Last spring, a group of students journeyed to Mexico to collaborate with the Toks Restaurant Group on a pair of projects. The students teamed up to explore ways to eliminate single-use plastics from Toks restaurants, and to research boosting global online consumer sales of a premium coffee to benefit the producer, a cooperative that supplies Toks. In another initiative, students participated in projects with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “They focused on the future of work and labor practices in developing countries in light of advancements in autonomy and digitization,” says Professor Todd Moss, chair of the Whitman School of Management’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises and faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership (SEP) .
These unsurpassed student experiences with hands-on immersion were part of SEP’s capstone course that leads to a Certificate of Advanced Study in Sustainable Enterprise. As the world grapples with climate change and businesses look to improve practices and productivity in socially responsible, environmentally friendly ways, the SEP provides a unique, interdisciplinary learning experience open to all graduate students enrolled in Syracuse University or SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry .
Established in 2008, the partnership features a core faculty and is a collaboration of the Whitman School, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, SUNY-ESF and the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems . “The SEP enables students to see outside of their own academic silos to solve real-world problems that cut across traditional boundaries,” Moss says.
Moss emphasizes the capstone teams are purposefully interdisciplinary so students can share their skills and learn from one another. “As our students enter the professional world, they better understand the variety of perspectives needed to address sustainability challenges,” he says.
The certificate sets students apart in job interviews, allowing them to demonstrate how their collaborative experiences and understanding of sustainability enhance their specific degree. Students have had successful placements in such companies as Facebook, Intel and Exxon-Mobile, Moss says. “Some students work directly in sustainability positions, while others are in more traditional positions—yet all of them can effect change from within their organizations.”