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Our History

Our Origin Story

Presidio Graduate School is a young institution with a rich, forty-eight-year heritage.


While the setting and academic programs are new, our mission and academic philosophy remain inspired by the early experience of our predecessor, World College West, an accredited work-study, world-study liberal arts college founded in 1973 and operated on its 194-acre environmentally designed campus in Marin County until 1992. From these early roots, Presidio inherited our commitment to an experiential learning philosophy based on the premise that only disciplined reflection on experience leads to learning that lasts. At World College West, that included seminar-size classes, work experience, and a year’s immersive study in a non-Western culture such as China, Mexico, Russia, or Nepal.


Presidio World College, a new institution, began offering non-degree courses in a program dubbed Sustainable Later-Life Design. The courses focused on material that would contribute to an integrated, sustainable second half of life: purposeful work, physical well-being, economic security, spiritual grounding, meaningful relationships, and commitment to the community. In pursuit of this goal, the school also began to work collaboratively with AARP and launched co-sponsored programs with Elderhostel (now known as Road Scholar) as they sought out opportunities to serve younger, midlife adults. The success of these early experiences left the board and administration increasingly interested in developing sustainability-oriented degree programs.


Presidio World College signed a contract with Goddard College, based in Vermont, to develop and pilot a BA-completion program known as S-E-E-D: Sustainable, Ethical, Enterprise Design.

The early programs at Presidio World College had revealed a burgeoning interest in sustainability-related graduate-level education, and research indicated that the need was strongest among professionals. There was a growing population that was seeking a degree that would truly integrate sustainability principles throughout all business management disciplines.


The newly-renamed Presidio School of Management began offering an MBA program with a concentration in Sustainable Management in affiliation with Alliant International University. We welcomed 22 students into our inaugural cohort.


The school was renamed Presidio Graduate School.


Presidio Graduate School launched the first-ever Masters of Public Administration degree program with a concentration in Sustainable Solutions. Recognizing that the increasingly complex problems our world faces can only be sustainably addressed through multisector solutions, Presidio launched the first Dual MBA/MPA Degree in Sustainable Solutions.


Presidio parted with Alliant International University to become an independently accredited institution by WASC Senior College and University Commission.


Presidio combined forces with Pinchot University in Seattle to become the pre-eminent educational institution offering academic programs focused exclusively on sustainability studies. Pinchot University, a university for the common good, was founded in 2002 by Gifford Pinchot III, Libba Pinchot, Sherman Severin, and Jill Bamburg as Bainbridge Graduate Institute. The school became a recognized leader in building collaborative learning environments and empowered entrepreneurs and leaders of the world’s largest organizations committed to the common good.


Presidio formed a strategic partnership with Amity University, one of Asia’s leading non-profit private education groups. With a shared commitment to excellence in education, social justice, and environmental responsibility, Presidio and Amity have worked to expand our innovative curriculum and open the unique Presidio programs to more students.


The Seattle and San Francisco campuses were consolidated to a single location in San Francisco, bringing together the entire student body.


To date, more than 1,800 graduates have earned their MBA, MPA, and Dual Degrees or furthered their knowledge through our certificate programs. These individuals comprise a tight-knit, determined community of change and are leading the sustainability movement in business, government, non-profit, and non-government organizations around the world.

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