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Curriculum

An MBA Designed for Impact

The Presidio Graduate School Master of Business Administration in Sustainable Solutions program equips students to become skilled leaders, doers, and organizers capable of addressing our most urgent, complex environmental and social challenges. Our rigorous academic programming starts with the traditional tenets of management theory and practice and engages them through the critical lenses of environmental stewardship, social justice, and systems thinking.

Beyond this unique focus, our curricula are also distinctive in that MBA and MPA students learn side by side in the classes that are common to both programs. Many students enroll for a single degree and then go on to complete the Dual MBA/MPA degree program. Explore the courses below.

Required Courses

This course provides both an introduction to the Presidio MBA and Dual Degree programs as well as a collection of modules and activities to support students’ career development goals.

This first-term course helps students understand the context within which business and government operate and what is unsustainable about our practices, policies and mental models. The context includes understanding current events and trends in public policy, the myriad of complex social, environmental and economic issues facing society as well as some of the historical context of all of this. Students apply all of these concepts to a particular issue of their choice and do a deep study of that issue and the system within which it resides. As part of this process students develop and apply research methods, data analysis, stakeholder engagement strategies, systems thinking and presentation skills. Lectures and readings provide an overview of the critical literacies in economic, financial, environmental and social justice issues, the history of the sustainability movement, including the various social and economic movements from which the current practices of sustainability in business and society grew, and the key actors and the basic literature in the field. The course culminates in the exploration of business’ responsibility in embracing the quadruple bottom line and embedding the principles of sustainability, environmental stewardship and social justice in strategic operations.

The principles and tools of accounting are fundamental to understanding the financial reporting that leaders, investors and stakeholders rely on to make decisions. This course explores the challenges and structure of traditional, GAAP, accounting through translating day to day business operations and more complex exchanges to accounting transactions and then to the financial statements that tell the organization’s economic story. But what is being counted and what is left out of this counting? What are social justice and environmental implications of what is not being counted? Accounting information is used by decision makers within the organization, as well as by external decision makers. We will work with frameworks to extract useful information, analyze performance and align organizational resources. To envision change, we will assess quantitative and qualitative aspects of the benefits and costs of engaging initiatives. Through case study analysis and discussions, we will frame issues and ground decisions with financial particulars and risks within the organization’s context.

We live in a world where huge volumes of data are collected and used every day. These data and associated analyses help us understand and assess the state of the world and our environment. Given these valuable resources, how can we find information we need, and how can we make use of the data? This course challenges students to discover, evaluate, and learn to use this information and data to promote social justice and sustainability. We will learn where and how to search for valuable data and how to critically analyze the information in the analyses. Data do not just inform, but also serve as a basis for action. With that in mind, we will also learn the analytical tools that we can use to analyze choices and risks in order to make more socially effective decisions. These tools include probabilistic reasoning and statistical analysis. Finally, not only is data powerful because of its ability to help us learn to make better decisions, but also because of its ability to tell stories. We will learn how to use quantitative data to create compelling narratives and tell the stories we need to bring about the changes we want to see in the world.

This is the first of two courses exploring leadership capacities for complex change and transformation for self, teams, and organizations. This course will focus on leadership as a collaborative process and ongoing practice, guided by anti-racist, community, and feminist interventions that center justice, and honor our interdependence in relationship to each other and the environment. Embracing the leadership as practice paradigm where we respect process as much as outcome, the course will provide opportunities to build and refine leadership skills in service of developing strategies for sustainable engagement and complex change across sectors and among diverse stakeholders. By examining the political and social structures that contribute to our understanding of leadership, this course will encourage critical reflexivity and a willingness to sit in discomfort in service of reimagining leadership beyond the confines of neoliberalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. We will explore how to transform systems of power and privilege, cultivate dialectical humanism and the generosity mindset consisting of trust, empathy, hope, and resilience that will define what kind of change is possible.

This course is a one-semester introduction to the fundamentals of managerial economics and macroeconomics. The first part of this course will cover basic economic tools, focusing on analysis at the margin, supply and demand theory, production theory, capital theory, profit maximization, pricing strategy, game theory, cost minimization, firm structure, and behavioral economics. We will then consider GDP, money supply, unemployment, interest rates, inflation. Throughout the course we will be viewing economic frameworks and theories through a critical lens, and will incorporate issues of sustainability, climate change, and social justice.

This course explores how organizations can thrive in a changing marketing communication landscape. Students develop the mindset of a marketer and learn the concepts and techniques that comprise a successful marketing strategy for a business, product, or idea. The semester progresses through learning how to analyze social and economic forces and context, understand customers, position, and apply marketing communication frameworks and tools. Students practice effectively communicating marketing recommendations for action. Most importantly, students will gain the mindset of a marketer—an ability to inquire into the real needs of the individual and society, create sustainable value, and to build programs for relevant, meaningful engagement. This course has an Experiential Learning component. In the Experiential Learning Project students work in teams to develop a marketing plan for a partner organization. Teams consult with their partners to define the scope and objectives of the project. Next, they research the marketing situation faced by their partner, develop customer profiles, and create a marketing plan to build measurable engagement and influence. At the end of the semester, teams present the research findings and marketing plan to their partner to get backing for the implementation of their recommendations.

Students learn how to navigate their way in the strategic, tactical, and operational decision-making environments of operations and supply chain management of service and manufacturing companies. Major topics are process analysis, cost and quality management, service systems management, inventory optimization, industrial ecology, life cycle assessment (LCA), and greenhouse gas emissions minimization, and the circular economy. Students learn how to apply concepts of probability, statistics, and optimization via the use of a number of quantitative operations management tools. They learn how to apply corporate codes of conduct to enforce high standards of social justice throughout a company’s supply chain. Experiential Learning Project: Students apply the arc of inquiry based on principles of pragmatism to fine-tune their skills with applied learning. They do this on a semester-long team project in which they work closely with a partner company or nonprofit organization. The focus of the project is evaluating alternative operations approaches using concepts and tools learned in-class. From this analysis, students recommend the best approach and build operations plans to execute it.

This course frames organizations as complex adaptive systems with purpose, structures, boundaries, and dynamics, whether for-profit, non-profit, and community-based. It explores the influence of leadership in the overall dynamics of these complex systems and their emergent properties of organizational culture, employee engagement, people development, and environmental and social impact. Team dynamics are studied in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the development of higher levels of psychological safety, collaboration, innovation, learning, wellbeing, and performance. Change in organizations is explored as an ongoing and iterative process emphasizing fairness in change equity, decision-making, and communication. Students have the opportunity to practice Agile as a team project management process and Action Inquiry as a method for personal and team change. Students also get to design an organizational operating system aimed to put people and the planet first and address the complexity needed to drive lasting social change.

This course introduces core concepts, metrics and tools of financial management and corporate finance and applies them to conventional (for-profit) and complex (e.g., impact-mandated) enterprise settings. Students will use financial statements and data to develop analysis, valuation and capital budgeting of investment projects and enterprises, and risk management of financial flows and investments. Risk management component will focus on traditional risk assessment and modelling, and will extend to cover applications to Environmental, Social and Governance risk. We will also extend risk management frameworks to account for a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) environment as consistent with modern enterprise strategy development and operations. The course will take an entrepreneurial approach to developing key tools of financial management. Students will encounter and work with case problems designed to apply theoretical fundamentals of financial management to real-world live cases of a new venture finance.

This course is designed to help students define the strategic questions/issue, analyze the context, and develop strategies for any organization—including either overall organizational strategy or sustainability strategy—and become proactive and more holistic strategic thinkers. We will introduce a diverse set of frameworks for analyzing, developing, and implementing effective strategies. We’ll use various concepts and thought experiments that define strategy as an integrated set of choices that position the business/organization in its complex contextual environment. We will combine insights from classic strategic frameworks with the new tools of emergent strategies to harness new opportunities and deliver impacts in the context of environmental and social systems. The course provides conceptual tools and practical methodologies for catalyzing organizational transformation based on a strategic, systemic, and sustainable appreciation of change. This course will integrate traditional business concepts with sustainability as a platform for creativity, innovation, and competitive advantage for both new and established organizations. It also includes a mini-course on design thinking and scenario planning.

This course prepares students to assume the responsibilities of a sustainability and climate leader within corporations and the government. It covers climate impact and risks, adaptation and mitigation strategies, the standard and emerging metrics for assessment, monitoring, and disclosure of corporate climate action plans, setting science-based targets (SBTs), and carbon accounting (GHG Protocol, Scope 1-3 emissions). It also includes carbon neutral or net zero carbon standards, environmental management system (EMS) as well as ESG Reporting standards and frameworks including GRI, SASB, TCFD, UN SDG, and CDP. It also covers the development of materiality reports and approaches to materiality assessment. Finally, it considers approaches to implementing sustainability plans for a variety of organizational types.

The objective of the course is for the student to demonstrate an understanding and mastery of the mindset, practical skills, knowledge, and attributes needed for creating a convincing business case, whether in the creation of a new enterprise or a new initiative in an existing organization. The course integrates business strategy, leadership, and decision science, with the functional areas of business (accounting, finance, marketing, and operations). We will examine the principles, frameworks, and techniques central to understanding markets, competitive positioning, launching new ventures or strategic initiatives, and the evolution of ventures/initiatives within broad social, economic, ecological, and political systems. Students may choose the track of start-up or social entrepreneur, “intrapreneur,” consultant, nonprofit leader, etc. As part of the leadership mindset development, students will be asked to provide collaborative expertise and constructive feedback to support classmates. Problem definition, context analysis, solution concepts ideation, prototyping, and hypothesis-based prototype testing to solicit feedback and advisor inputs are critical elements of this process. Prerequisite: Must be taken in final term.

Elective Courses

The following are sample electives offered by Presidio Graduate School. Listed electives are not comprehensive, nor is every elective offered each semester.

This course explores the energy technologies and systems in a framework of enduring social and environmental sustainability on a global scale. We will examine alternate energy generation technologies, consumption patterns, and energy efficiency. The emphasis will be on renewable energy generation, energy storage, microgrids, and emerging system operations including smart-grid and demand management. On the consumption side, we will focus on buildings and the transportation sector as the main consumers of energy and contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. We will also probe alternate transportation strategies for sustainability including electrification, hydrogen, and biofuels.

Sustainable solutions can be financed by traditional and innovative capital structures, whether by a business, civil society NGO, or government. Technological innovations, new platforms, and online communities empower organizations seeking capital to connect with a wider range of investors at a lower cost and with customized engagement. This course focuses on the building blocks of financing—known as the “capital stack”—to fund the operations, expansion, and impact of entities across the business, social, and government sectors; and the technologies that enable new securities (e.g., social impact bond), structures, and sources of capital. Students will learn how to think and act like a chief financial officer to issue securities (equity, debt, convertible, revenue-based securities) and evaluate sample “term sheets.” In addition, students will learn about tech-enabled innovations (e.g., crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain) in financial systems, processes, products, and providers.

The emphasis in this course is on the entrepreneurial process to recognize opportunity, design, plan, and launch profitable and sustainable ventures. The course will equip students with a methodology for creation of sustainable products/services with a compelling business case in a new enterprise or an existing organization.

Increasing diversity is a complex issue dealing with deep seated beliefs and both implicit and explicit biases. Enhanced diversity will not be accomplished easily and requires time, planning, and a willingness to be uncomfortable. Developing an anti-racism philosophy and approach involves self-reflection, intentionality, and motivation for the manifestation of meaningful and measurable change. In this course, we will explore what qualities and theories of leadership will help an individual steer an organization through the cultural shifts needed to promote and foster diversity and anti-racist mindset, philosophies, and practices within the workplace and out into the community. Our discussion will focus on what actions leadership can take to promote a true philosophy of anti-racism and culture of belonging within their workforce followed by a study of the actions that can be taken to promote diversity and cultural sensitivity in interactions with members of the communities being served.

How do we reduce carbon emissions in cities and institutions? This course covers greenhouse gas accounting and climate action planning with a focus on the local level—cities, counties, and institutions such as businesses and universities. Topics include energy, water, food, transportation, social justice aspects of climate plans, and the political and economic challenges and strategies for reducing emissions. Students will develop applied, real-world skills involved in emissions reductions work, and improve their technical skills using Excel, data gathering, data analysis, and producing professional reports.

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