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They Know How Sustainability Connects to Your Business Education, do you?

Meet the Team Who Created Major Sustainability a new website for business educators and students to discover the unique contribution of each major to a business' social and environmental impact.

Sustainability is a business buzzword but what does it really mean? Students often asked: how it connect with my major? My career?

We set about answering those questions three years ago. We now have the best answers in the business, thanks to Center for the Business of Sustainability interns Riya Nandedkar, Zoe Cykosky, Saige Cestone, Victoria Kipiller, and Cecelia Minnick. They were supported by Suzanne Wright, Associate Teaching Professor in Accounting and Intern Advisor for the Major Sustainability website project. Their work built on the work of previous Smeal students Danielle Yzaguirre (SCIS 2017) and Evan Gorski (Finance 2018).

They have shown the unique contribution each major makes to sustainability and are excited to share it with you! Their work shows that sustainability is not a department, it's a strategy and a commitment that each business function contributes to.

Each section below provides:

  • brief statements of how each major contributes to the social and environmental impact of business

  • reflections from the student interns

Riya Nandedkar

Riya Nandedkar

Marketing and Supply Chain

Marketing is the business function that directly engages consumers, thereby allowing sustainable marketing to effectively position and promote sustainable consumption, both through product offerings and consumption models. On the other hand, supply chain is the business function responsible for evaluating how sustainability is relevant to a product or service supply chain, including product innovation, incorporating critical elements into product design for the circular economy, sourcing, procurement, supplier relations, manufacturing, logistics, packaging, and distribution.

Professor Johanna Slot (Assistant Professor of Marketing), helped develop the content of the marketing website and helped Riya better understand the concepts. Professor Slot was involved from the very beginning and was instrumental in developing the structure of the site and compartmentalizing the sections based on the topics to be included. It is great to see from a student’s perspective that sustainable marketing, green marketing, green labelling, certifications, LOHAS and consumer behaviors are topics that exist within. Lisa Bolton (Professor of Marketing), was also able to give feedback about the overall content of the impact marketing has on sustainability. Similarly, supply chain was a critical area Riya worked on with the help of Danielle Yzaguirre who created the first version of the site in 2017. “Danielle had already done a very comprehensive job of developing the website content and it made it straightforward for me to move that excellent content to the new platform." Riya worked closely with Evelyn Thomchick (Associate Professor of Supply Chain) to pull together and test with students information on a supply chain's impact on people (labor and human rights) and the environment (climate, air and water pollution, nonrenewable resource extraction).

Zoe Cykosky

Zoe Cykosky

Management Information Systems

Management Information Systems (MIS) is the business function which aims to understand environmental and social footprint operations and to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of manufacturing, operations, and disposal of information technology equipment. MIS also helps to enhance the positive environmental and social impacts owing to increased efficiency of internal processes and end-user products--and transparency in supply chains and product development. Zoe collaborated with Akhil Kumar (Professor of Supply Chain and Information Systems), Kathleen Riley (Associate Teaching Professor of Management Information Systems), Lei Wang (Assistant Professor Info Systems), and Arthur Jones (Associate Teaching Professor of Supply Chain & Information Systems). According to Akhil Kumar, “Information technology will play a huge role in our understanding of our individual carbon footprints. Our sustainability initiatives today will greatly impact the quality of lives of generations to come.” During Zoe’s time working with the department, she was able to cover a few topics like sustainable information systems, green enterprise computing, IT recycling programs, data storage centers/cloud infrastructure, and data mining. "Working on the Major Sustainability site has allowed me to leave an impact by helping students find their niche within the business of sustainability. As a Supply Chain major, I was able to connect my passion for sustainability with other technical skills through working on this site."

Saige Cestone

Saige Cestone

Risk Management

Risk Management is the business function responsible for the identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance or minimization of unacceptable social and environmental risks. This project has taught Saige not only to continually push herself to face issues that deal with sustainability, but also the impact that sustainability can have on one's life. Saige worked with Kyle Kaplan(Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Law), Maurie Kelly (Instructor in International Business), Dan Cahoy (Professor, Dean's Faculty Fellow in Business Law, Research Director of Center for the Business of Sustainability), and Jiro Yoshida (Associate Professor of Business). Website development and this unique kind of research and product development were new to Saige was very rewarding. She hopes to encourage others in the field to think in new ways about how sustainability impacts all business decisions. "As a Risk Management major myself, doing research on actuarial science, enterprise risk management and real estate that relate to sustainability greatly expanded my view of of the topic. It was an amazing learning experience I will never forget."

Victoria Kipiller

Victoria Kipiller

Management and Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Management is the business function with primary responsibility for integrating sustainability into the overall organizational mission, strategy, culture, and use of human capital to achieve business goals. Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship has the unique role of ensuring sustainability is integral to systems and practices for creating new products, processes, business models and companies. Victoria teamed with several professors including Ron Johnson (Associate Teaching Professor), “Sustainability today is the lens through which the best companies manage their business. The goal in Smeal is to ensure sustainability is part of the DNA of every one of our students.” Working on the Major Sustainability website taught Victoria about the technical aspects that students need to know to be able to make a difference. “I am honored and excited to be a part of this service for students and this big step for Smeal.” She hopes that she can pass this message to future students through the work she did for the website.

Cecelia Minnick

Cecelia Minnick

Accounting and Finance

Accounting is the business function uniquely responsible for measuring, summarizing, recording, analyzing, assuring, and reporting sustainability information. On the other hand, finance is a business function responsible for evaluating how sustainability is relevant to financial market prices and firms’ financial decisions. The Major Sustainability project gave Cecelia is grateful for working with Suzanne Wright (Associate Teaching Professor of Accounting)and Christopher Hinkelman (Clinical Associate Professor of Finance) on the research for the website. "Being part of a project that will advance such valuable information to thousands of students is an amazing thing to be a part of." Cecelia is also excited to hear about the positive impact that this site will have throughout Smeal. "There is a ripple effect that I as a student can start seeing and hope other students like me can carry their knowledge with them to other students across the country and around the world."

There is so much to learn about sustainability and how we, as business students, can use our unique skillsets to make a positive difference to advance social justice and environmental protection. In the future, all interns are excited to see this work continue towards meeting our long-term aspiration to evolve business education. The Center's goal is to help transform business education across the country by 2030, an objective that will reach over 300,000 students a year. We hope to see more ideas emerge from interacting with the site. Some ideas include developing plug- in modules for various major courses so that faculty can “plug and play”, business education for sustainability conferences, faculty development workshops, the development of a mobile app, a learning assessment tool and much more.

No doubt it can be complicated to determine how one's abilities and skills can benefit society. The practical and accessible tools and knowledge these amazing interns have created on Major Sustainability can help point the way. Students now have some of the best answers in the business and a pathway to impact.