Breaking Boundaries

“The cost of not doing something is much higher than doing something.” – Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, in his keynote address at The Net Impact 2014 Conference

Last week I had the chance to attend the Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis. The theme of the conference was Breaking Boundaries.

The conference was held in beautiful downtown Minneapolis.

The conference was held in beautiful downtown Minneapolis.

Net Impact is an organization focused on creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace and the world. At the conference over 3,000 students and professionals came together to share this vision and learn about each other. Conference speakers included executives from Target, 3M, Best Buy, Coca Cola, Campbell Soup Company, Monsanto, General Mills Inc., and many others. I was surprised how passionately these companies embraced the ideals of Net Impact and they are looking for like minded people to lead their companies into the future. Each session reaffirmed what we are learning in the classroom, from accounting to systems and design thinking, is what is needed to succeed in the real world.


The “Hub” is where conference attendees could gather to network, grab a snack or just relax throughout the day.


Vani and Dan hang out with the Target dog in the Hub.


Caitlin participates in one of the interactive sessions during the conference. She is building a solar lamp for global education in a session sponsored by 3M.


Attendees listen intently to a panel discussion with CEOs of start-ups during the conference.

The conference reaffirmed that business can impact society. Regardless of the career path, I plan to be an agent of change and it is good to know I am not alone.

GaBi Training with PE International

We were stunned to learn how many different processes and materials it takes to produce a seemingly simple basketball.

We were recently trained to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment using GaBi software in Dr. Robert Sroufe’s course.  This software models all the elements of a product or system from cradle to cradle.  It gives businesses the information they need to make the most informed decisions on the manufacturing and life cycle of a product. GaBi is the premier LCA software and is used by hundreds of companies all over the world including Bayer, Bombardier Transportation, DuPont and Toyota.

We worked directly with a facilitator from PE International via web-conferencing. Students were able to model all the products and services that went into producing the final product. The software also allowed us to view the environmental impact of the product has on the environment. We are one of the only MBA programs that gives students an opportunity to work with such cutting edge software for Life Cycle Assessments.

Teams will be completing a Life Cycle Assessment using the GaBi software for two products for Dr. Sroufe’s course. Each team gets to chose a product and conduct the LCA. My team chose to look at aluminum and glass beer bottles. Other teams will be comparing include glass and aluminum beer bottles, plastic and wire hangers, and saran wrap and aluminum foil.

We will share our results when the analyses are complete.  ​

Introducing the 2014-2015 sMBA Cohort!

On August 18, the new MBA Sustainability cohort gathered for the first time to begin our weeklong orientation. We hit the ground running with a case competition, professional presentations, simulations and networking.

To start the week off, we did a team building activity. No one expected to be building with Legos in an MBA program, but that is exactly what we did. We had to design a new product and give an elevator pitch about it to the group.


Vani, Jacob, Patrick, Elise and Gina work on their toy concept during orientation

We had many executive speakers from the Pittsburgh area, including Matt Mehalik from Sustainable Pittsburgh, Bill O’Rourke from ALCOA and Anita Brattina from All Facilities Group.

On Thursday, we broke up into groups for a case competition, a first for many students with backgrounds in liberal arts, science and engineering. Everyone enjoyed getting to know their group and working through a real world problem.


Clare and Derek work on the case competition.


Students used the new team rooms where the tables also serve as a writing surface



Nayan, Phil and Gina discuss their team strategy for the case competition.


Vani discusses the team’s strategy while Ronna makes notes for their team presentation.


Caitlin, Liis and Catherine discuss their group presentation during the case competition.

After the case competition, we went outside to enjoy a barbecue and do a resource allocation simulation with Dr. Sroufe.


Derek and Patrick discuss strategy for the resource allocation simulation.


Caitlin, Zach and Catherine discuss their team’s strategy during the simulation.


We wrapped up an exciting week with an alumni panel featuring Dana McTighe, Alison Etheridge, Laura Troup, Ryan Baptiste, Steve Opar, Rudy Molero, and Nick Monzo. They shared their favorite MBA memories and talked about their preparation for roles in project management, purchasing, supply chain, finance, engineering and brand management with PNC, Heinz, BNY Mellon, FedEx, a healthcare provider and a social entrepreneur.

The various perspectives that each student brought made for interesting discussion throughout the week. There is a lot to learn in a short period, and everyone is excited to begin this exciting journey!

What a Difference a Year Makes!

The MBA Sustainability class of 2014 has officially matriculated.  Everyone at Duquesne University is excited to see the impact that this cohort leaves through their respective careers.  The video below shares highlights from the year-long program.  What a difference a year makes!

Duquesne Places Third in the Green Workplace Challenge

By: Matt Lepri

GWC photoOver the past nine months, I had the great opportunity to oversee Duquesne University’s MBA Sustainability program’s involvement in this years Green Workplace Challenge (GWC). The Pittsburgh GWC is a year-long competition for organizations, such as Duquesne, to save money and gain recognition through the implementation of green initiatives.

As part of my fellowship duties for the MBA Sustainability program, I tracked, measured, and implemented sustainability initiatives over a wide range of categories which include: energy, water, waste, transportation, policy, and engagement.​ In the University division, Duquesne placed in 3rd place and earned a total of 107 green action points. The competition-wide sustainable initiatives reaped incredible savings, as participants in total saved 37,300,000 kWh of energy, valued at over $3 million, 5,421,000 gallons of water, and 4821 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions​.

LEED-ing Rockwell Towards Sustainable Design

photo 2Students, Lixuan He, Peter Kassouf, Nicholas Monzo, and Laura Monahan, placed first in Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability LEED Commercial Interiors design project. Two students in our class, architect Dan Sutton and Carnegie Mellon University architecture student Rohini Srivistava consulted the student teams throughout the semester-long project.

“Being a consultant for the LEED CI project was very enjoyable because it allowed me to share my background experience and education with my classmates,” shared student and architect Dan Sutton.  “It was rewarding to see how each groups project developed over time and it was great to see how teams would take my advice and make it their own to create their new vision for Rockwell Hall.”

All of the student teams went outside their comfort zone to envision a plan for Rockwell Hall that accounted for triple bottom line benefits.  The students were instructed to create a design within a $2M budget that considers and educates stakeholders, while demonstrating the highest possible LEED CI point rating.

“The LEED CI project was an exciting opportunity to take sustainability concepts and get creative by applying them to a project that’s very close to our program, since it involves renovating the building that we use every day,” shared Nick Monzo, member of the winning team. “I’ve always enjoyed construction projects with my dad, and I loved having the chance to plan a large-scale project with a strategic sustainability vision in mind.”

photoEach year, Dr. Sroufe’s spring course, Sustainability Tools and Processes, includes a LEED CI project that focuses on different parts of Duquesne University.  Throughout the spring semester, Dr. Sroufe arranged visits and guest lecturers to educate the cohort on sustainable building design that assisted with our projects.  This year’s challenge forced the cohort to envision a new design for the concourse and basement levels of Rockwell Hall.  A panel of judges including architects, professors, alumni, and members of the business community judged teams in this competition.


A Glimpse into the Energy Innovation Center

Throughout the past week, all six consulting groups in the cohort had the opportunity to meet with their respective clients for the summer semester.  I am lucky to work with Pittsburgh Green Innovators (PGI) this semester!  I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with such an innovative and impactful non-profit organization.  PGI is a non-profit organization committed to growing a vibrant green economy and community by collaboratively leveraging regional strengths through innovation, education, workforce development, and cultivation of sustainable business opportunities.

PGI has been an involved in planning process for the new Energy Innovation Center, and they will be a tenant in just a few months! The mission of the Energy Innovation Center is to contribute to socially responsible workforce development, foster energy and sustainable technology advancement, and assist in job creation through a commitment to diversity, innovation and comprehensive education.  Our first meeting with PGI included a tour of the new Energy Innovation Center, and their space within the larger building.

Enjoy the pictures from our visit!

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