Changing attitudes with the MBA for a Better Planet

A University in Canada plans to launch an MBA for a Better Planet. Students will combine a transformative classroom and online learning curriculum with experiential and field-based learning to better understand food systems and supply chains, barriers to a safe and secure food supply, and the role of business in development. The program aims to help provide sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, with an emphasis on food and agribusiness management.

In 2009 the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph made the decision to focus on developing leaders for a sustainable world by adopting transformational learning, research that counts and community engagement as its core principles.

CME’s focus on the environment is associated with issues of corporate social responsibility, including sustainable tourism and practices within the restaurant and real estate industries; and resource, environment and energy economics. Its interests in health are more varied, covering including consumer protection and public policy, healthy workplaces, and environmental health – such as the historical origins of health inequality and physical well-being.

One particular outcome of the CME’s 2009 review will be the 2013 launch of an MBA for a Better Planet, built on the underlying premise that business can provide sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The course is designed to provide a thorough examination of the relevance of sustainability as a strategic framework for driving value creation and to enhance critical thinking skills that will enable students to effectively identify and formulate strategic sustainability initiatives for organizations.

The course will help students develop a wide variety of knowledge and skills sets, such as enhancing interpersonal skills, expanding their knowledge and understanding of the theory and research behind leadership; and exploring the impact of effective team management and collaboration in the organization. Experiential and transformative learning will be employed to enhance managerial skills. CME holds that this approach has a strong potential to transform students’ understanding of their disciplines, world views and abilities – alongside the opportunity to master disciplinary knowledge and develop essential skills and attitudes for life and career success.

The course will be two years in duration. In the first year students will conduct extensive fieldwork, which will largely involve developing an understanding of issues in food production, supply chains, financing and policy in the country or location of interest.

Internships will be arranged with external organizations to ensure a real-world understanding of the issues as well as business, policy and cultural contexts. Industry, NGOs, university and government partnerships will be key players in the course’s success, as they will help supplement education, problem identification and solving, and financing of the program. Partners in the MBA will provide executives-in-residence, access to experts, international contacts for fieldwork, financial or in-kind support to students.

At the end of the first year students will choose the problems on which they will work in teams. Each team will have a defined client (corporate, NGO, or government), scope and deliverables for solution development.

Filed in: Open access between academia and practice, Reflective practice and fieldwork, Research in service of society, Transformative Learning
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