Seattle, S.F. sustainability schools now a double threat in growing market | Crain's Seattle

Seattle, S.F. sustainability schools now a double threat in growing market

Presidio Graduate School President Mark Schulman will lead both PGS and Pinchot University programs. Photo by Tanya Weliky.

Two universities renowned for their pioneering sustainability management programs have joined forces, giving the new union an expanded alumni network and broader reach into the business community. 

San Francisco-based Presidio Graduate School recently acquired Seattle’s Pinchot University, just in time to save the organization from closing its doors after nearly 15 years, said PGS President Mark Schulman. “Pinchot was having financial difficulties; it had been for months.”

Although operations will be headquartered at PGS’ San Francisco offices, Pinchot’s downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island programs will remain, and faculty and curriculum will stay intact. That’s good news for the 45 students currently enrolled at Pinchot.

Presidio and Pinchot have been the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 sustainable MBA programs for more than a decade, and have a long history of sharing faculty and collaborative student and alumni ventures. The schools also have a common mission, which is expected to make a smooth transition. The board of directors will include members of both schools.

Uniting the institutions “effectively doubles the alumni base, strengthens career and faculty opportunities, and sends many more changing agents into the world to improve businesses’ sustainability,” said Pinchot University Board Chair Sabrina Watkins. The combined alumni network has more than 1,500 members.

United strengths

With Pinchot’s strengths added to its own, PGS is even better poised to take on traditional business schools that offer a sustainability track or certificate, Schulman said. “Instead of having a sustainability track or course – instead of add-ons – we integrate sustainability into every course.”

An emphasis on experiential learning with students involved in more than 300 corporations also sets PGS apart, he said, as does the additional offering of a unique dual degree allowing students to earn both an MBA and a master’s in public administration. And PGS intends to incorporate Pinchot’s philosophy of “leading from any seat,” which encourages students and faculty to build curricula together.

“This unique process and perspective on learning ensures our graduates' experience, and therefore truly understand, both the theory and practice of effective leadership and management,” Schulman said.

He acknowledged that although PGS students can’t command the kind of salaries earned by Harvard or Stanford MBA graduates, they are landing good jobs and are “highly regarded” by their employers. PGS alums have landed at a number of big-name companies, including Google and Microsoft. Many go to start-ups or launch their own companies, while others go to government and public sector jobs.

The median salary for chief sustainability officers (CSOs) in 2014 was $173,320, according to the Department of Labor.

Building a reputation

Presidio, which has grown its student body to 162 since opening in 2003, has garnered plenty of praise, including a New York Times article last year that called PGS the best business school to attend “if you want to change the world.” This year, Conscious Company magazine placed Pinchot and then Presidio at the top of the list of 15 Affordable Conscious MBA Programs. The nonprofit Net Impact, meanwhile, names University of California, Santa Barbara, PGS and Pinchot as its top three picks for sustainability management programs.

But U.S. News & World Report’s preferred environmental policy and management programs are Indiana University, University of Washington and, tied for third, Duke University and the University of California, Berkeley.

There’s no question that business school programs in sustainability are becoming increasingly common, making the job market more competitive for Presidio graduates, Schulman said. At the same time, there’s a lot more jobs out there.

According to Wanted Analytics, a firm that tracks hiring data, sustainability jobs in the US have more than doubled in the past four years. And O*Net, an occupational network database published by the Department of Labor, projected 100,000 or more job openings for CSOs between 2014 and 2024.

September 20, 2016 - 5:18pm