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Three Keys to Retooling Business School to Meet Today's Complex Challenges (behind the scenes of

Smeal Sustainability Advisory Board Fall Meeting

From left: Carl Pfleger, retired VP of Global Operations, PepsiCo; Gerald Susman, Professor Emeritus of Management; Erik Foley, Director of Sustainability; Lisa Conway, VP of Sustainability, Interface North America; Fran Lutz, retired CFO of Opportunity Finance Network; Wayne Balta, VP of Environmental Affairs and Product Safety, IBM

We just had our fall meeting of the Smeal Sustainability Advisory Board (click for full list of members). As usual, not all these busy folks could attend but the above represents the brain trust we were able to put together. An impressive and capable group to

be sure. We toured Penn State's newly renovated Shaver's Creek Environmental Center (your next meeting needs to be here). We heard the inspiring story of Interface from Lisa Conway (you really should know it).

And we jumped into the main agenda item: a plan to launch a new kind of research, education and outreach center of excellence in sustainable business by July 2020.

To understand the urgency of our quest, one must grasp dual urgencies: that of climate change (see COP 24 in Poland, latest IPCC report, latest US Climate Report) and disruptions happening in the higher education industry. State appropriations continue to slide, tuitions rise and student debt is near crisis levels. Recently, observers have pointed to Three Unforgiving Paradoxes Facing Leaders in Higher Education (Academic Impressions, 2018). Below are the experts observations and what Smeal is doing about it--in sustainability and beyond.

  1. "Even amid growing awareness that the business model is broken, colleges and states are doubling down on that traditional model - while the traditional model relies on every increasing tuition and state appropriations." At Smeal, we are seeking new partnerships and life-long learning models underpinned with much stronger partnerships with industry.

  2. "We need to change quickly, but our institutions are operating at capacity and both our decision making and governance models are not supportive of rapid innovation" - At Smeal, we are finding where rapid innovation is possible, such as in research collaborations with industry and non-credit Executive Education programming. And where incremental innovation makes more sense, such as in online master's and grad certificate programs.

  3. "The research is clear that the value of a degree is increasing, but public skepticism of the value is growing at the same time" - At Smeal, we are showing strong connections to the market, the companies and jobs of the future, and the development of competencies that future-proof our graduates.

Some exciting announcements will be coming in 2019! Stay tuned.

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