As the Yale Center for Business and the Environment kicked off its 10th-anniversary celebration in September, students and faculty reflected on the center’s progress in the past decade, as well as issues it faces.
Launched by the Yale School of Management and the School of Forestry & Environmental Science in 2006, the center provides a platform for research, networking and social gatherings for students pursuing joint master’s degrees in environmental management and forestry from the two professional schools.
Bradford Gentry, associate dean for professional practice and a co-director of the center, said the number of joint-degree students has risen from fewer than 20 to about 60 since the center’s inception. The center also helped Yale earn a seat in leading world organizations on sustainability, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Gentry said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, as we see more wealth in the economy, which usually leads to overconsumption [that] leads to environmental pollution,” Gentry said. “The center very much works to find business solutions to address these concerns.”
The celebration will last through spring 2017 and will involve a series of dinners for donors, workshops and webinars.
While most centers aim to enhance faculty research programs, Gentry said, the CBEY is unique in its focus on career-oriented events and social activities.
Gentry added that the center has continued to create new programs to accommodate the increasing number of joint-degree students. For example, Gentry said the center offers a research project where students work with the Connecticut Green Bank, alumni and SmartPower — a national nongovernmental organization on clean energy — to build more solar panels across New Haven.
“The joint-degree program between the two schools is the strongest from the point of view of each school. [CBEY] is the perfect example of what a center can do,” SOM Dean Edward Snyder said.
Still, Gentry said the center faces funding problems and needs more money to fund more collaborative projects that connect theory with practice.
According to Heather Fitzgerald, associate director of CBEY, the center’s funding comes from philanthropic sources, mainly foundations and private donors. She added that the center is rolling out a model for corporate partnerships to develop business solutions to social and environmental challenges. The financial commitment will depend on the level of engagement of each partner, Fitzgerald said.
“We’re very much student-led, so we want to make sure that the center’s goals match the interests of the students,” Fitzgerald said. “While interests can vary as new students come through the program, our long-term goals and objectives remain focused.”
Fitzgerald mentioned several long-term goals for the center, including training multidisciplinary leaders in global sustainability, creating research projects that engage all networks within and outside of Yale and transforming the world to a sustainable economy. Fitzgerald added that many of the center’s current partnerships, such as the one with the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition — a group that lobbies for taxing carbon emission — are working to achieve these goals.
Pamela Jao FES ’17 praised the center’s commitment to creating a community for joint-degree students, adding that for example, the “secret Santa” event that the center has organized each Christmas showed the center’s efforts to bring students together.
As the joint-degree program expands, however, Jao said the community ties felt weaker than before. She added that the program — which consists of about 15 percent students of color — could be more diverse.
Fitzgerald said the center’s efforts to bring speakers who are racially diverse reflect on the students’ wish for more diversity.
The first joint-degree program between SOM and F&ES was created in 1982.