Shift in learning prepares future leaders to create a sustainable world, Cisco director says

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By Lisa Bailey, Axiom News

Published 11.19.12

Redefining how and why we learn is a key to creating a prosperous and sustainable world in a time of transformation, says Gordon Feller, director of urban innovation with Cisco Systems’ Internet Business Solutions Group.

Presidio Graduate School (PGS), with its fusion of sustainability and business practice, is sowing the seeds for this shift in education, he says.

“A shift in education has to be ‘for what?’” Feller says. “And PGS has chosen the right ‘for what?’ which is for the transformation of self and society and for the changes that are underway at the personal and planetary level.”

Feller participated in the recent Presidio Presents Speaker Series featuring entrepreneurs on the leading edge of sustainability and social entrepreneurship discussing developments in the global marketplace of ideas and jobs. He also worked with Presidio to bring Meeting of the Minds 2012 to San Francisco. Feller co-founded the program which, this year, brought together more than 350 invited leaders from numerous countries for a broad-ranging discussion about the future of sustainability.

PGS’s effort to push the envelope of what business and public administration graduates can do is important, Feller says, adding that this next generation of leaders must be trained to adapt to “the new normal” of the post-global recession and post-Cold War world. The ability to consider whole systems is vital to finding innovative and effective solutions as mega forces move through the global economy and global culture.

Redefining the way people learn involves a balance of theory and practice, and Feller describes Presidio as “one of the innovators that’s trying to develop a better way to balance ‘learning by talking’ and ‘learning by reading’ with a third leg of the stool,” which he calls ‘learning by doing.’

Feller has found that Presidio students are highly integrated in their approach to their work, indicative of their ability to look at the big picture.

“They’re not looking to become captive to one particular silo; they’re interested in cutting across different sectors, from transport to energy to water to buildings to all of the other sectors,” he says.

Reflective of its support and belief in sustainable business management, Cisco Systems provides opportunities for current Presidio students to work within its programs. A number of alumni are also on staff.

“Many of the things we’re doing are enabling transformations that are being focused on by the students and faculty, so there’s an intersection of ideas,” Feller says.

While few educational institutions share Presidio’s focus on sustainable management right now, Feller says this could change as business embraces it.

“Companies like Cisco have become very enthusiastic adopters of the sustainability practices that are under focus in the classroom at PGS,” he says.

“The reality is that the technology companies have embraced it with wild enthusiasm,” Feller says, adding “they are not only doing it because it’s a way to attract and retain the younger talent pool, but also because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lisa Bailey, Axiom News

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