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Duquesne’s MBA in Sustainability More than Doubles Enrollment

In merely three years since its launch, enrollment has more than doubled in the Master’s of Business Administration-Sustainability (SMBA) program at Duquesne University.

The program, which infuses financial, social and environmental responsibility into the hard-skills classes of more typical MBA degrees, has 35 students enrolled for the yearlong course starting later this month. Students are drawn from local and international locales, including China, France and Korea, said Dr. Kenneth A. Saban, who was named director of the award-winning program in July.

“Profitability alone had been the measure of a leader’s and a company’s success in the past,” said Dean Alan R. Miciak of the John F. Donahue Graduate School of Business. “However, today’s MBA students are also aware of the critical importance of how leaders and companies handle their own people and the world’s environmental resources, which can have an impact in their neighborhood or around the globe.”

The SMBA program, which incorporates best practices from the financial, human and environmental areas, positions students to lead for the future.

“Profitability, of course, remains a key component; if a company cannot sustain itself in a real-world marketplace, its tactics will have little impact,” said Saban, an associate professor of marketing at Duquesne since 1998. “But incorporating solid ways of handling people and forming environmental strategies to resolve issues that challenge companies operating in today’s complex global economy are also critical.”

As director, Saban brings deep experience in supply chain management, technology and world-wide collaboration to the program. He has extensive senior management experience working for such Fortune 500 corporations as Westinghouse Electric, Midland-Ross, Vickers and numerous small business startups. Over the last four years, Saban has generated more than $1.2 million in federal research grants from the departments of commerce, defense and justice.

Duquesne’s SMBA program incorporates an overseas experience for students into its curriculum. Faculty and students have exchanged knowledge with academic peers and corporate and government operations in India, Japan, China, Germany and Brazil, among other locations. Students participate in three semester-long projects with nonprofits and for-profit organizations, such as estimating market potential for water treatment systems in developing countries to developing tactics to eliminate plastic water bottles on college campuses.

These experiences working with international students, business leaders and government organizations have proven invaluable, according to 2008 SMBA alumna Holly Gioia, who is a sustainability consultant in upstate New York. “My experiences in the SMBA program taught me how to be sensitive and learn from other cultures.  It taught me to be adaptable, to learn how to market to my audience, and to pay attention to detail.

“Sustainability is a concept that has no ethnic origin,” Gioia said. “It's all about systems thinking and the ability to see the larger picture and move each small part to fit that picture.  That ability is exactly what any executive level business person needs to possess to be successful; understanding each facet of the business and making it work together. “

The SMBA program, Gioia said, prepared her “more than any other MBA would have.” During job interviews, she said, the SMBA raised comment and interest from potential employers, “and standing out from the crowd is what gets you the job.”

Duquesne has been ranked No. 1 among schools of its size and No. 8 worldwide by The Aspen Institute Center for Business Education for integrating social and environmental issues into its MBA program.

Additionally, the SMBA has received the inaugural Page Prize for the best U.S. submission of an Environmental Sustainability Curriculum and the school was included in the 2009 edition of The Princeton Review’s Best 296 Business Schools.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.