As little as a decade ago, sustainability was just a word that didn’t have a lot of impact in the business world. The idea was really just beginning to bubble to the surface.
CU Denver caught onto this trend while it was still in its infancy in 2006. The Managing for Sustainability (M4S) program started small with one class offered the fall semester for 25 students. The program quickly bulked up its offerings by adding five more courses that following year.
Ten years later, the program has since expanded, enrolling over 200 students in nine courses every year.
This month, the M4S program celebrated its 10-year anniversary, as advisory council members came together with alumni, students, and faculty to reflect on the successes of the program.
Current students share lessons from the classroom
Three students spoke on their experiences within the program. Audrey Cruz, Professional MBA, and Andrew Szugyi, BSBA in Finance, both presented lessons they learned from their spring semester class, “Business: A force for good.”
Cruz consulted directly with Team Tipton to help them get B Corp certified. She conducted research to assess current sustainability efforts and developed an impact improvement plan that outlined step-by-step recommendations for achieving the certification.
Szugyi partnered with Alpine Bank, working directly with executives. He learned of their current sustainability efforts in Colorado, including lending and credit programs that give back to the community. He shared, “As I’m starting my career, this program really gave me a sense of urgency and passion for sustainability.”
Both students shared the same takeaway from their coursework: a drive to make a difference in the business world.
Another student on the program was Computer Science and Information Systems PhD student Nancy Ning. She came to CU Denver so she could apply her information systems background to sustainability.
Ning’s research focused on the greenhouse gas emission system and how it influences a firm’s sustainability outcome. She conducted surveys and compared those results to firms in China. She is currently working directly with an international hotel to help them determine how this system could contribute to waste management and sustainability improvements.
Ning hopes to apply her learning and passion for sustainability from CU Denver to her home country of China. She shared, “I was so encouraged to join the sustainability community here at CU Denver. It’s easy to relate to people, because we all share the same passion.”
“I was so encouraged to join the sustainability community here at CU Denver. It’s easy to relate to people, because we all share the same passion.” – Nancy Ning
Alumni reflect back on their time at CU Denver
Jennifer Leitsch is a familiar face around the Business School. An alumna of the Professional MBA and MS Marketing programs, she was one of those students sitting in that very first class back in 2006.
That course was a game changer for her. Her career ambitions shifted because of that class, and she dedicated herself to becoming a leader in the field. She is now the director of corporate responsibility at CBRE, a Fortune 500 company. There she implements strategy and reporting around the company’s environmental, social, and governmental initiatives.
Leitsch continuously gives back to CU Denver, sitting as the chairwoman for the Managing for Sustainability advisory council and establishing the Jennifer Leitsch scholarship for outstanding M4S students.
Other council advisory members include alumni and leaders in the sustainability circle here in Colorado. Jerry Tinianow is a big name in the Colorado sustainability field, serving as the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City and County of Denver. Other members include representatives from business like B Lab Colorado, DaVita, Prologis, AT&T, and Xcel Energy.
Megan Jorgensen, MS in Management ’03 alumna, and Director of Sustainability for Snooze an A.M. Eatery, spoke to the group about her efforts in turning Snooze Eatery into a more sustainable company.
Jorgensen reflected back on the program stating, “CU Denver elevated my career. The managing for sustainability program helped take my position to that director level position.”
“CU Denver elevated my career. The managing for sustainability program helped take my position to that director level position.” – Megan Jorgensen
Professional MBA alumnus Drew Domoto, president and founder of Domoto Brands, shared how taking a Marketing and Global Sustainability course introduced him to branding as a career path.
At CU Denver, Domoto developed a business plan for a consulting company focused on helping other businesses grow their sustainability efforts. He entered his business plan in THE CLIMB Business Plan Competition held by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship. Since graduating, he has taken that plan and turned it into a highly successful company with dozens of clients ranging from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
Ken Bettenhausen, co-director of the managing for sustainability program and director of the MS Management program, was grateful for the power of the program’s alumni community. “There’s a lot of giving back. Alumni are always happy to share their lessons learned with current students, so that field’s progress is continuous.”
CU Denver’s impact on sustainability in Colorado
“This program is about bringing people together and making a positive impact. It is a community that welcomes people with open arms.” – Ken Bettenhausen
Bettenhausen helped get this program off the ground over ten years ago. He remembers presenting the idea of sustainability to the Business School’s board of directors. Looking back, he’s proud of where the program has gone since its humble beginnings.
“This program is about bringing people together and making a positive impact. It is a community that welcomes people with open arms,” Bettenhausen shared.
The M4S program helped shape the careers of many of our alumni. It’s also provided a space for sustainability leaders to not only discuss best practices, but also help shape CU Denver’s curriculum by sharing current trends. These kinds of conversations are crucial in ensuring the program is educating the next generation of sustainability leaders.
The Business School is proud to support the sustainability mission and continues its work in educating the next great leaders in the field.