GVSU seeks input on sustainability leadership program

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University is gauging public interest in a possible graduate program for sustainability leadership through a survey about how to develop the program if it is approved.

The proposed graduate degree would add to the current sustainability-related programs at GVSU, which include a liberal studies major with an emphasis in sustainability, a natural resources management major and minor, and an environmental studies minor.

Supplementing these existing programs are more than 200 courses as well as two other certificates being offered by GVSU in the area of sustainability.

These programs have many uses in the world outside of the university in both the public and private sectors.

“The graduate certificate in sustainability provides a unique opportunity to pursue a theoretically based and practical approach for professionals who want to understand sustainability issues and how to steer their organizations toward sustainable practices,” said Haris Alibasic, an adjunct faculty member who teaches classes in sustainability, local government and public policy. “This program offers managers and leaders the up-to-date professional skills and perspectives required to guide their organizations in a rapidly changing and increasingly important area.”

There are currently 448 sustainability-related master’s degrees and 103 sustainability-related doctoral degrees offered worldwide, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. They are offered primarily in the U.S., as well as in England, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia.

The proposed degree at GVSU is another step toward making sustainability a staple practice in all areas of society.

“It provides a new paradigm and new lens in looking at impact from various policies, activities and programs,” Alibasic said. “Together with resiliency, sustainability moves organizations and individuals to evaluate and analyze long term impact from any action or activities and incorporate economic, environmental and social factors into a decision-making process.”

Jaideep Motwani, chair of the management department, is also working on a new graduate program in the School of Business that should be ready for enrollment in fall 2014.

“We have been offering graduate courses for at least six years,” Motwani said. “Students take the courses but don’t get a certificate yet.”

Motwani’s goal with the program is to have the students earn a certificate acknowledging the sustainability-related courses they took during their pursuit of a business degree—something that will be valuable to them in the workforce.

“I think the business community is now looking at organization not just from a profitability angle, but from a social and environmental angle,” he said. “I think companies are becoming more corporate citizens, more socially responsible as one of their values.”

The survey regarding the program is being hosted on Blackboard and distributed via email; only one submission per student is accepted.

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