The University of Colorado Denver Business School is launching the Student Sustainability Experiential Learning Program (SSELP) to offer students the opportunity to gain practical experience working with the opportunities and challenges associated with sustainable business as an integral part of the Managing for Sustainability (M4S) curriculum. Students enrolled at the Business School can participate in the SSELP through specialized internships, a Sustainability Field Study Course, and a guest speaker series.

“Our M4S Program is unique in Colorado in terms of the range of course offerings and the fact that it is possible to obtain a graduate degree in management with a specialization in sustainable business entirely within the Business School itself without taking electives from other university departments. Our objective with the SSELP is to make sure that students aspiring to a career in sustainable business gain real-world, hands-on experience before they graduate.” said  Cliff Young, Associate Dean for Faculty at the Business School.

The Business School has established a Managing for Sustainability Advisory Council comprising 30 sustainability professionals from companies and local government agencies across the Denver Metro area. Through these contacts and others in the sustainability field, the School is actively seeking sustainability-related internships available to both graduate and undergraduate students. Internship opportunities are typically coordinated through the School’s Experiential Learning Center and a faculty member.

The dedicated graduate Sustainability Field Study course allows students to work individually or in small teams to conduct a semester-long sustainability project in a local company, government agency or non-profit organization. These projects address a clearly identified need and lead to a well-defined product or deliverable that is achievable within the duration of a single semester. Students work under the direction of a point person in the host organization, who is responsible for an evaluation that accounts for a significant proportion of their final course grade. Field study projects have been conducted with Xcel Energy, Ball Corporation and the City of Lakewood, Lexmark, and DirectTV.

The M4S Program is supported by a generous donation grant from Johns Manville Corporation. Tim Swales, Vice President of Research & Development and Chief Sustainability Officer at Johns Manville said: “I commend CU for offering this world-class program to students who are dedicated to furthering the practice of sustainability in business. The curriculum and the interactive environment encourage students to seek out opportunities – to look for ways that sustainability can have positive outcomes in society, and open new opportunities for future growth.”

Sustainability is a relatively new focus of attention for most companies and government organizations. Accordingly the School encourages M4S course directors to make frequent use of outside speakers from businesses and government agencies to make sure that the program addresses the rapidly changing demands that will be placed upon aspiring sustainability professionals. Ken Bettenhausen, who directs the School’s Management Program, commented: “The elements of the SSELP are consistent with one of our overarching goals: to build mutually beneficial relationships between the School and local companies and other organizations that hire our graduating students.”

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