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The newest degree program at Colorado State University’s College of Business ultimately will help some of the world’s three billion people who live on less than $3 a day.
This spring, students can begin enrolling for a brand new 18-month Master of Science in Business Administration degree in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise that will teach students to use entrepreneurial, sustainable approaches to address great global challenges of poverty, environmental degradation and poor health.
Colorado State students are already putting that philosophy to work. Business and engineering students are in India this month testing an innovative cook stove they helped develop that captures wasted thermal energy and converts it to electricity.
"Colorado State University has a wonderful history of creating international enterprises," said Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Business. "The roots of the Peace Corps started here in the 1950s. The Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise degree continues that tradition. We can provide students with the training to go into these parts of the world and create new enterprises. Imagine if we take that $1 a day that people earn and double that. You’re suddenly dealing with a huge market opportunity."
University officials say the degree is unique because it uses business as a force of change.
"When people say the world has to change, they rarely think about how central business will be in driving that change," said Paul Hudnut, an entrepreneurship instructor in the college and acting director of the new degree program. "In a global economy, it is an important piece of the puzzle of international development. Traditionally, it has been an afterthought. We want to start changing that. We want to focus the energy of innovation and entrepreneurship on addressing these challenges."
The first classes will begin in August 2007. The degree requires summer field work in partnership with international companies, NGOs and microfinance organizations. Most likely, the field work will be on a project in the developing world.
Students will take traditional master’s level courses in marketing, finance, leadership and entrepreneurship, but all courses have been designed with deeper coverage of cross-cultural issues, non-profit perspectives and environmental and social policy implications.
"At the core though, this program is about studying, creating and leading innovative new organizations that see these great challenges as great opportunities," Hudnut said.
Recent projects that have been co-developed by CSU engineering and business students are examples of the types of projects students might tackle in the GSSE program. As part of their coursework, the students developed technological advancements – such as Envirofit’s retrofitted two-stroke engine and a new, cleaner biomass cook stove that also generates electricity – to improve the lives of customers in such countries as the Philippines, India and Vietnam. Business students have worked with engineering students on business plans to come up with a way to address the market need, build production and distribution systems and eventually become profitable.
Compared with traditional cooking methods, the cook stoves they’ve designed produce lower emissions, use less fuel and provide electricity. The students were motivated by the fact that smoke from traditional cooking methods is a big health problem for women and infants.
The project, called Bright Light Innovations, was a class project for entrepreneurship students in the College of Business during the 2005-2006 school year. They have continued to work on the project this past fall, and recently, some members of the team began traveling to India. In the Gujarat area, the student team is testing the stoves in households and creating relationships with microfinance organizations and companies that can build, distribute and service the stoves.
"These projects are about giving people tools that generate income or reduce drudgery in their lives," Hudnut said. "The cook stove the students designed uses much less wood to cook meals and boil water, so less time goes into collecting firewood. It burns cleaner and vents the smoke outside, which has very beneficial health impacts, particularly on women and infants.
"While it cooks, it generates electricity, which can be stored in a battery for lighting at night so the family can use night time to make jewelry, go over their books, listen to the radio or study. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you consider that more than 2 billion people cook with biomass, don’t have access to conventional grid electricity, and live where it is dark almost 12 hours a day. Figuring out how to get stoves to all these people calls for business thinking, not just charity."
Hudnut visited India in early January with several Colorado State students, including Dan Mastbergen, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, to assess whether early users find the stoves effective. They want to know about any technical problems as well as how residents are using the stoves to generate income. Mastbergen helped design the stove with Professor Bryan Willson, director of the CSU Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory.
"It’s enough to power that size of a light or even a radio or small TV," said Mastbergen. He said most residents can get enough light for two or three extra hours per night just through their usual cooking.
"It gives me the opportunity to apply a lot of the skills I’ve developed toward a really huge problem," he said. "I also like it because it really allows me to focus on developing a product that hasn’t been developed yet."
"Our students have done some amazing work on campus that they are translating directly into saving human lives," Menon said. "These are the kinds of projects we want for students enrolling in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program."
The Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program is aimed at teaching students how to design businesses that perform well at a "triple bottom line" level, with positive impacts on people, the planet and profits. The focus will be on solving global challenges in energy, agriculture, health, environmental management and economic development.
The college is looking for people who are working at corporations or non-profits who believe they could be more effective with additional business training in this area. In addition, students with some experience in the Peace Corps or who have worked overseas in the military might find the program of interest.
It’s not for everyone, as Hudnut points out.
"The field work may involve several months in a challenging environment," he said. "We think students who have had some previous experience in these areas of the world are more likely to be successful. In addition, these are tough problems, and we are looking for people who are innovative and persistent in how they attack a problem. We want people who have demonstrated they can think big and take action."
In addition to Hudnut, the core faculty and staff for the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise degree include Menon, John Hoxmeier, John Grant, Kathleen Kelly, Sanjay Ramchander, Ken Petersen, Joe Cannon, and Vickie Bajtelsmit. Two additional faculty members are being hired for the program, as well as a full-time director.
For more information about the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise, go to www.csugsse.org.