Sustainable Entrepreneurship: The MBA of the Future [An Interview with UVM Dean Sanjay Sharma]
How did you decide to change everything? What led to the decision to rethink the entire notion of the traditional MBA?
The business landscape in the next twenty years will look radically different from the way it looks today.
Gone are the days when an executive has to simply implement or manage a function based on efficient execution. Today’s world is far more challenging. Most of what managers learn at b-schools is being upended in a continuous series of disruptive waves of technological and business model change, each more jarring than the next.
At the University of Vermont, we decided to challenge all our assumptions. We convened an ad hoc committee to analyze other programs, conduct an internal review, and interview business leaders to discover what they wanted from graduates.
We found that what was needed was a clean sweep, the creation of a specialized program focused on the world’s greatest sustainability challenges, both environmental such as the lack of access to clean water, climate change, destruction of species, and social such as poverty and inequality.
We decided to design an MBA program that integrated and emphasized sustainability and innovation to educate managers as change agents and visionary leaders. Vermont has always had a strong tradition of independent thinking, collaborative action, respect for nature, and innovation and problem solving borne of necessity. Those, not coincidentally, are all traits of the executive of the future.
That does not mean that the core MBA toolkit goes away, managers still need the business fundamentals, but we redesigned all our traditional disciplines – accounting, finance, economics, statistics, marketing, operations, management and strategy — to focus on what is needed to develop sustainable businesses of the future.
Our MBA is the one-year Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) – and its purpose is to build, disrupt, innovate and reinvent sustainable business and enterprises in a world that demands it.
So, if you want to be a manager who spends most of her time attempting to extract greater efficiency out of the operations of an organization in a mature or declining industry, we are not your MBA. But if you seek meaning, a profitable way to create sustainable and responsible businesses in a turbulent world, then by all means, stop what you’re doing and give us a good look.
Our MBA is for critical thinkers, disruptors, entrepreneurs, and creators of businesses that will solve the world’s problems and make money at the same time.