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Sustainability is the Focus of New Graduate Certificate

The new Graduate Certificate in Business Sustainability is already having positive impact on WKU students.  The Gordon Ford College of Business (GFCB) this past fall initiated an innovative four-course online certificate for graduate-level students who wish to equip themselves with the knowledge to address some of the most complex environmental and societal issues in the business community and add a “green” component to their resume. The GFCB is the first in the state to offer a graduate certificate in this area and is well-known for its sustainability emphasis throughout the MBA program.

Management professor Dr. Brian Sullivan was the first recipient of the WKU President’s Award for Sustainability and teaches the “Survey of Business Sustainability Issues” course which forms the core of the flexible certificate around which courses in sustainability marketing, operations, entrepreneurship, and other topics are related.

“One of the main readings in my course is the annual survey by the MIT-Sloan Management Review which shows that employers are emphasizing sustainability as part of building their brands,” Dr. Sullivan said.  

Students in Dr. Sullivan’s core course all agree that studying business sustainability is helping them learn how to combine a business viewpoint with the innovations and requirements involved in sustainability.

Bobby Gaffney is a WKU MBA student from Glasgow, Ky. and a student of Dr. Sullivan.  “Embracing concepts such as ‘shared value’ and ‘social entrepreneurship’ can help companies make a positive impact on society and the environment, and contribute to improved branding,” he said.

“Businesses have just recently realized that they can create economic value by creating societal value,” said Jessica Wilkett, WKU MBA student and recent law school graduate.  “Shared value recognizes societal needs, not just economic needs. [For instance,] social harms can create internal costs such as wasted energy,” she said.

Ella Polk, a graduate student from Elizabethtown, is studying in the Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities master’s program and has added the “Global Pathways to Sustainability” certificate to her course of study.  Both of those programs originate from the University College. Design theory, natural capitalism, and collaboration are central elements of Dr. Sullivan’s sustainability course. 

“Design thinking creates a person-centered approach to consumerism,” Polk said.  “Instead of focusing on design at the end of the project, products are designed with people in mind.  By utilizing design thinking, companies will be able to better listen, learn, and produce products that meet their consumer’s need.”

Students seeking either the Business Sustainability certificate from the GFCB or the Global Pathways certificate from University College are allowed to take one course from the opposite College as part of their chosen certificate.

The next online course for the Business Sustainability graduate certificate starts for the semester’s second bi-term beginning Monday, March 21. Dr. Ismail Civelek from the Management Department will teach “Sustainable Business Operations” that will include topics such as the “triple bottom line” and “Lean Six Sigma.”

The 12 credit-hour Business Sustainability certificate can be earned as a stand-alone certificate for anyone who has previously earned an undergraduate degree or can coordinate as part of an MBA degree. Anyone interested in pursuing the certificate can contact April Schleig at  or call 270-745-5458.  Students interested in the Global Pathways to Sustainability certificate from the University College may contact Dr. Jane Olmsted at  or call 270-745-5787.

The website for more information is:

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 Last Modified 5/2/17