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The Master's In Sustainability Driving Green Business In America

The Kogod School of Business' Master's in Sustainability Management is creating graduates ready for the world of green business in America


Fri Apr 3 2020


As the climate crisis demands a rapid response from society, business schools need to arm the workforce with graduates primed for careers in sustainability. Cue American University’s Kogod School of Business. 

The school’s MS in sustainability management (MSSM) program is creating business leaders with the skills to make a difference in industries through actions, not words.  

The program's director of the MSSM program, David Bartlett, says that despite what’s happening at a political level, sustainability is still a key priority for American businesses.  

“In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, his assault on the Environmental Protection Agency, and the climate change denying ethos that seems to have penetrated the entire Republican party, I think there’s a perception that––at a national level at least––the United States has retreated as a leader in sustainability.” 

This simply isn’t the case, he says. Instead, the charge to create a more sustainable future has been taken up by companies and nonprofit organizations like American University, which was the first research university in the US to achieve net carbon neutrality.

Sustainable business practices underpin the MSSM program 

MSSM students can complete the program in 12 to 24 months, and choose among four career focuses: becoming a sustainability policy and communications executive, a sustainability consultant, a sustainability entrepreneur, or a sustainability executive. Students learn the fundamentals of innovation, risk assessment, and lean supply chain––all under the umbrella of sustainability.

“The program provides students with basic business skills in accounting, finance, marketing, and data analytics, but this is all situated within the context of an interdisciplinary, sustainability-focused curriculum,” David explains.

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By the end of the program, graduates have the comprehensive skill-set needed to enact economic, ecological, and socially responsible solutions across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. 

“Our sustainability program is different because it's housed in the business school itself and takes an explicit corporate perspective on sustainability, combined with elective courses students can take outside the business school," he says.

MSSM students also participate in an international residency which runs once a year. In the past, students have visited green hubs in Europe, such as Sweden and Denmark. While there, they work on projects with local companies. 

“It adds an experiential focus to the program,” David says. “These live projects we run with local and international partners are treated as consulting projects. They provide our students with the opportunity to apply the tools and methodologies from our residential classes to actual cases.” 

Taking advantage of sustainable opportunities in Washington, DC 

To fill the sustainability void left by US leadership, globally renowned non-governmental organizations (NGOs)––like the World Wildlife Fund, the National Geographic Society, the Nature Conservancy, and more––have stepped forward to tackle climate change.

“There are sub-national agents all over the world, including US corporations, that are moving in the right direction,” David explains. “These corporations don’t have a regulatory pistol pointed at their head to adopt sustainability practices––they’re voluntarily doing so.” 

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With many heavily influential organizations headquartered in DC, David is always encouraging students to step beyond the boundaries of Kogod and take advantage of the career opportunities for MSSM graduates right on Kogod's doorstep. Top employers include the Environmental Defense Fund, the World Wildlife Fund, the US Department of Energy and Environment, and the World Bank.

Putting sustainable business into practice 

One key focus of the MSSM program is preparing students to work within the multifaceted sustainability industry, from the global nonprofits to smaller, innovative start-ups. 

“A lot of the most interesting work that’s being done in the sustainability space right now is off the radar––start-up companies, social enterprises, and boutique consulting firms,” David says.

He emphasizes that the program gives MSSM graduates the intellectual agility to adapt to different disciplines when moving across adjacent industries––wherever that may take them.  

Putting these innovative, business-savvy thinkers in a strong position to tackle environmental, social, and governmental issues around the globe is one of the most important methods to promote change in businesses of all sizes, he says.  

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“There needs to be more urgency around incorporating sustainable practices,” he concludes. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports show that we basically have around 10 years left to make drastic changes. If we pass this threshold, the damage will be irreversible.” 

With the deadline approaching, businesses must act fast. As more industries switch their focus to sustainability, Kogod graduates are ready to help them go green.

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




On Campus

City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




On Campus

Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




On Campus

AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




On Campus

AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




On Campus

American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.




On Campus

Engaging Students and Incredible Professors

I would 100% recommend this school. I am a Marine Corps Veteran and proud AU alum. NI received my BA in Comparative Politics at AU in 2017. It was engaging and worth every minute. I was constantly engaged with the material the material and was fascinated by the culture the school presented. As an older student I was nervous to go to a highly competitive college but with the culture of both student and staff it was enjoyable through and through.