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MBA Candidates See Sustainability As Civic Duty, Not Course Curriculum

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I was at the “Banking is Back” event on Friday, hosted by the Robert Toigo Foundation, where I met several MBA candidates, some of who already knew where they were headed this fall, some waiting, and others who were waitlisted. Almost half of them had a finance background but all of them considered themselves a minority. Here are some of the interesting dialogues I happened to stumble across/participated in at the event:

Keeping in mind an economy that we’re only now starting to recover from, what was in their minds as they looked forward to B-School? One smart alec said, “The hope is that there will be more jobs.” Another more understated attendee said, “Being in finance gives me the basic skills, and regardless of the economy, banks will always be around. Or at least that’s the promise!” As they all went through simulation after simulation of typical Days in the Lives of various banking professionals, it was evident that the economy couldn’t be further away from their minds.

Why Toigo? The general consensus was their emphasis on “high caliber MBA candidates” and their rigorous fellowship which would provide Fellows with internship opportunities and the exposure to be one of the first few to get offered full time positions. Although, these candidates were clearly a motivated bunch. They all mentioned other leadership and minority career advancement organizations like Consortium, INROADS, SEO, MLT, etc.

Although the trickiest question I threw out there was this one: “Would you guys be open to taking a course in sustainable business practices, if one is offered at your school?” After the initial blank stares, they began to open up. And the gist of their responses was a resounding No. But this isn’t necessarily negative. Because here is what followed. They indicated a preference for doing sustainable activities like joining green clubs, organizing ecological drives at school and doing volunteer work as part of their grad school experience.

Sustainable MBA Poll Results

We can take away at least two things from this. 1) The consciousness to do good and be responsible toward their society, community and their planet is there. And it is much more prevalent in their thinking and strategic process that it has been for previous generations. And, 2) That while more and more business schools are introducing CSR course content as the years go by, with MIT the most recent entrant, the demand is not being reciprocated by banks when it comes to recruitment. We discussed this last week as well along with conducting a poll (see left), which showed that most people are evenly divided on the prospects of an MBA in sustainable business practices.

Listening to these high-potential MBA candidates voice their opinion was encouraging. Because although, they unanimously said they did not see the benefit of studying sustainability and CSR, they all emphasized that they’d rather practice than preach. Which is a lesson we can all learn as students, entrepreneurs, employees, senior executives, consumers and conscious business professionals.

Follow our ongoing discussion on Green MBAs on In Good Company, on Vault’s MBA blog Admit One, or if you are Twitter-inclined, follow us @VaultCSR and @VaultMBA!

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Written by Aman Singh

March 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

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