A New Year, A New MBA Sustainability Cohort

It has been eight weeks since the 14 of us in the new MBA Sustainability (sMBA) cohort started the program, and it seems we are all taking advantage of the opportunities that the program has to offer. Whether it be participating in Net Impact, volunteering with fellow classmates at Global Links, or taking on Graduate Assistant and Research Fellowships with our program instructors, everyone is fully immersed in the sMBA experience. With students from Pittsburgh to Oman, to some fresh from undergrad and others with 10+ years if work experience, our cohort is made up of students from a broad range of experiences and backgrounds.   The first eight weeks have offered nothing short of a full workload, with assignments coming faster and faster and our first consulting project with Cisco approaching. Yet with such a rigorous program, we have still found it both fun and fulfilling. We have already had the opportunity to hone our case study analysis and presentation skills with Dr. Sroufe, as we have been learning of the different sustainability strategies and models. We are also learning how to look at the world in a different way through our time in Systems Thinking with Dr. Sivasubramaniam and Applied Business Ethics with Dr. Wasieleski.

As our cohort goes through the rest of the program I will be keeping the followers of the blog updated on our progress through our various projects and the other activities we do, such as our trip to Denmark and Estonia in May. Until our consulting project begins to pick up I will be doing a student spotlight on one or two of the new and returning students to the program so that you can get a better idea about why each of us chose this program and what we hope to accomplish with the sMBA.

Only a few weeks left…

It has been months since we took this picture at My Two Cents day, but it feels like it was just yesterday. It is sad to say that our time in the MBA Sustainability program is almost over. However, there are still multiple things we have to look forward to! Currently, the final presentations in the Leading Change Practicum course are underway. The teams and their clients have reported great success all around, from helping to establish go-to-market strategies to aiding in the development of a community-based software program to help our citizens. Our cohort has displayed great perseverance and ability to add value, and I am honored to have had the privilege of getting to learn and grow with these amazing people. With the last few weeks underway, we all continue to work hard and look forward to what the future has in store for each one of us.

Leading Change Practicum Project Announcement

The summer semester is underway and we are excited to have the opportunity to work with four innovative companies for our Leading Change Practicum.

All four of this semester’s projects are confidential in nature, and each has it’s own very unique set of challenges. First, one team is partnering with an accelerator to help launch a social enterprise. Next, one of our consulting teams is providing aid in launching a new technology. Furthermore, another team is providing insight on how to improve customer satisfaction and market reach for a local customer. Finally, one team is heading up a project involving waste to energy. Overall, each of these endeavors is on the cutting edge of their respected fields, and each project will ultimately create a significant impact in their markets.

The Alumni Blog Series: My MBA Toolkit

As Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability program nears its 10th anniversary, its Alumni Council wanted to find a way to document their experiences since their time on The Bluff. The Alumni Blog Series  gives a chance for MBA Sustainability graduates to  provide their expertise, speak about sustainability, or simply reflect on their own experiences.

In the inaugural TABS post, class of 2012 graduate Michael Holovak reflects on how MBA Sustainability provided growth of his own professional and personal “MBA Toolkit.”


aaeaaqaaaaaaaadnaaaajdk3mtu5mddkltm5zgytndfhzi1hzdiylte3m2fizwu5mjzkoqDuring my time at Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability, I would often hear a prominent faculty member stress adding key lessons to one’s “MBA Toolkit” — that is, the frameworks and processes you utilize during key project milestones to set you up for consistent success. When I recently set upon a new opportunity as a project manager in a different industry, I had a small window to reflect on how my professional career had evolved my MBA toolkit – and myself along with it.

In addition to tools learned during coursework (some in use daily and others mothballed in my “MBA storage shed”), I wanted to share how my time at Duquesne afforded growth on my own personal toolkit — the more qualitative attitudes and attributes I rely on on a day-to-day basis that are, to me, as important as a lesson in any textbook.


In my experience, the road to a smooth, successful project is paved by confidence in one’s process from the start, as that confidence is then spread to team members and clients. The foundation of my process stems from strategic planning concepts used during MBA consulting engagements, bolstered by learned quantitative skills. Even directly after graduation, my learning experiences instilled confidence from the start, which propelled me to where I am now.


Establishing communication lines and keeping all parties appropriately informed is the essence of project management, and MBA Sustainability provided me that keystone to build upon my own communication skills. We were given the opportunity to develop them daily, through reports, emails, and presentations. Personally, my public speaking went from a weakness to a strength during my time at Duquesne, as I learned to focus on controlling the room, my pace, my eye contact, and my speech. I now make presentations that follow the same framework to great effect.


Adaptability has been a key part of my success as a project manager. There were times when a project’s goal or solution, or the path to it, changed so drastically that I simply had to adjust tactics. Though coursework was admittedly very structured, the variety of subjects encountered at MBA Sustainability provided me an ability to see when to pivot on a project, when to make a change, and, importantly, how to manage that change effectively across parties.


Finally, an ability to persevere and make decisions under duress is something that has been crucial to my career successes. Encountering new challenges in the workplace can be daunting, but my time at Duquesne developed an ability to persevere and excel in difficult situations. I have made mistakes and will undoubtedly make more in the future, but an ability to process and grow from them kept me moving on the path I want to be.

Looking back on my experiences from then to now, I can say my learning has never truly stopped and is constantly evolving. Similarly, in talking with alumni, I’ve found their methods and skills vary, change, and grow. However, one consistent theme remained — for many, Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability program was a valuable experience to build their own personal toolkit for success in both work and in life.

NetAcad & Cisco Germany

One main focus for Cisco is “educating future problem solvers,” according to Carsten Johnson, who lead our interactive discussion at Cisco Germany. Throughout this session, Carsten discussed the five areas of focus with regards to sustainability and Cisco. These five areas included governance and ethics, supply chain, people, society, and the environment. Carsten mentioned some of the programs Cisco is currently implementing in each of these five areas, including the Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad). This initiative has provided over 5.5 million students with classes ranging from coding to entrepreneurship. In addition, this academy focuses on helping provide education for underserved areas across the globe. Our time at Cisco helped all of us understand how this company is making a difference and adding to the positive change we all want to see in the world.

Day 5: SAP Visit

“I learn everyday,” stated Daniel Schmid, Chief Sustainability Officer of SAP. Daniel led a discussion about the importance of connectivity, co-innovation, and learning. “By being more sustainable, you have better decision making, and a better company,” said Daniel. Daniel highlighted the many reports and initiatives SAP has in place, such as the Social Sabbatical program, in which employees can take time off work to put their specialized technology skills to good use for underserved communities all over the world. One of the most impressive facets of SAP’s sustainability initiatives is their Business Health Culture Index. This is a cause and effect analysis that quantifies employees ability to be innovative, creative, and have a worklife balance. SAP is leading the technology sector in sustainability reporting and initiatives, continuously pushing the limits to be one innovative company that is creating the positive they want to see in the world.