Socially Responsible

Presidio Graduate School offers green degrees

Presidio Graduate School co-hosted TEDxPresidio 2012 in September photo: Presidio Graduate School

Depending on your age, you may remember a time when “the green movement” and “sustainability” were absent from our language and goals.

Today, a former army barracks in the Presidio is home to the administration of the Presidio Graduate School (PGS), one of the first schools in the nation to offer masters’ degrees in sustainable management.

Their MBA program focuses on business, while the MPA degree is designed for students whose interest is in the public administration of nonprofits and foundations. A dual MBA/MPA degree and executive certificates are also offered.

There are 45 teachers at PGS with classes held both in the Presidio and in downtown
San Francisco.

An objective of the school is to teach students ways to weave sustainable practices into all facets of business, according to Stephen Boni, PGS director of communications. Boni uses tire production as an example. “Currently, most tires are made of natural rubber from latex-bearing trees. With increasing demand for rubber as developing economies grow, rubber is being overharvested and has become a diminishing resource. This overconsumption is having an adverse effect on car prices, indigenous employment, and local ecosystems. That’s why many multinational corporations are actively developing renewable systems for rubber production,”
Boni explained.

“We don’t want a CEO or a CFO of sustainability,” said interim dean Edward Quevedo. “What we’re seeking is a company’s CEO or CFO or director of marketing who is efficient and responsible in their use of existing resources. The key word for graduates to use as they look for a job is never the S – sustainability – word but the I word – inspiration. Inspiration means you have a vision for the future.”

Thomas Fisher graduated from PGS in December 2010. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois with an ecology major. He has been passionate about the environment since a young age, but before looking into graduate school, he worked in a variety of businesses, including engineering and manufacturing companies. When he was ready to apply for a master’s degree, a friend told him about Presidio Graduate School.

Today he works at a major information technology company in downtown San Francisco. Fisher believes that the approach of incorporating sustainable practices into a company’s strategic plan is profitable. “Anecdotally, this strategy does well on the stock market,” Fisher said, though it is too early to provide proof of which companies fall into that category.

Jeremy Waen, a 2010 PGS graduate, was an undergraduate at Reed College in Portland, Ore. with a major in chemistry. He now works for a company that, by the nature of its existence, is a proponent of sustainable practices: the Marin Energy Authority in San Rafael. “We provide from 50 to 100 percent of renewable energy to businesses and residents of Marin County,” he said. “As a regulatory analyst, I am able to understand local and state economies and how to interact, to communicate with companies. We are able to provide cleaner electricity, which reduces greenhouse effects, and show how our methods are cost-effective.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Nayelli Gonzalez, who graduated from Boston University. Gonzalez received her MBA in December 2010 and found a job at Saatchi & Saatchi, the international advertising and communications firm. She describes herself as interested in business, but as also being socially minded. “This is a perfect fit for me, because the company and I share similar values. I can incorporate sustainability in my work,” she said.

Gonzalez notes that more and more companies are becoming aware of environmental responsibility, citing Google, Facebook and Genentech as examples.

“More people are realizing the importance of protecting the environment,” she said.
Presidio Graduate School is nine years old and has approximately 600 graduates. The school receives more than 150 applications per year. “The bigger, well-known schools say they only accept a select few of those who apply,” said Quevedo. “We welcome diversity and accept most of those who apply. We tend to hear from very high-quality students and accept between 50 and 100 each year,” he said.

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