustainability, social entrepreneurship and the related tensions between purpose and profits. Danielle Vogel, assistant director for the AU Center for Innovation, founded Glen’s Garden Market, a climate change motivated grocery, which she sold in 2021. Vogel helped launch 90 local food businesses and teaches sustainable entrepreneurship.

Kogod will continue to recruit new faculty who are experts in climate change, food systems, sustainable finance, and related areas.

Kogod sustainability

Sopkoket founder Filip Lundin explains the food company’s sustainability focus to students in Kogod’s MSSM program.


The MSSM is also highly experiential. Students get the opportunity to work with sustainability stakeholders on projects throughout the program.

Besides her invitation to the White House, More, for example, worked with Dean Marchick on a presentation for the board of one the largest global asset management companies on sustainable investments. The research and presentation was also used for Climate Finance India – US Track II Dialogue. She participated in a roundtable discussion with Ryan Gellert, CEO of Patagonia, on Gellert’s decision to give his company away to focus on the climate crisis. And she enrolled in Professor Tim Timura’s ESG Funds Course, a first-of-its-kind course that offers sustainable investment recommendations for AU’s endowment fund.

“I have been fortunate for the opportunities I have received to prove my merit beyond classrooms,” says More, who holds an undergrad degree in banking and finance as well as an MSc in Finance from Grenbole Ecole De Management in France. ” These opportunities have made the entire program a great experience.” She worked for seven years as a consultant at Ernst & Young and KPMG, and hopes to continue in ESG and finance consulting in the future.

The MSSM also includes an international capstone program in applied sustainability management. More’s cohort traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to work with Swedish companies as consultants on real sustainability related projects. Her client  company ultimately developed a white paper using her team’s research.

Finally, the program gives students the support and confidence to develop their own projects outside the classroom.

Kogod sustainability

Kareem Ihmeidan, MSSM student

Ihmeidan, for example, did not expect that he would start an entire publication focused on sustainability, but that’s just what he did. The Kogod Sustainability Review published its first issue in June, and will remain a student-led publication focused on sustainability issues throughout business, government, and higher education. The issue includes articles from American University President Sylvia Burwell; Ann Harrison, Dean of the Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley; Jason Bordoff, Founding Director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University; and Kogod students.

“It is meant to leverage Kogod’s sustainability leadership through providing cutting edge scholarship on a wide range of sustainability topics. It has been great to see it come together and would not have been possible without the backing of Kogod and the students,” says Ihmeidan.

Ihmeidan earned a BSBA with a concentration in Energy Management from the University of Tulsa. He interned at the White House in the Domestic Climate Policy Office in the fall 2022. He recently took a new job with the The White House Council on Environmental Quality and has since moved to a part-time student in order to focus on his new role, a testament to the degree’s flexibility.

“Kogod places great emphasis on their sustainability management program and it is evident with how supporting and resourceful staff and faculty are,” says Ihmeidan, who wants to advance sustainability at the intersection of politics and business throughout his career.

”If students have ideas or initiatives they would like to bring to life, Kogod staff and faculty will be the first to back you up.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.