That’s not really a business issue. That’s more for scientists and government officials to figure out, right?
These days, you need to be proactive. Storms and floods mean disrupted supply chains and jacked up insurance premiums, greater uncertainty and higher costs — more vulnerability to disruption too. In many ways, climate change has emerged as the top business challenge of our era. At the McDonough School, they have picked up the mantel, launching a Master of Science In Environment and Sustainability Management last fall.
The program is a partnership between McDonough and the Georgetown Environment Initiative and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 11 months long and requiring 30 credits, the MS-ESM degree is interdisciplinary in nature, blending business and environmental science fundamentals. In the process, students understand the “what, why, and how” in the words of Dr. Maria Petrova, assistant director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative. That way, they can anticipate the impact of climate change on operations and develop a foundation to respond. The program concludes with a capstone that provides graduates with real world experience with a company, NGO, or non-profit.
You could call the MS-ESM a broad expansion of the MBA program’s Certificate in Sustainable Business. It also fills a unique need in the marketplace, says Vishal Agrawal, McDonough academic director of the Sustainable Business Fellows program and the Certificate in Sustainable Business. “A lot of businesses would like folks who could be the liaison between the environmental scientists and the core business folks,” Agrawal tells P&Q. “This program’s unique blend of both is meant to help graduates create feasible and implementable change…Likely, the issues we face today will be different five years from now. We want students to have a process or framework in which to analyze any sustainability issue.”
The MS-ESM degree is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to McDonough’s efforts in sustainability. Last fall, the school introduced the Business of Sustainability Initiative, an “umbrella” effort that includes the development of new coursework, research, and hands-on projects that brings together academics, business leaders, and policy makers. The program is built on three pillars: helping students gain sustainability experience, establishing private and public sector partnerships, and making connections between various industries and functions. For Agrawal, now is the perfect time to pour heavy resources into the sustainability space.
“What’s been interesting is there’s been an evolution on the business side as well. When I first started out, a lot of my conversations with companies tended to be, “Why should we think about sustainability? What is the business case?” These days, the conversation is slightly different. Businesses know they want to do something, but they want to know how to do it.”
Alas, society is increasingly looking for business to tackle its most complex issues. Sure enough, the McDonough School is happy to oblige. In 2021, the school launched an initiative on the future of work. Designed to connect MBAs to thought leaders and decision-makers, it includes workshops, research fellowships, internships, and guest speakers. Early on, the program has focused on technology, particularly artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data, asking questions that explore how to wield technology to even the playing field.
“As we study the changes to the future of work, it is our duty to explore how these changes affect the most vulnerable members of our society and provide a path forward – either through faculty research, student consulting projects, or new programs that work directly with organizations,” explains Paul Almeida, dean and William R. Berkley Chair at the McDonough School, in a 2021 interview with P&Q. “We will continue to be innovative in our approach to this issue as we build our capabilities in this area. Through our research and programs, we will address ways to ensure no one is left behind.”
McDonough’s focus on the common good comes naturally to a program rooted in Jesuit teachings. More than a degree, a McDonough MBA is a mission, one that molds graduates to pursue a life of service as “men and women for others” who collaborate to deliver the common good that reinforces the dignity of others. Notably, the program gravitates to a particular Jesuit tenet: cura personalis — or “Care for the whole person.” And it helps to explain why McDonough has embraced a purpose where graduates head into the world to be careful stewards, servant leaders, and patient teachers.
“[Cura personalis] implies an education that focuses not only on academic excellence but also physical, mental, and spiritual growth,” writes Rohan Shamapant, a 2021 MBA grad. “I heard this phrase repeated at several prospective admissions events and questioned whether any institution could live up to that principle. However, my experience at Georgetown has shown me that cura personalis is borne out not as a destination, but rather as a constant process towards self-fulfillment. I am grateful to have experienced my school’s commitment to this art of striving.”
McDonough’s commitment to giving back is also reflected in its mentorship program. Started in 2019, the program has grown to include nearly half of the school’s 283 full-time students. Here, first-years are paired with an alumni member. Rather than assisting with the usual networking and job hunting, alumni concentrate instead on helping students in areas such as life-long learning and personal growth, says Maureen Carpenter, assistant dean of the McDonough MBA Career Center, in a 2021 interview with P&Q.
“Our goal with the mentorship program is to connect our students with the whole-life experiences of our alumni in a way that helps them navigate the MBA program as well as what life will be like for them in the years after they graduate, including work-life balance and intergenerational relationship building. Long-term, the program will enhance and strengthen our alumni and student connections across our entire community.”
At its heart, the McDonough MBA is a mission-driven enterprise whose ultimate goal is driving impact. Hence, it is a profoundly international program, with an array of exchanges and a required Global Business Experience. The nation’s top international affairs program — Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service — is even a 5 minute walk from McDonough. To make an impact, you need to be where the action is. And you won’t get any closer to that than McDonough’s DC digs.
“More than 200 years ago, Georgetown University was founded to educate leaders for our new nation,” explains Prashant Malaviya, the school’s Senior Associate Dean of MBA Programs. “Our long-standing reputation and relationships throughout the city — from the halls of government to the innovative startup and tech scene — provide our students with experiences, expertise, and connections not found elsewhere. As a global capital city, DC is home to embassies, multinationals, and nonprofits, and is the headquarters of numerous businesses — including Amazon’s new HQ2. It is where the worlds of business, policy, and international relations meet, and our MBAs graduate with exposure to all three.”