How Georgetown’s New M.S. in Environment and Sustainability Management Degree Prepares Students for Careers at the Intersection of Business and Science
Georgetown University recently announced a new M.S. in Environment and Sustainability Management (MS-ESM) degree that blends business and science to prepare graduates to help their organizations positively impact the environment.
This joint program is a partnership among the Georgetown Earth Commons Institute, the McDonough School of Business, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, with courses specifically designed to prepare students to make a business case for sustainability efforts. The program’s co-academic directors, Maria Petrova and Vishal Agrawal, shared their vision for the MS-ESM degree and its future graduates.
Q: Why did Georgetown decide to create this program?
Petrova: At Georgetown, we believe the world’s most complex issues require interdisciplinary perspectives. And, at the moment, climate change and the Earth’s natural resources are critical to everyone on our planet. In short, the world needs leaders who are prepared to develop comprehensive solutions to these issues.
Georgetown has tremendous academic programs in both environmental science and business, providing a unique opportunity to work together to create a degree that will provide our graduates with greater context and a more comprehensive view of the intersection of business and science.
Therefore, we have designed the MS-ESM degree for both science-minded students who want to make a business case for their work, as well as business-minded students who want to understand the science behind their organization’s sustainability challenges.
Agrawal: We want to prepare our graduates to take action by solving problems and making a difference across industries, fields, and disciplines. As we provide an opportunity for individuals to develop their skills, we are excited to see a growing interest from organizations across industries to be profitable and responsible to our environment. As such, there is increasing demand for employees to have the comprehensive knowledge and experiences we have developed as part of this degree program.
Q: How does the program balance science and business?
Agrawal: The MS-ESM program explores the most urgent environmental issues of today and helps students build a framework to analyze and solve any sustainability issue, now or in the future.
Over 11 months, students will engage in six-week skill-building courses, as well as semester-long classes that dive into the science behind sustainability. Each course was designed to approach the fundamentals of each discipline through the lens of the other. So, business courses focus on sustainability issues, and science courses incorporate a business perspective.
The curriculum’s business topics, taught in 1.5-credit modules include: Accounting for Sustainability Management; Finance Accounting for Sustainability Management; The Economics of Climate Change; Sustainable Operations, Supply Chains, and Marketing; Firm Analysis and Strategy; The Business of Sustainable Energy; ESG Finance and Impact Investing; and Leading Teams for Performance and Impact.
Petrova: As a STEM-designated program, we are focused on the science behind sustainability, as well as students’ ability to make data-driven decisions. So, the courses also focus on analytics so they are prepared to analyze complex data and apply it to research-based actions.
The curriculum’s science courses are a mix of 1.5 and 3 credit courses and include: Environmental Science I: Earth Systems and Natural Processes; Environmental Science II: Human and Social Dimensions of Natural Resource Use; Climate Change Impact and Measurement; Using Data and Analytics to Lead Change; Principles, Applications, and Impacts of Energy Technology; and Environmental Visualization and Storytelling with Data.
The program also begins and ends with two interdisciplinary courses. To provide a starting point for all of the MS-ESM coursework, students enroll in Environment, Business, and Sustainability Management: Incorporating Ethics, Equity, and Justice. The course provides foundational knowledge and immerses students into case studies to understand the real-world challenges facing for-profit, nonprofit, and foundations. It also incorporates Georgetown’s focus on ethics, equity, and social justice.
Agrawal: The program will conclude with a capstone course that provides student teams the opportunity to consult with a real organization as they identify opportunities and solve challenges related to sustainable business, communication, and implementation.
Q: What will the student experience be like?
Petrova: Students will gain a signature Georgetown experience, with small class sizes, individualized attention from professors, and tailored career resources. They also will build lifelong connections to their classmates and gain access to an alumni network of more than 200,000 Hoyas across the world.
Agrawal: Students also benefit from Georgetown’s global reputation and long Jesuit tradition of service to others and society. Additionally, the university’s location in Washington, D.C., provides unparalleled access to leaders in business, nonprofits, government, NGOs, and more who are at the forefront of issues related to how organizations affect the natural environment.
Q: Can you describe the careers that graduates will be seeking?
Agarwal: Our graduates will be prepared to work across a variety of industries and functions, whether they choose an organization with an environmentally focused mission or a corporate, governmental, or nonprofit entity seeking to build sustainability into their core mission.
Petrova: The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics is predicting accelerated growth in the employment of environmental scientists and specialists. This is not surprising to us as we have identified a gap in the training of future environmental and business leaders. On one hand, business professionals, who are in the forefront of responding to the urgency of the climate situation by reducing their organization’s environmental footprint, sometimes lack the basic environmental science training to make informed, science-based decisions. On the other hand, there are brilliant environmental scientists and conservation managers who do not have the necessary accounting and finance training that is needed to convey the value — economic, social, and governance — of their proposed solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges they are working to solve.
Therefore, we see our graduates building careers as environmental or sustainability analysts, climate and energy managers and advisors, and renewable energy and sustainability specialists, as well as corporate social responsibility, supply chain, cleantech, and green venture capital managers. Some possible positions include sustainability or ESG manager, corporate communications and sustainability manager, supply chain manager or analyst, sustainability innovation and entrepreneurship, conservation planner, environmental consultant, or natural resources environmental manager.
We also envision our graduates to have the needed knowledge and skills for the positions that are being created at the moment or those that will be created in the next 5-10 years. A recent United Nations report states that “the transition to a green economy will add an estimated 60 million new jobs to the market by 2030.” And indeed, just recently the District of Columbia Commission on Climate Change & Resiliency approved the establishment of a program analyst position to serve the needs of the commission.