Mary Jo Snavely, a Master’s in Sustainability Management alum, always knew she wanted to pursue a socially impactful career in sustainability.
Since graduating from her business master’s degree in the US, she’s had an exciting journey that’s led to her overseeing private sector engagement at the renowned World Wildlife Fund.
Why I chose a Master’s in Sustainability Management
Many business school students have a vague idea of what they would like to do with their career when they graduate, while others have a crystal-clear vision in mind.
Mary Jo fell into the latter category. Having already completed an undergraduate degree in environmental sciences, she knew she wanted to remain on the sustainability career path.
“I started looking for master’s programs but very few [at the time] were solely focused on sustainability,” she says.
After shortlisting a few options, she found that some programs didn’t appear invested in sustainability or prove how they could support Mary Jo with her ambitions.
“On the other hand, from speaking with Kogod School of Business, I saw a clear commitment to helping me build a career in sustainability,” she says.
Kogod is the first carbon-neutral university in the US, which reassured Mary Jo she was in the right place.
She also qualified for a merit-based scholarship, which made the experience more affordable.
The STEM-designated MS in Sustainability Management program at American University’s Kogod School of Business can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format.
Learning beyond the classroom during a Master’s in Sustainability Management
Starting the Master’s in Sustainability Management with an understanding of environmental science, Mary Jo knew she needed to learn to apply this knowledge to a business setting if she was going to reach her career goals.
At Kogod, she took part in consulting practicums that taught her how to work with external organizations and grow her professional skillset.
One such project involved her working in a team to make the university’s fleet more sustainable, while another involved supporting the Washington, D.C. State Department in developing practical composting guides for their international posts.
“These pushed me to think about the needs and challenges of other organizations and to think with a practical mindset,” she says.
The MS in Sustainability Management even hosts a capstone program in Scandinavia—a region renowned for its sustainability expertise.
Electives are split across three tracks in the master’s degree. Business Sustainability covers topics such as sustainable finance, the Environment track features environmental law, and the final Policy track teaches students about international development.
Meanwhile, the core curriculum includes courses on Managerial Economic and Business Strategy, Business Fundamentals, and Sustainability Management.
Embarking on a sustainability career at the World Wildlife Fund
Business school is far from being about just studying—it’s also about growing a strong professional network.
One of Mary Jo’s Kogod classmates who worked at the World Wildlife Fund told her about a new role in corporate sector engagement that had opened at the organization.
“I’d always been eager to help big companies change their sustainability footprint,” she says.
Armed with a great understanding of both environmental science and how to translate this into business language, she was successful in the interview for the role.
She also received valuable advice from her Kogod peer, who provided insider tips on the application process for World Wildlife Fund jobs.
She started at the WWF as a coordinator for the private sector, working with major bands such as Coca-Cola.
Some of the teachings from the Master's in Sustainability Management that Mary Jo says were most helpful to feeling confident in her job include supply chain systems and greenhouse gas accounting and climate solutions.
Mary Jo has since risen through the ranks at in her career at the World Wildlife Fund, where she’s now the director of private sector engagement.
“The role involves understanding the full breadth of a company’s strategy, so having a business master’s in sustainability was helpful for having a bird’s eye view of the issues at play.”
Why choosing where to study a Master’s in Sustainability Management matters
You should be intentional with where you study your Master’s in Sustainability to reap the benefits of such a degree.
Mary Jo believes that there’s no better place in the US to study for a sustainability master’s than in Washington, D.C., where Kogod is based.
“The location helps you to understand the connection between sustainable business and wider global mega trends—it helps to put it all into context.”
There is an abundance of large NGOs scattered across D.C. that work on global issues, such as the American Red Cross, Oxfam America, and Salvation Army.
Joining a business master’s in sustainability with varied courses—across data, finance, economics, strategy, and leadership—creates infinite possibilities to find a career that plays to your strengths.
“One of the best things about working in sustainability is that there’s so much innovation going on, and you can mobilize huge differences through small changes,” says Mary Jo.