Deloitte Hosts “Master Class” on M&A for Duquesne MBA students

Each year about this time, Deloitte executives invite Duquesne MBA students to collaborate on solving a real-world client problem.  Brad Johnson, director of strategic client relationships for Pittsburgh’s Deloitte consulting practice, earned his MBA at Duquesne and remains actively involved as an advisor to students and our program.

This year, Brad was joined by Jeff Craft, a partner in Deloitte’s assurance practice, and our Deloitte master class on February 14 focused on issues surrounding acquisition of expertise and assets related to clean energy.  We received an offering memorandum, backgrounder and guidelines prior to the session and broke into small groups to discuss valuation and decision-making challenges related to buying and selling a company under the hands-on coaching of practices leaders who negotiate such deals for a living.  The morning with Deloitte was an exciting and challenging learning opportunity for MBA students to learn from a leading consulting firm.

No small advantage of studying in Pittsburgh is Duquesne’s location in the heart of a prosperous business district.  Another is the ongoing partnerships with alumni and client partners who help faculty tie theory to practice by offering insight to real word challenges and opportunities through classroom and extracurricular professional development.    Duquesne continues to leverage connections in the city to play professional development workshops like this event with Deloitte.

GASP’s Air Quality Maps

Kyle Gryta, a member of our cohort, met members of Pittsburgh’s Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) at Sustainability EXPOsed in December.  After a quick conversation at GASP’s booth, Kyle, became part of somethingmuch more when he agreed to connect a monitor to his favorite mode of transportation.

Google has invested in the research effort with cyclists like Kyle and developed an air quality map that’s similar to traffic congestion maps.  The particulate air quality monitor shows and records the air quality around the region.  Check out the current version of the air quality maps here.

“In class, we talk about the new trends in business, but if you can see the real time impact on the world, then people may change their behaviors,” Kyle says.

Corporate Governance and Responsible Investing at BlackRock

by Blair Schoenborn

Duquesne Professor Connie Bentzen invited our cohort to join her International Finance class to hear a guest lecturer from BlackRock speak about Corporate Governance and Responsible Investing.  With $4.1 trillion invested in more than 7,000 portfolios, BlackRock is the world’s largest asset management institution.  Jack spoke about BlackRock’s Proxy Voting and ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) Investment Integration services.

The Process  BlackRock’s Corporate Governance and Responsible Investment (CGRI) team partners with portfolio managers to integrate ESG issues into their investment strategy.  This happens in a three-step process:

1)   Research and Issue Spotting – This is driven by their internal guidelines for research and meetings with clients and companies to determine issues and management of those issues, respectively.

2)   Review and Engagement – This involves in-depth research leveraging the expertise of portfolio managers and engagement with the company in question as necessary.

3)   Vote Execution – BlackRock votes with one voice, meaning through meetings and review of research they are able to come to a decision for the vote; all votes are reviewed by an oversight committee both monthly and quarterly.

As a student of sustainability in business operations, and especially in finance, it was interesting to hear how the world’s largest asset management company is successfully integrating environmental, social, and corporate governance issues into their portfolio management strategy.

As an individual, and a novice investor in the stock market, it was also enlightening to learn of the power that a proxy voting system can have in influencing governance and responsible investing.

Overall, it was an eye-opening and thought-provoking lecture.  Visit BlackRock’s website to find out more.

Sustainability EXPOsed

Despite the snow covered morning, over 500 attendees joined together at the David L. Lawrence Convention center to learn and share ideas surrounding sustainable innovations at Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Sustainability EXPOsed.  Duquesne University and the MBA Sustainability program served as a platinum sponsor for the event, which allowed our cohort to present posters featuring research throughout breaks in the day.   Poster topics ranged from utilizing gamification principles for engagement to transforming waste into profit.

The agenda included TED-talk style presentations followed by break out salon conversations that allowed for intimate discussions with presenters.  The presenters included local innovators John Buckley, managing director of Corporate Social Responsibility at BNY Mellon; Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer at UPMC; and Donald Carter, director of the Remaking Cityies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  Other presenters traveled from around the country including Projjal Dutta, director of sustainability initiatives at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York; and Jerry Tinianow, chief sustainability officer at the Officer of the Mayer Michael B. Hancock City and County of Denver.  Various other organizations were represented as exhibitors, and we were able to network with them throughout the day.

Paul Hawken closed out the day as our keynote speaker.  He is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist and author.  He has played a significant role in changing the relationship between business and the environment through leadership as sustainability thought leader.  One classmate, Nick, reflected that Hawken’s “optimism is refreshing and enlightening.  He reframes pertinent issues in a way that encourages his audience to embrace the challenges they face presently and in the future”.

I hate to admit that often, as students, we are so caught up in our classes and education that we forget about the world outside the walls of Duquesne.  Sustainability EXPOsed allowed us to see the professionals in the region that are interred in the same problems and innovative sustainable solutions that we focus on in the classroom.  Personally, I left feeling energized after meeting so many professionals that are passionate about the same topics that I value.

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Workshop with American Textile CEO

photoOn Friday, Mr. Jack Ouelette, CEO of American Textile, joined our cohort.  He is also a graduate of West Pont and a former military officer who worked his way to CEO of a multinational textile company after earning his MBA at Duquesne University. Mr. Ouelette showed his generosity by choosing to share his valuable time to in order to offer us professional development coaching as we quickly approach graduation.

He utilized the first portion of his time with us talking about the interview process, and debunking interview myths.  The second portion of our time together he helped our cohort prepare for presentations of posters at Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Sustainability EXPOposed convention.

One of my classmates, Ellen shared her reflections on the workshop:

“After his talk this morning, Mr. Ouellette was kind enough to play the role of a convention-attendee and offer his perspective on the cohorts’ poster presentation and networking skills.   Matt, Jana, Kyle, Angela, and I are very excited about the look and content of our team’s poster, but articulating the right information to a fresh listener in just 30 to 60 seconds was a new challenge.

I volunteered to practice in front of the class, which turned out to be more fun than  it was frightening.   After a few iterations of my pitch and some pointed questions from Mr. Oullette, I feel well prepared to represent Duquesne and the MBA Sustainability program on Tuesday.   In an unexpected turn of events, I was even promenaded back to my seat by our esteemed guest!”

This event is one of many unique workshops, speaker, or panel discussions for our students to take part in beyond our normal classroom settings. Our students have the opportunity to network with c-level executives who are invested in preparing us to enter the business world!

Be on the lookout for our cohort’s posters at Sustainable Pittsburgh’s’ Sustainability EXPOsed on Tuesday, December 10 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.  Duquesne and the MBA Sustainability program are co-sponsors of Sustainability EXPOsed, a symposium featuring Paul Hawken as a keynote speaker.

First Annual MBA Sustainability Alumni Weekend

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Duquesne SMBA Alumni Board 2013 – from left, Dana McTighe (’12), Maureen Coyle (’12), Drew Lessard (’10), Erin Fargo (’12), Alison Steele (’11) and Jeff Gladstone (’11)

A few weekends ago, the MBA Sustainability alumni board organized the first annual reunion weekend with the help of professors, alumni and university staff.  As a current student, it was exciting to be included in the first of many alumni weekends to come, and it made me excited for trips back to the bluff to catch up with my cohort, program alumni, professors, and current students.

Drew Lessard shared that more than 20% of all alumni were in attendance over the course of the weekend.  The weekend kicked off with a “Discussion & Topics on Leading Change”.  This event included Andrew Butcher from GTECH Strategies, he discussed how he leverages a culture of “experiential learning” at his company to encourage employees to discover and innovate through their careers.

In addition, Jim Crisanti from International Electric Power (IEP) shared fascinating stories of cultural challenges in Haiti and Pakistan in the development of electricity generation. Contrasting the two experiences for IEP, Jim shared with us how leading change has been successful and more challenging in his experiences overseas.

Towards the end of the afternoon Bill O’Rourke led a panel discussion with program alumni.  The panel included Mackenzie Crigger, Energy Conversation and Sustainability Manager at Chapman University (’10);  Ashley Jones Organizational Efficiency Specialist at NORESCO (’12);  Jeff Gladstone Vice President of Operational Risk at PNC Bank (’11); and JP Gibbons Energy and Environment investment Officer at US Agency for International Development (’12).  Each of them shared insights and tips on how to drive change.

Other events throughout the weekend included class reunion dinners, an urban scavenger hunt, the big alumni bash, and a farewell brunch.  There is already a buzz in my cohort regarding next year’s alumni weekend. Thanks to an amazing alumni board for planning such an exceptional weekend, and to those of you who missed out keep your ears open regarding next year!

Networking with Forbes Fund Executives

The Forbes Fund and Duquesne University are located in Pittsburgh; however, it took a cross-country trip to make the connection.

The Forbes Fund, a supporting organization of the Pittsburgh Foundation, focuses on strengthening the management and policy-making capacity of the nonprofit sector.  I came across the Forbes Fund on the Net Impact site before the conference, and we had the opportunity to get to know President Kate Dewey and Director of Innovation Garrett Cooper in San Jose.  Kate and Garrett share the Net Impact common vision of impacting society through business practices.  They are optimistic about what our generation will accomplish.

This encounter reminded me how valuable networks can be – including student, alumni and professional organizations.  Our Net Impact chapter is excited about creating a productive new partnership.   Kate and Garret will be joining us and leading an idea café at Net Impact meeting next semester!

Green Workplace Challenge Workshop Reflections

Last week, two students and sustainability fellows, Jana DiSanti and Matt Lepri, attended Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Green Workplace Challenge’s (GWC) workshop titled “First Quarter Celebration, Engaging Employees – It’s Not Scary.”   The event was hosted at the courthouse and highlighted the GWC’s leaders through an official unveiling of leader board updates.

Matt’s major takeaway was insight for engaging stakeholders as he moves forward with his fellowship duties based on what he heard during a presentation by  Zach Ambrose, the sustainability specialist for Allegheny County.  “Zach used an innovative social-media software tool to involve over 6,000 employees across 200 departments in collaborative sustainability efforts,” Matt reported.

Jana is coordinating a sustainability project for freshman in Duquesne’s signature “Gateway to Business” course.  “It was really enlightening having the opportunity to learn how diverse organizations of different scales are striving to use sustainability to serve their businesses’ specific needs,” Jana reflected.  “In our MBA Sustainability courses, the case studies presented are often outstanding instances of clear success in leveraging sustainability, which are certainly very educational in their own way.  However, I believe that there is at least as much to learn from observing organizations whose sustainability programs are not yet fully mature, as it gives us a chance to hear about the challenges, struggles, and failures, which must precede the later triumphs.  As Duquesne embarks on its first competitive season in the GWC, we will definitely want to keep taking advantage of collaborative forums like this one”.

Matt and Jana are just two of many students in our cohort doing, creating, and learning from invaluable experiences that fellowships offer our students.  Throughout the year, we will highlight more events and reflections from fellows.

8th Annual North American Passive House Conference

Last Friday, Matt Lepri, a student in our cohort, attended the North American Passive House Conference.  Matt is a sustainability fellow who focuses on sustainable building techniques in his research work with Dr. Sroufe.

Passive House is a new building design technique developed in Germany that captures solar energy and applies it throughout the building through use of high performance windows, innovative insulation, balanced energy ventilation, and thermal bridging.  PH can decrease energy use in a building up to 90%.

Europe already has over 15,000 buildings that have been Passive House certified. The U.S. has been slow to adopt, but about 100 PH buildings, nearly all residential, are constructed or being built at the moment.

At the conference, Matt spent time with Craig Stevenson, executive vice president of James Construction, a regional firm that offers general construction, design-build and related services for Government, Civic, Healthcare, Commercial and Retail markets. A Duquesne MBA alumnus, Craig is a member of our MBA advisory board and an active supporter of the sustainability initiatives at Duquesne. Craig has offered to be a resource for Matt as he digs deeper into his fellowship work.

According to Matt, “Mr. Stevenson is one of the very few commercial contractors/builders in the country who has passed the rigorous training program, making him a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC).  He is extremely knowledgeable in low energy building design techniques and spent almost every available minute in between presenters on Friday helping me understand the technical details of low energy and Passive House design.”

For more information on the Passive House Conference or PH, visit this website: http://www.passivehouse.us/phc2013/

Visit to Westinghouse

Guest Blogger: Angela Petitto

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Every semester, Duquesne University Supply Chain Management majors experience the supply chain in action through the Course Enrichment Program.  Last week, Dr. Drake, our operations professor, invited MBA Sustainability students to participate in the visit to the Westinghouse international headquarters in nearby Cranberry, Pa., for an inside look at their supply chain processes.

The visit was led by two Duquesne graduates who work for Westinghouse. The morning began with an explanation regarding how supply chain applies to the nuclear power industry. This was particularly interesting, as the products are customized, which differs from industries normally associated with the value chain.

We also toured the facility – including the receiving area, storage technologies, and quality control department – and learned a bit about nuclear engineering and power plants.

The visit ended with a panel discussion featuring several supply chain managers who offered career advice and stressed the importance of continuous improvement.

It was a great opportunity to see real world application of concepts learned in the Dr. Drake’s class!