Leadership and Life

Jack Ouellette is current chairman, previous president and former CEO of American Textile, a multinational company that manufactures protective and allergen barrier bedding products.  He’s also a Duquesne MBA alumnus who came to campus to discuss life and business lessons with students.


Jack Ouellette (middle) accompanied by MBA Students from the Donohue Graduate School of Business

As Jack noted, he used to think that “education was from a book or a classroom” (but) “now realizes that a lot of things that happen in real life are really great learning experiences.”

Jack got us thinking by posing five questions:

  • Do you take full responsibilities for your action at all times?
  • Are you at your very best when things are seemingly at their worst?
  • Do you know when good enough, is good enough?
  • With people, are you controlling or over-controlling?
  • Do you take care of your people?

“Leadership is all about people, and business is all about people,” according to Jack who was proud to describe the company he helped build by respecting associates, customers, and suppliers.

After 38 years at American Textile, Jack still has the spark of a fresh MBA graduate.   His most memorable piece of wisdom:  “Others respect you when you stand up in the storm.”

As sustainability students, we are attempting to change the world, impact it for the better, and create a more prosperous future for our children in a time of great chaos.  I challenge all of you to be the one who stands up in the storm, and become the change you want to see in the world.


Sustainability Headlines of 2015

andrew-winstonFriend of the program Andrew Winston, who is the author of Green to Gold and has spoken at Duquesne many times, has recently released an article in the Harvard Business Review that highlights the top 10 Sustainability headlines that helped to shape 2015.

One area that Winston discusses is the change in the mindset of consumers towards more sustainable products. As future Sustainability professionals we need to keep developing our expertise to display the business case for Sustainability. This will allow us to further our goal of being the change we want to see in the world. Below is the link to this outstanding article: 10 Sustainable Business Stories that Shaped 2015

Why Pittsburgh is an Ideal Place for Young Talent


“Pittsburgh has a hunger for new, younger, educated employees,” according to Laura Fisher, the Senior Vice President for Workforce and Special Projects of the Allegheny Conference. One reason why Pittsburgh is ideal for young people is that the median salary in Pittsburgh is at the national average, but the cost of living is well below the national average.

At our recent Ignite Your Career event, Fisher told us that companies want leaders who can “navigate change and foster innovation.” Our MBA is designed to give us the skills and competencies to solve “complex problems,” which Fisher says “is more important than your major.” Fisher was the mastermind behind ImaginePittsburgh.com, a site devoted to retaining and bringing talent to the region. This site has over 20,000 job postings for the Pittsburgh region!

Special thanks Laura Fisher and the alumni who shared tips for resumes, LinkedIn presence, and job searching techniques to help us master the job market.

EU climate change expert speaks to MBA students at Duquesne

On the heels Pittsburgh’s selection to the 100 Resilient Cities, Pittsburgh hosted a planning meeting for the initiative.  One of the speakers,  Piero Pelizzaro from Italy, was a former colleague of Patrick Cellie’s,IMAG1043 a current student who worked as an environmental engineer in  Rome before coming to Duquesne for his MBA, and invited Pietro to spend an evening with our cohort, alumni and faculty.  Piero is a climate change adaptation policy specialist with Acclimatise, a specialist consulting, communications and digital application company for climate change adaptation and risk management. Piero currently oversees the International Cooperation Unit for the Kyoto Club in Rome, Italy, and serves as a member of the Working Group of Local Authorities for Kyoto.  He has worked with the Stockholm Environment Institute and is recognized as an international expert on climate change adaptation policy, especially with regards to energy scenario and climate change impact models.  His current work includes several high profile projects supported by the European Commission including: as a senior expert on the resilience plan for Bologna (BlueAP), as Technical Director of the Recovered Waste Cooking Oil for Combined Heat and Power Production (RECOIL) project, and with community energy project ZeroCO2. He also writes on climate change adaptation issues and has been published in numerous magazines and online sources.

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


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!