By Lisa Bailey, Axiom News
One of the first classes that Annie Longsworth attended as an executive certificate student of Presidio Graduate School (PGS) in 2010 was somewhat life-altering.
A guide took students on a systems-thinking walk around PGS.
“It literally was a nature walk, but it was from a point of view that wasn’t just about the beauty, it was about really looking at things and how things are dependent on others, where they come from and how the land slopes to serve various animals. It was just fascinating,” says Longsworth, who blogged about it.
“It’s something I think back on all the time. Just to understand some of the fundamentals, like watersheds and how ecosystems function was not something I’d paid much attention to. I was all about the marketing and authenticity piece,” says Longsworth, who was growing a global sustainability practice she’d started at a public relations agency that was dedicated to communications strategy around a triple bottom line business behavior. She was on a journey of self-education when she came to PGS.
She’d been hearing shout-outs to the PGS network at conferences and during discussions so, she says, wanted to join this collaborative community as well as formalize her knowledge.
That systems-thinking walk “really changed me,” Longsworth says, adding she’s constantly encouraging clients and others to do it as well.
Her studies at PGS exposed her to information she says she wasn’t really drawn to, like economics and measurement. “It was really good to get the fundamentals and foundation so that I could introduce those into my practice,” Longsworth says.
Many students in her cohort were, like her, transitioning or deepening their careers, Longsworth says. The possibilities this presents excites her.
“I love the entrepreneurialism of it,” she says.
“It was wonderful to be part of a group of people who were open to change like that, and open to learning, and then to watch what people do as a result of this is really, really fun.”
As CEO of the Saatchi & Saatchi S consulting and communications agency — a role she took on last year — Longsworth focuses exclusively on sustainability through purpose-driven strategy, engagement and communications programs. The agency, for instance, developed and implemented Wal-Mart’s personal sustainability program, where all employees adopted a personal behavior that moves them towards sustainability.
Longsworth says she frequently runs into PGS alumni in her work.
“It’s really cool to see where these people are ending up,” she says.
Longsworth says the more success that PGS students have, whether it’s through joining a big company or launching their own and realizing projects they started thinking about at PGS, it builds the school’s credibility and recognition and appreciation for what it offers.
“It really does get you thinking about your greatest imaginable challenge,” she says.
Longsworth also values being part of the PGS network. “Just knowing there are people I can call or be in touch with or get to know is really the strength of it for me.”
Longsworth says she’s now a PGS “evangelist,” promoting the school at every opportunity. Her agency engaged students last year in an experiential learning project and the company attended PGS’ career development fair in February.
Longsworth says PGS's program met her expectations — and more. She says it gave her confidence about her knowledge and access to a collaborative network she can tap into.
Sustainability hasn’t been a lifelong passion for Longsworth; it was a business opportunity that, she says, has become very meaningful to her, as she applies her communication and strategizing skills to engage people in being a force for good.
“Now I see it as what I will do for the rest of my life,” Longsworth says. “Everybody’s contribution is so different. That’s one thing I love about the whole topic of sustainability, is there’s a really powerful collaboration and appreciation for the various skills that are needed to make change happen.”