On a snowy evening last week in Boulder, 30+ Impact Hub Boulder members, entrepreneurs, educators, students and guests from the community including Conference on World Affairs, GoLite and the Environmental Defense Fund, gathered to meet Presidio Graduate School president and CEO, Bill Shutkin.
Driven by a deep concern for landscape, place and community, Bill has always been aware of the built environment and deeply interested in communities that have found the creative balance between infrastructure and the need for access to raw nature.Following graduation from law school, Bill clerked for a judge and then worked at Natural Resources Defense Council and its pioneering efforts in urban environment programs. He was exposed to the great issues of the time like waterway cleanup, superfund sites, but also the social side – the people who lived in these areas. This time in US history marked the beginning of “environmental justice.” This concept inspired Bill one of the first Echoing Green fellows, all while staying deeply connected to teaching and higher education.
Bill’s philosophy is that “teaching and doing” have always been integral to his entreprenuerial strategy.
The move from Boulder to Presidio
In July of 2011, Bill stepped into the role of President and CEO of Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Presidio is as much a social enterprise as an academic institution. He brought to Presidio his extensive background in both education and business as Chair of Sustainable Development here in Boulder at CU Leeds School of Business, plus years of teaching and doing at institutions like MIT and University of Denver.
There is growing concern that higher education may be priced out of reach. With constant shrinking of public funding, public universities are now having to operate as private. Premium brand (ivy league) cost for 4 years is projected to reach $750,000 by 2035.
“The disruption that occurred in the media industry 15 years ago is happening to higher ed right now.”
Presidio addresses the growing cost of providing graduate degrees by providing a “hybrid” learning model, which includes both online and on-site learning environments. This puts Presidio ahead of the current practice in higher education, which still offers an “either/or” approach. Either online OR on-site. Presidio recognizes the importance of being resilient and nimble.
Education is a practice-based discipline
Bill sees the in-kind value in universities. They bring rejuvenation, provocation and vitality. Presidio put a Master of Public Administration in place next to the Master of Business Administration. Government alone can’t be shouldered with moving this agenda forward.
Students expect to be able to work in the public sector in the same positions as they would in the private sector. This is happening in Austin, Texas and Mountain View, California.
Presidio has a partnership with HUB Bay Area, where students can take advantage of the co-working space in downtown San Francisco, using HUB as a student union and event space. The best students want to study where they’re going to bump into the innovators.
During the time of “the repair generation,” Bill and his colleagues witnessed that “the men do the damage, and the women do the cleanup.” Presidio is proud to say that it has a 60/40 dominance of women.
“Part of what’s going to get us to the promised land in sustainability is when women are in more positions of authority.”
Presidio is preparing students for positions in the job market. The school has to think about brand equity, and positions for “Green MBA” graduates. It incorporates practical course work like triple-bottom-line accounting, and greening the supply chain. This means building a field of practice, not a market, in sustainability within institutions. There is also a growing need for companies to employ a CSO, Chief Sustanability Officer.
“When the CSO becomes the CEO, we’ll know we have arrived.”
Presidio Graduate School is currently accredited through Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and is moving through an independent accreditation system. Presidio doesn’t have a tenure system. It depends on part-time instructors as much as full time.
The road ahead
Although the private sector deserves kudos for leading the sustainable enterprise movement, we all have to reset.
These companies have got to “move off the dime.” This is why it’s amazing that companies like Rally and GoLite bake all this in, working in alignment with values.
The goal is for qualifier language like “triple bottom line” and ‘“social good” to become the default for all business. There’s a discipline to staying on task and honoring the mission.
What size effort is required for change to occur?
“I don’t know what a large change would look like. I think incrementalism is our best hope. One way we could dramatically hit the reset button is to change our GDP and how we account for our economic growth. That would change the game more than any other thing.”
If you would like to receive notices of our Impact Hub Boulder speaker series, as well as other related events, please subscribe to our newsletter, follow @HUB_Boulder on Twitter and like us on Facebook.