sMBA Consulting Project 1

Starting this October, the newest Sustainability MBA (sMBA) program cohort began their first hands-on consulting project. This year the sMBA program has partnered with Cisco Systems Inc. under the guidance of Duquesne alumnus Ken Trombetta, Vice President Cisco’s Global Partner Organization. The cohort started the project with a design systems simulation with Dr. Ciletti and another faculty member to hone our analytical skills, before going to meet with Ken and other Cisco executives. The week following the design system simulation the cohort attended a meeting brief at Cisco System offices in the North Shore of Pittsburgh where the cohort learned the details of the consulting project.
The consulting project entails performing an analysis of several different companies that Cisco pre-picked for the cohort, and we were to perform a SWOT analysis on each company to order the attractiveness of each company in terms of a possible partnership. On November 11, 2016 the cohort had their first check in with Ken, where he seemed impressed with our analysis and ranking of the different companies they had chosen. The cohort is now tasked with providing a more in depth analysis of the top four companies that came out of the cohort’s initial rankings of the pre-picked companies. After the in-depth analysis of the top four companies, the cohort will then present to Ken and other Cisco executives on the findings produced by the analysis. The hopes are then for Cisco to use our recommendations in the future as they seek to form new partnerships.
This project is critical to the success of the cohort as we develop our analysis and critical thinking skills as it pertains to consulting and the possible tasks consultants in the workplace may be asked to perform. This hands on experience, as well as the other two consulting projects during the program, are what makes the sMBA program stand out from other sustainability focused MBA programs, as it better prepares our cohort to be more productive and comfortable as soon as we enter the workforce following graduation.

Student Spotlight: Victoria (Vicky) Hume

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Victoria attended John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio for her undergraduate studies where she majored in Economics as well as double minoring in both French and English. A native French speaker being from Montreal, Victoria is trilingual-being fluent in English, Spanish, as well as French. These language skills proved useful to her as she was a French and Spanish tutor while at John Carroll University.Vicky Blog Pic.JPG

Before Duquesne University and the MBA Sustainability Program she worked as the Social Media Manager for a Pittsburgh area swimming school. However, she always knew she wanted to get her MBA. When asked why this program, she said, “I’ve always had an interest in sustainability and I wanted to participate in something that incorporated sustainability and would be useful to my future.” After graduation in August 2017, Victoria hopes to find a job at a company or economic research firm that will allow her to have a positive impact on her community, such as becoming a Sustainability Manager at a Pittsburgh area firm. In her spare time Victoria enjoys to paint and take part in Duquesne University’s Net Impact club. In addition, Victoria enjoys living in Pittsburgh very much. She said her favorite thing about Pittsburgh is her ability to walk out of her Shadyside house and find something new and exciting everyday within walking distance.

A Jump in the Rankings!


              As new rankings for academic programs and institutions have come out for 2016, Duquesne University has seen its stock rise across the board. In particular, for this blog, we have seen the MBA Sustainability (sMBA) program here at the Palumbo Donahue School of Business rise in the Corporate Knights “Better World MBA” ranking from #10 worldwide in 2015 to #3 worldwide in 2016. In the United States, we are now ranked #2 in the country for programs with a sustainability curriculum, ahead of Ivy League schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Yale. This is a feat to be extremely proud of at Duquesne University, the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business, and within the sMBA program. As we enter the 10th year of the sMBA program at Duquesne, it goes to show that we will continue to be an innovator and trailblazer when it comes to sustainability research, and the education and production of new business leaders for the 21st century.

Some of you may be wondering what Corporate Knights is and how they ranked the sMBA program for their annual rankings. Corporate Knights is a media, research, and financial information company based out of Toronto, Canada. Founded in 2002, they focus on promoting an economic system where prices fully incorporate the Triple Bottom Line: Social, Economic, and Ecological costs. To come up with their “Better World MBA” ranking results, they look at several aspects of an eligible program and each aspect is weighted to come up with the final ranking. The aspects evaluated are Curriculum, Institutes and Centers, and Faculty Research. Curriculum looks at courses that are fully dedicated to sustainability, and based off of the sMBA curriculum we scored a 100%. Institutes and Centers that are affiliated with the sMBA program were evaluated, and Duquesne also scored a 100%. Lastly for Faculty Research, all relavant peer reviewed articles from the School of Business were examined and scored, and once again Duquesne scored a 100%! Learn more about the methodology and check out the 2016 rankings.

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Copyright 2016

Company Visit: Mondelez

By Caitlin Merritt


Getting ready to go inside the chocolate factory at Mondelez in Strasbourg.

Duquesne University’s trip to the Mondelez chocolate factory confirmed our desires to be corporate social responsibility and sustainability professionals. One of the major themes that came across was the firm’s commitment to employee mental and physical wellbeing.  When our guide stressed the importance of holding onto the railings during our tour of the factory,  some of us assumed they wanted to avoid liability.  As the tour progressed, we saw many signs to remind employees that safety is a daily priority.   
Mondelez uses CSR to increase employee engagement and to become a pioneer in sustainability within their industry.  Their employees have ownership and responsibility for corporate social responsibility initiatives.  Relying on their employees generates new and different ideas, but a surprising element of Mondelez’s CSR plan is that they do not follow a standard CSR approach. Instead, they created their own model and included categories for their industry and their specific business.  It was refreshing to see a company take bits and pieces of the various sustainability frameworks that we have learned and create a CSR charter that makes sense for them

Back to School!

It is hard to believe we have already begun our second semester in the MBA program. It’s amazing how quickly the program has already flown by and I know this semester will be no different.

This semester presents new, challenging classes and a chance to travel abroad. We will be travelling to France over Spring Break. We will be partnering ICN in Nancy and also visiting Strasbourg and Paris. Watch for trip updates!

For this semester’s consulting project, the class was broken up into six teams. Each team will be working with a different organization on a different challenge. The companies come from a range of industries ranging from healthcare to nonprofits.

This semester we have the opportunity to take a variety of electives ranging from product development to business law. Our finance course is building on interpreting the financial statements we learned about in accounting. We are also learning about economics and how environmental factors affect our economy.


The class ski enthusiasts love the snow but I am ready for the warm weather!


Igniting Change with Summer Consulting Projects

Each semester, our cohort has the opportunity to consult with various organizations. This year’s consulting partners have included PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Braskem, General Electric, Alcoa, and PPG. This summer’s consulting projects include B Lab, Blue Tree Angels, City of Pittsburgh, Idea Foundry Intersector, Because, Pittsburgh Green Innovators, and PittMoss Growers Association are joining the list! This semester students will have the opportunity to ignite change with these innovative organizations.

Net Impact at Duquesne: Enhancing the Duquesne experience

By: Blair Schoenborn

Net Impact Mission Statement: to mobilize a new generation to use their careers to drive transformational change in their workplace and the world.

The sMBA cohort makes up the membership of duquesne university’s graduate chapter of net impact. Membership with Net Impact provides a number of great resources that benefit students and working professionals alike. The primary perk is access to an expansive network of like-minded, passionate individuals (many of whom are looking to hire Net Impact members specifically) committed to driving change in their schools and careers. Net Impact also hosts a jobs board that keeps members informed of job postings in fields directly or indirectly related to sustainability. Finally, it provides a forum to keep the conversation flowing through webinars, discussion boards, and annual events announcements.

The graduate chapter here on campus is proud to announce that they achieved silver status​ during the 2013-2014 academic year. To receive silver status, chapters have to earn points by remaining active in the broader Net Impact community, maintaining active membership, and hosting a number of events during the school year. Net Impact events fall into three main categories: professional development, campus and community greening initiatives, and volunteering. The chapter hosted and participated in 14 events during the school year, highlights include:
  • Net Impact Annual Conference: While at the conference, the leadership team had opportunities to hear from corporate executives facing real-life sustainability challenges, network with professionals and students, and exchange chapter management strategies with other chapter leadership teams.
  • Sustainability Symposium with Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium: Chapter members shared in an evening of networking and intentional conversation at an event hosted at the zoo to kick off their One Million Actions for Planet Earth campaign. Members were asked to speak at the event to showcase accomplishments of the chapter as well as the whole sMBA program.
  • IDEO Amplify Workshop: members of both the graduate and undergraduate chapters of Net. impact combined forces to tackle a brainstorming challenge posed through IDEO. The challenge asked groups to consider ways to make urban areas safer for women in impoverished areas. The team submitted an idea to the campaign question “How might we make urban areas safer and more empowering for women and girls?”
  • Summer 2014 Expected Events: book drive for graduate students in Ghana; “MAP Your Career” job search booster sessions; and “the Science of Sustainability” with University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg’s “Quest 2014: Finding Your Future” camp for high school students interested in sustainability-oriented careers.

Though events make up a majority of the chapter’s focus, the chapter also guided the initiation of three other chapters in Pittsburgh. Chatham University and University of Pittsburgh are both in the final stages of chapter formation and Duquesne’s undergraduate chapter has been revived thanks to our Undergraduate Chapter Liason, Kyle Gryta.

Net Impact is a community of 50,000+ students and professionals who are motivated to create positive change in schools, workplaces, and communities. Visit for more information.
Questions about the graduate chapter can be directed to Blair Schoenborn, chapter president, at Contact Kyle Gryta at for information or questions regarding the undergraduate chapter.

Visit to Universidad Veritas and a Costa Rican Entrepreneur


By Lindsey VanArsdale

Today we kicked the day off by visiting the Universidad Veritas. The school building was open air and had tons of natural light and a nice breeze. We listened to a very interesting lecture by Professor Joaquin Lizano about Costa Rican history and it’s effect on the economy. It was interesting to see how the CR colon went from 6.60 =$1US in the 1970s to today’s situation of 548=$1. Basically it is very hard for small and medium businesses to thrive when they are taxed and hit with fees so excessively. The interest rate on business loans is around 10%. In CR, a blue collar/minimum wage type person can expect to make about $360US/month while an educated professional makes about $2,000US/month. They are faced with a shrinking middle class.

They are also a very risk averse society and it is very visible as you drive around. Every possible opening to a house is barred up. After the lecture, we were able to have lunch at the school. I had a delicious lunch of frijoles, arroz, y pescado for 2700 colons. After lunch, I decided to try and find a convenience store with some other people so we could purchase some botellas de agua as the universidad had run out. While we were walking, a local man was out with his cocker spaniel and said hello to us. We tried to ask for directions to the super mercado, but he didn’t speak English. He put his dog back in his house and walked us to the super market. He was very nice and friendly and asked us questions about ourselves as best as he could. His name is Sergio. We said goodbye at the supermarket after we got our water bottles and hustled back to the bus. It was cool to interact with a local and that he was so nice to us.

After a couple hours at the hotel, we boarded the bus again to check out our Smart Tool, which is our Esteban’s machine shop. Esteban, our contact, was hosted by Duquesne’s Small Business Development Center to learn from entrepreneurs in the United States. During his time in Pittsburgh, he met with us to share knowledge of what to expect in Costa Rica.  His small company is a supplier for Samtec.


He is looking to expand operations to Costa Rica. His shop was in a gated area with a few houses and his horses. Honestly my favorite part of the shop tour was his horses. I petted them and let them lip at my hand. The albino one was so hungry he kept checking me for food and bit my foot while he was snuffling around for grass!