by George Brigandi
Compared to most established sectors, like finance, accounting, real-estate, chemistry and even web services, sustainability is very young. Sure, it can be argued that it’s been around since the dawn of humankind – whenever someone tried to reuse a piece of old clothing or regrow a tree they cut down could certainly count as “sustainable efforts” – but the global movement that we see today did not really take hold until the early 2010s. As a result, most university programs that are sustainability-focused are some of the newer ones on a campus, like the Master of Science in Sustainable Management program at DePaul, which I direct.
Like many sustainability professionals, I transitioned into this line of work from a career in something else. For me, it was general marketing. DePaul played a critical role in helping me become who I am today. It laid the groundwork for my new career path with my MBA in sustainable management and entrepreneurship, which I earned from Kellstadt in 2018.
Sustainability at DePaul – How it was
To be frank, the transition outside of the classroom was quite difficult, but I expected that. Although this was only a few years ago, sustainability was significantly less popular and established than it is now. Like most institutions at the time, DePaul didn’t have any sustainability career fairs or sustainability-focused networking events or career development services, and the only sustainability-related student group that I was aware of, Net Impact, was on hiatus.
I had to be extremely creative and persistent in how I found networking opportunities and potential job leads, so I used the resources that were available to me and eventually found my way through a social enterprise channel at the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. That was my experience and I’m by no means complaining about it. New efforts need to start somewhere and you can’t have it all right from the start.
Knowing this, my colleagues and I have now formed the DePaul Sustainability Group. Those colleagues come from multiple DePaul departments and colleges, including the Department of Management & Entrepreneurship at the Driehaus College of Business, the College of Communications, the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, the School of Public Service, the Department of Geography, the Kellstadt Career Management Center, and the Sustainable Urban Development Graduate Program. The group also has terrific student leaders from Net Impact, Student Government Association and the general student body. We are working hard to make sure the student experience is multitudes better moving forward.
Connecting DePaul’s Sustainability Community
One of the top priorities we’re addressing is the need to cultivate the sustainability community at DePaul. As I mentioned, the sustainability presence at the university is young, fragmented and needs robust development if we hope to positively impact industry in Chicago and beyond.
So we created the DePaul Sustainability Network on LinkedIn, which is open to anyone affiliated with the university, to better expose students to potential job opportunities, relevant news and research, and alumni working in sustainability. Additionally, we’re in the midst of building out a sustainability web platform, where visitors can learn all about DePaul’s sustainability efforts, courses and community in a singular location.
We’re also increasing the number of sustainability events on (virtual) campus, with the culmination being the Sustainability at DePaul Conference, which is happening this year on May 7-8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central Time). This inaugural event is meant to not only bolster DePaul’s sustainability community, but further intertwine it with the larger sustainability community of our city, where 80% of DePaul graduates end up working. If you are interested in sustainability and social impact, please register. This conference will connect current students, alumni and local sustainability experts, and discuss the breadth of work that is being done in the sector.
Creating a Sustainable Future
In the university’s recently updated mission statement, DePaul has committed to “promoting peaceful, just and equitable solutions to social and environmental challenges,” an admirable goal that we fully support and want to see happen. The university is heading in the right direction but needs the support of an organized community that has sustainability as its top priority. After all, it’s up to us to create the change we want to see. No single individual or even entity on their own will be able to solve the numerous problems presented by climate change.
As I often tell my students, we’re witnessing the infancy of the most important shift in business in human history. If you’d like to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to help shape the sustainability efforts at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and DePaul at large, we hope you’ll join us at our conference in May.
Register for the upcoming Sustainability at DePaul Conference (5/7-5/8) now – open to all!
George Brigandi is the director of the Master of Science in Sustainable Management program at Kellstadt and is an instructor in the Department of Management & Entrepreneurship at the Driehaus College of Business. Additionally, he serves as the partnership and development manager at Current, Chicago’s water innovation hub, which is currently working on the first real-time water quality monitoring project in the U.S. to measure microbial pollutants in an urban waterway. Brigandi is a Kellstadt alumnus with an MBA in sustainable management and entrepreneurship, and holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history from Purdue University. A sustainability evangelist, he frequently speaks at local, national and international events and conferences.