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Trip to Copenhagen Inspires, Motivates

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Stephanie Piperno and classmates riding bicycles in Denmark.
Piperno (second from left) and classmates on an outing in Denmark.

Stephanie Piperno, MSSM’ 17, learned a lot on her first trip to Copenhagen. She learned about—and visited—countless sustainability-focused organizations in the city. She learned about Copenhagen’s commitment to environmentally friendly transportation. She learned about Danish farming, and all the challenges that come with it.

Most of all, Piperno learned that sustainability is not just a passion. It’s a philosophy—both in life, and in business.

This May, Piperno embarked on her journey with seventeen other classmates, ready to absorb the sustainable practices and culture of Copenhagen. It was the culminating experience of her International Dimensions in Management course, offering a hands-on, international application of concepts learned in the classroom.

"This Spring's trip to Denmark was incredibly valuable for MS in Sustainability Management students,” says Mark Starik, MSSM program director. They got an international perspective from one of the world's most sustainable cities. Experiential opportunities like this really bridge what students learn in class to the real world.”

Piperno and her classmates visited countless Danish businesses and government agencies, including a sustainable food re-use organization (Rude Food); a Swedish non-profit named “Grow Up;” and a farm on the island of Samso—a community that uses 100% renewable energy. “Seeing so many sustainable business practices in action was really inspirational,” she says.

For Piperno, the highlight was Samso, where they met with the island’s mayor and a community farm owner. In their meetings, she learned a disconcerting reality: Samso’s largest exported product—the potato—doesn’t have the workforce to support its production. “Few of the island’s younger citizens are interested in farming. Many, in fact, are leaving the island altogether,” Piperno explains. It was a sustainability challenge she had not considered before—one with important cross-cultural connections.

Her favorite part of the trip, though? The time shared with classmates.

Because many MSSM students are part-time, it’s not always easy to get to know each another, says Piperno. The week-long journey offered the opportunity to do so—and the chance to bounce ideas off one another. “We were able to process everything we learned as a group,” she says. “The site visits triggered many rich, insightful discussions.”

Piperno also had a personal mission while on the trip: study Copenhagen’s cutting-edge bikeshare program. The program was her chosen area of focus, which she presented on prior to the trip, and completed a final paper on after her return.

As one of the world’s first bikeshare programs—now featuring GPS systems—the topic offers insight into how the US can improve their own. Piperno also sees it as a compelling social-science study, examining how Denmark ensures its bicycles remain accessible. “In the US, you usually need a credit card or a smart phone to rent a bike. If we structure it this way, how do you reach people who don’t have access to these things?” she asks.

While on the trip, she also had a startling realization. Copenhagen’s commitment to sustainability wasn’t just based on love for the environment; it was also rooted in financial gain. Sustainable practices actually save companies money—a case she finds highly compelling for U.S. businesses. “It was eye-opening to see you don’t have to sacrifice profit to be sustainable,” Piperno says. “This is a great advocacy argument to use in the United States.”

In the future, Piperno plans to work in community outreach and corporate engagement, with hopes of mobilizing people around sustainability practices. She endeavors to apply lessons learned in Copenhagen to her career. “I learned a lot about their approach,” she says. “Bringing this knowledge to the businesses and organizations I work with in the future will be very beneficial.”

Most of all, Piperno is grateful for the chance to see sustainability in action. She sees Copenhagen as an environmental oasis—a place where business owners and citizens alike are invested in a sustainable lifestyle. For her, it’s both motivating an inspiring—an example she can model her own life and career after. “It was great to see the community working together towards a more sustainable society,” she says. “I loved being a part of it.”

Learn more about the MSSM global trip here.

Interested in the MS Sustainability Management program? Visit us online for more information.