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Innovative Curriculum, World-Class Preparation Reflections on my time in Kogod’s MSSM program

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Joshua Kaplan and co-worker.
Credit: Joshua Kaplan.

Attending Kogod was a crucial step in my career. It helped me tear down a common misconception: that business and environmental sustainability must always be at odds. The MS in Sustainability Management program made this possible with its interdisciplinary nature, the experience and connections of the faculty, the opportunities in DC, and the chance to learn with a diverse, ambitious, and passionate set of peers.

Very few programs are designed like Kogod's MSSM, and its structure helped prepare me for exactly the type of job I wanted. I realized that some of the most significant work combating global issues such as climate change were happening in the private sector. My undergraduate background in environmental science prepared me to confront these problems from a very interdisciplinary standpoint, but I lacked the experience in subjects like accounting, finance, and organizational management that I knew I would need if I wanted to step into an organization and enact change from within.

The MSSM's core curriculum provided this necessary background, and allowed me to put business concepts within the context of how organizations approach corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Even in introductory courses like marketing, the faculty went out of their way to connect the subject matter with these areas, such as with a case study on how companies like Starbucks innovated fair trade certified commodities through their supply chains.

Kogod faculty not only bring world-class experience to the classroom, but really try to understand how their students want to practically apply their knowledge, such as in the example above. MSSM faculty also leveraged their connections and Kogod's DC location to gain access to networking events with practitioners; tour facilities such as General Electric's Water & Process Technologies manufacturing center or the Embassy of Finland; and bring high-powered speakers into the classroom. I keep in touch with many of these faculty members and speakers today, considering them not just mentors, but colleagues in the field.

My fellow students were another highlight of my time at Kogod. They came from incredibly diverse backgrounds; being able to sit in a room with engineers, architects, biologists, linguists, and consultants, as well as those with business backgrounds, made class discussions incredibly dynamic. Students were passionate, and willing to be critical of ideas that many would take for granted - a must in a newly emerging field built upon the idea of innovation, disruption, and change. It is now a privilege to call many fellow alumni of the MSSM program my colleagues. The MSSM alumni network has become one of its greatest assets in just a few short years.

Finally, I put the concepts I learned in the classroom into practice every day in my current role as Program Officer, Renewable Energy and Climate at World Wildlife Fund. In this role I work with large corporations to create new approaches for scaling renewable energy programs. The MSSM program in particular has positioned me to understand the financial basis of corporate decision-making, and understand how they can create value for the "triple bottom line" - financial, social, and environmental.

Even in a political climate where environmental regulations are under unprecedented scrutiny, the world's largest companies are stepping up their efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas footprints, source sustainable products, and account for the the full lifecycle of their products and services. They are doing this because it makes good business sense, mirroring the core idea that is the foundation of the MSSM program.

As these efforts increase, there has not been a better time to get into the emerging field of sustainability management. The MSSM program is well-positioned to create the next generation of leaders.

Learn more today about Kogod's MS in Sustainability Management program.