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Eugene Wilkerson, Ken Sagendorf, Beth Caniglia, Timothy Keane

From the Classroom to Sun Valley: Changing the roles of academic centers, business laboratories, and community reserach in sustainability education

In working together to create a less dire future, it helps to reconsider the way we think of time itself. Rooted in Greek mythology, the notion of time has both quantitative and qualitative aspects. “Chronos” represents our traditional timekeeping that counts the days in a linear fashion. The equally important qualitative notion of time known as “kairos” considers the interaction of various forces in the world to determine the right time for certain actions. The traditional business school is expected to deliver foundational knowledge to individuals who will use that knowledge to grow the economy. Such training focuses on increasing wealth through the business endeavor. Students then move into the private sector with a focus on individual wealth maximization; an approach that is disconnected from accountability to the community stakeholder in which the business operates. When multiplied across millions of businesses in operation today the cascading consequences of a business education delivered through traditional business schools can be catastrophic. All business schools must evolve beyond the creation of wealth driven business leaders. The unique value proposition of a Jesuit Business School is the opportunity to focus on building a stewardship model for business and business leaders that is consistent with our values. Stewardship is distinctively different in at least two important ways: First, stewardship requires the care and protection of something beyond oneself. Some might consider the fabled lemming a good leader but, unfortunately for its followers, the lemming is not always a good steward. Second, stewardship is holistic in its orientation premised on values infused systems thinking to inform decisions. It is not acceptable to passively assert that a business is not responsible for the destruction of our environment as an unintended consequence of wealth maximization. Understanding the “butterfly effect” requires a different skill set than calculating an ROI. Teaching in a stewardship focused business school requires scholars to evolve beyond traditional business pedagogy. Enabled by the confluence of the formation of a new Jesuit business college, the creation of three new centers serving as the center of the new business school curricula, and drawing on literature from sustainability education, this case study explores the pedagogy surrounding business laboratories designed to create triple bottom line focused experiential learning in the Sun Valley EcoDistrict in Denver, Colorado. Using the concept of regenerative development as a theoretical foundation these business laboratories provide students with practical experience applying business concepts from a triple bottom line perspective. The academic driver for the business laboratories rests within three academic centers as opposed to traditional academic departments. The community facing aspect of these entities is the catalyst for a flexible curricular environment that easily adapts to the needs of the community. The interdisciplinary and experiential nature of the degree programs provides students the opportunity to develop skills as stewards capable of simultaneously growing a business and creating wealth pathways for their community