MBA Sustainability Course Wins International Ideas Worth Teaching Award

A course that is taught in our top-ranked MBA Sustainable Business Practices program (MBA-SBP) is one of just 20 selected internationally by the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program (Aspen BSP) as one of its Ideas Worth Teaching Award winners.

Sustainability Tools and Processes for New Initiatives is taught by Dr. Robert Sroufe, the Thomas J. and Marie C. Murrin Chair of Global Competitiveness in the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business. The Aspen BSP describes the award-winning classes as “exceptional courses that inspire and equip future business leaders to tackle the issues of our time” and that the award honors “extraordinary teaching…that is redefining excellence in business education-and ultimately in business practice.”

Dr. Sroufe designed the course to help students’ critical thinking skills, model uncertainty and provide a better understanding of sustainability in practice. He personally recruits regional leading experts such as engineers, architects and construction professionals to talk to students about green, high-performance buildings; indoor air quality; dashboards; and other sustainability related topics.

The students also analyze and evaluate products while working in teams to develop a life-cycle assessment plan and compete in an Energy Management System design competition. With the help of the U.S. Green Building Council’s regional Green Building Alliance, a commercial construction firm, invited speakers and field trips, students have an opportunity to develop an understanding of what it takes to design and value existing building spaces, paying particular attention to energy, ecological impacts, human health and productivity, costs and value the proposition for their own business school (Rockwell Hall on Duquesne’s campus) as a living laboratory.

Companies who’ve benefited from input and solutions from the MBA-SBP program students include Alcoa, Covestro and PNC Bank, with a value to clients ranging from $100,000 to $40 million for an individual project.

“My courses provide insight to how integrating sustainability into decision-making processes up and down the supply chain are possible for most organizations by leveraging MBA skills and expertise to amplify the productivity of everyday systems,” says Dr. Sroufe.

“I’m constantly looking for real, applied learning projects that the students can engage in on a semester-by-semester basis and solve real-world problems,” adds Dr. Sroufe, who is a professor of Sustainability, Operations and Supply Chain Management. “Since the program launched in 2008, we’ve done more than 170 projects, and no two have been the same. This isn’t a standard cookie-cutter approach-instead, we go to clients and ask what kinds of problems do they want our help in solving.”

The Aspen BSP developed the Ideas Worth Teaching Award to “celebrate curricula that bring to life the promise of meaningful work in business.” The organization added that the winning courses focus on important social issues-including populism, water scarcity and artificial intelligence, among others-and illustrate why these are business issues.

“At a time when business leaders face intense scrutiny about their role in social issues, these award-winning faculty are bravely challenging the ‘norms’ of what is taught in business school-and creating leaders who can navigate a highly uncertain environment,” says Claire Preisser, associate director of Aspen BSP.