TAMUCT to offer graduate degree in sustainability
Special to Leader-Press
As a seasoned university professor, Jody Fry has seen trends come and go. But, as a practitioner and a researcher, he knows how to recognize an opportunity when he sees one.
So, in the summer of 2015, when a colleague offered him the opportunity to present at a conference in the United Kingdom, he graciously accepted the invitation.
He was at the University of Exeter, in Penryn, Cornwall, England, where Elizabeth II is a referenced ex officio, standing idly in the hallway of one of the most prestigious universities in the world, when a poster caught his eye.
Yes. In a day and age when texting triumphs over talking and digital dominates, it was a still a simple poster that would leverage one terrific opportunity for A&M-Central Texas.
The way he remembers it, the poster was advertising the One Planet MBA, a new program at Exeter, designed to incorporate the principles of sustainability and business practice, long thought to be in diametrical opposition to each other.
His reaction to the idea can be summed up rather simply as, in his own words, he recalls thinking,“Wow. That’s cool.”
But rather than allow the idea to lose momentum as he returned to the states, or chalk off the moment as impractical, Professor Fry did what he is known for.
He trusted the inspiration that, in that moment, told him there was something different to this idea – perhaps even something amazing – about incorporating an awareness of sustainability and good practices within a business program.
“The department had a retreat scheduled, and we talked about it there,” he explained. “Everyone was instantly supportive of exploring the potential for partnering.”
And while a few more pieces would have to fall into place before the result would show itself, as fate would have it, those pieces did, in fact, fall into place very nicely.
For example, in the Fall of 2015, Jonathon Gossling, a founding faculty member affiliated with the Exeter business program, visited the U.S., after initiating OPEN, the One Planet Educational Network in collaboration with the World Wildlife Foundation.
During his stay, he presented his idea to A&M-Central Texas faculty in the College of Business Administration, where it received enthusiastic support.
Not long afterward, Jonathon hired Tony Cooke, who also accepted Dr. Fry’s invitation to visit A&M-Central Texas in October 2016, as a side trip to a speech made at Austin’s SXSW.
In a second meeting with the faculty, the faculty approved curricular additions to the graduate program in management and leadership, focusing on eight key principles developed by OPEN: (1) Recognize that we live and do business on One Plant, (2) Put value, ethics, and responsibility at the core, (3) Embrace a systems approach, (4) Equip students with relevant skills and knowledge, (5) Contribute to the world by aligning sustainable development goals, (6) Offer an environment and experience conducive to kearning, (7) Develop current and future business leaders, and (8) Lead by example.
And, this summer, in New York City, at the 10th Annual Conference of the Principles for Responsible Management Education, the same professor who allowed his eye to wander onto a poster stood proudly among his colleagues to announce that A&M-Central Texas was the first university in the U.S. to officially partner with OPEN.
Dean Larry Garner remembers that moment with pride, but is quick to add that the he has no plans to stop there. The next logical step, he says, is to thoroughly incorporate OPEN’s key principles into each of the degree programs offered by the A&M-Central Texas College of Business.
“Our mission is to be a regional university with a global footprint,” he said. “It’s in our organizational DNA to build on our love of tradition with a bias for innovation.”
The new graduate program, designed to begin in the fall of 2018 will be able to accommodate up to 80 students, in both face to face as well as online cohorts.
Marc Nigliazzo, A&M-Central Texas president, lauded the vision and collaboration practiced by the faculty and administration in the College of Business.
“We have been very fortunate over the years to have recruited extremely talented scholars among our faculty,” he said. “They have completely embraced the a visionary approach to business that will be a benefit to all of our future generations.”