by Jim Bishop, EMU
HARRISONBURG, Va. – Not often do graduate students develop business strategies by observing first-hand patterns of meadow regeneration and interdependence at the Shenandoah National Park or by engaging social entrepreneurs at the local Farmers Market and at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton in conversations about achieving sustainability advantage.
Few business programs encourage students to use Facebook and Wikispaces to develop collaborative team strategies outside the classroom. But then, the Steward-Leadership Masters in Business Administration at Eastern Mennonite University is no ordinary MBA program.
“Given its history of increasing leadership strengths, building management skills, and developing stewardship strategies, EMU’s MBA program is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of today’s demanding work-place and regional employers, as greater emphasis is now placed on ethics, stewardship of natural and human resources and effective collaborative strategies for a fast-changing global marketplace,” said Anthony E. (Tony) Smith, MBA co-director. “These very qualities lie at the heart of EMU’s institutional core values.”
Dr. Smith has been teaching a summer course in the MBA program “Stewardship, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship,” that engaged students in systems approaches to stewardship and innovation and involved them in live projects with local corporations and non-profit organizations. The clients included Shenandoah National Park, Rosetta Stone, American Shakespeare Center and the Staunton Creative Community Fund (SCCF).
“I’m very impressed by the amount of research on a complicated topic, in a short period of time that the MBA students have achieved.” said Tim Taglauer, assistant chief of interpretation and education for Shenandoah National Park, after MBA students gave a presentation on business strategies for increasing the “sustainable advantage” for the park.
Their recommendations included repositioning the park as a center for increasing eco-literacy and for the park to develop and strengthen strategic partnerships with local communities and schools.
Meghan Williamson, executive director of SCCF, found that the MBA students had developed an innovative “business to environment” model that could strengthen the success of their small business clients and outlined innovative financing methods to support SCCF’s programs. The course ended Aug. 4 with MBA business strategy presentations to Rosetta Stone and to the American Shakespeare Center.
“This course is but one example of how the EMU’s Steward-Leadership MBA program offers a distinctive approach to preparing business leaders for the challenges of an increasingly uncertain business environment,” Smith stated. “The program works with the busy schedules of full-time working professionals who are seeking to strengthen their careers.”