MBA Courses

The goal of the MBA curriculum is to foster transformational learning for business leaders. Our courses engage the head, hands, and heart in service to environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Through knowledge, as well as action and reflection, we build our students' capacity to lead, innovate, and flourish. We commit to personal and collective accountability, and respect for dynamic real-world thresholds. We envision individual, community, and systems change toward a sustainable, equitable, and resilient economy and world.

Being a Change Agent in a Cautious Company

Sustainability is woven throughout all courses in the Marlboro MBA curriculum. Much of the class work during monthly residencies consists of faculty leading students in action learning exercises, developing a practical understanding of business issues by addressing real-world questions.

Sample Study Plan

All MBA students take the courses listed below. However, there is flexibility to create a study plan with varying course loads each trimester, allowing students to meet their academic and professional goals on a timeline that works for their life. The plan that follows is designed for someone beginning in January, whose goal is to complete the program in two years. 

FIRST YEAR
Multi-Trimester Courses MBAS605: Personal Leadership Development (4 credits taken over 4 trimesters)
MBAS604: Exploring Sustainability (4 credits taken over 4 trimesters)
First Trimester MBAS600: Foundations of Sustainability in Business (3 credits)
MBAS601: People & Teams (3 credits)
MBAS613: Macroeconomics & Political Economy (3 credits)
EDU620:   Clear Writing (1 credit)
Second Trimester MBAS621: Introduction to Systems Thinking (1 credit)
MBAS602: Stakeholder-Based Communication, Persuasion & Negotiation (3 credits)
MBAS612: Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business (3 credits)
Third Trimester MBAS606: Managerial Economics (3 credits)
MBAS610: Needs & Wants in a Sustainable Society (3 credits)
MBAS622: Applied Systems Thinking (2 credits)
SECOND YEAR
Fourth Trimester MBAS615: Finance II: Managerial Finance & Sustainable Capital Management (3 credits)
MBAS617: Law, Formal Regulation, & Civil Governance (3 credits)
MBAS624: Social & Environmental Enterprises (3 credits)
Fifth Trimester MBAS616: Operations in Industrial Ecosystems (3 credits)
MBAS614: New Venture Creation (3 credits)
MBAS609: Capstone Project I (2 credits)
Sixth Trimester MBAS620: Sustainable Strategy (3 credits)
MBAS607: Caring for the Human Organization (3 credits)
MBAS699: Capstone Project II (4 credits)
 

MBA Program Prerequisites

Proficiency in accounting, quantitative methods, and the use of Excel and Powerpoint is necessary for the MBA. In order to ensure proficiency we require students to complete online preparatory courses from GMAT Business ReadyTM in Accounting and Quantitative Skills, at their own expense, before they begin class.

Students should also arrange for training in basic Excel and Powerpoint skills, if needed.

Course Descriptions

Managing for Sustainability

Required Courses

EDU620 - Clear Writing Workshop

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Fall, Winter, Spring

Writing effectively is essential in every profession. This course focuses on ways to analyze the structure of professional texts and gain practice in discipline-specific professional writing. Students will select a type of writing using a real-world writing task that incorporates all phases of the writing process.

MBAS600 - Foundations of Sustainability in Business

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Winter

This course provides an overview of key concepts, historical perspectives, and state-of-the-art concepts, tools, methods and metrics within Corporate Sustainability Management (CSM), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and environmental management. This introductory business management course is predicated on the assumption that the performance of all organizations must be judged, not only in terms of their financial performance, but also by their non-financial social and environmental performance.

MBAS601 - People and Teams

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Winter

People and Teams addresses theory and practice of how individuals and groups act and interact in an organizational context with a focus on distributed and virtual teams. The course draws from research and theories in Organizational Behavior and Positive Psychology to shed light on such human dynamics as motivation, perception, decision-making, and conflict management. It addresses questions such as the following: What makes teams and organizations effective and sustainable? What are the challenges to effective teams and organizations? How can you understand your personal predilections as a team member and organizational player?

MBAS602 - Stakeholder-Based Communication, Persuasion and Negotiation

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Spring

The integration of sustainability into business expands the scope of communications beyond the traditional focus of shareholder primacy to encompass all relevant stakeholders. This course teaches students to communicate clearly, receive information discerningly, persuade convincingly, negotiate diplomatically, and report on sustainability in the context of ecological, social, and economic limits and thresholds. Foundational concepts and toolsets include: Stakeholder Theory as articulated by Freeman; Stakeholder Engagement based on AccountAbility 1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard; Ury & Fishers notion of Principled Negotiation; Lakoffs concept of Cognitive Framing; and Sustainability Reporting guided by the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Reporting Framework.

MBAS604.1 - Exploring Sustainability I: The Roots of Sustainability Leadership and Practice

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Spring

ES I: The Roots of Sustainability Leadership and Practice is the first of four sustainability short courses that are intended to illuminate the Sustainability Continuum in theory and practice (Read more about the Sustainability Continuum at: http://potash.marlboro.edu/2015/spring/confluence)
ES I focuses on the essential roots of sustainability leadership and practice, especially approaches derived from the Kinship Stage, including concepts of nature-based leadership; integration of a cosmological context; the importance of community, diversity, and intergenerational responsibility; and rediscovering a sense of place in business practice.
The class weaves together multidisciplinary readings with experiential and reflective practices to explore worldviews and business practices symbolic of the Kinship, Conquest, and Mitigation Stages of the Continuum. Critical to this class is the exploration of the roots of sustainability and un-sustainability in the context of ones personal sustainability identity and how this identity is shaped by and integrated with the broader cultural narrative. This critical background encourages new perspectives in sustainability leadership and supports the transformation to new visionary approaches to business sustainability.
The remaining Exploring Sustainability classes illuminate the remaining Stages of the Sustainability Continuum in the following ways:
- ES II, Transitioning to True Sustainability: Conscious Consumerism and the New EconomyExplores the evolution of businesses from the Mitigation to the Sustainability Stages.
- ES III, Cultivating Ecological Consciousness: Leadership Qualities and Practices for Sustainable and Flourishing BusinessesIdentifies the leadership qualities and practices necessary to make the transition from the Sustainability to the Flourishing Stages.
- ES IV, Hopeful Visions and On-the-Ground Innovations for a Flourishing WorldFocuses on understanding, defining and creating a business emblematic of the Flourishing Stage.

MBAS604.2 - Exploring Sustainability II

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS604.1 Exploring Sustainability I: The Roots of Sustainability Leadership and Practice

This course focuses on sustainable consumption, including the nature of consumption and the economic and institutional structures that shape the way we consume. Students will be exposed to several theories from economics, psychology, and sociology about how and why we consume. Lessons and understanding will also be drawn from personal experiences.

The primary objective is to leave students with a critical understanding of consumption that they can apply in designing business offerings and strategies, and in mobilizing collective action to change those structures that are barriers to sustainability. Since consumption (demand) is half the equation of microeconomics, the learning here should impact strategy, marketing and virtually all the subjects in the MBA program. This course is the second in a sequence of four courses. The four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS604.3 - Exploring Sustainability III

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Winter
  • Prerequisites: MBAS604.2 Exploring Sustainability II

This course will explore the new economics that are emerging to reflect the failure of present economic models and theories to represent the world fully, and to produce the normative goals of the political economies based on them. The focus will be on the macro-scale. The lessons begin with an examination of the shortcomings of standard economics to reflect the real world and real human beings, followed by a focus on the problems created by the growth-based economies now found in almost all countries. This course is the third in a sequence of four courses. The four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS604.4 - Exploring Sustainability IV

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS604.3 Exploring Sustainability III

In the mainstream conversation about sustainability, little or no attention is paid to the spiritual. Yet the importance of the spiritual to human well-being and fulfillment has been chronicled since antiquity. If the objective of a sustainable Earth is to be defined as some sort of flourishing, it seems unlikely that it can be attained without explicit attention to spirituality. In this course, we will pay attention by reading and discussing the writings of a group of poets, essayists, and journalists whose works probe the spiritual nexus between humans and the Earth. The readings and exercises are designed to heighten the sense of connectedness to the inner self, others, and the natural and transcendent world. This course is the final in a sequence of four courses. The four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS605.1 - Personal Leadership Development I

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS601 People and Teams

Personal Leadership Development is a sequence of four courses that explore ideas and approaches for the development of personal leadership--from personal mastery to the leadership of teams and larger organizations. In the context of reflecting and learning with peers and mentors, the course is organized around the creation of a self-directed personal leadership development plan, including goal and objective setting, progress monitoring, introspection, self-honesty, empowerment, and feedback skills. Students are encouraged to seek mentoring from individuals in sectors, industries, or roles they aspire to be part of or assume.

This first course in the sequence focuses on self-assessment and self-awareness in the personal leadership domain, personal ecology and sustainability, and the emotional intelligence leadership competencies. The prerequisite for this course is People and Teams, taught in Winter. This four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring trimester each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS605.2 - Personal Leadership Development II

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS605.1 Personal Leadership Development I

The second of the four Personal Leadership Development courses explores the realm of self-management, including restorative, contemplative, and productive self-management practices. It also addresses the emotional intelligence leadership domain of self-management and the related competencies of emotional self-control and transparency, hope and optimism, and adaptability and achievement. This four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring term each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS605.3 - Personal Leadership Development III

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Winter
  • Prerequisites: MBAS605.2 Personal Leadership Development II

The third of four Personal Leadership Development courses considers the emotional intelligence domain of social awareness and the related competencies of empathy and service to others, organizational awareness, and matching personal values to organizational strategies. It offers skill-building in coaching, listening, and communication techniques to use in challenging situations. This four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS605.4 - Personal Leadership Development IV

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS605.3 Personal Leadership Development III

The final of four Personal Leadership Development courses introduces the practice of becoming a fearless leader in learning how to lead change, especially when the future is not clear. It also considers the emotional intelligence domains of visioning and meaning-making, and using personal influence and collaborative leadership. Students also begin a leadership mentor relationship. This four-trimester course sequence begins in Spring each year, and must be taken in order.

MBAS606 - Managerial Economics

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS003 GMAT online Quantitative Skills or permission of MBAS degree chair

An introduction to the fundamentals of managerial economics, focusing on microeconomics, with three primary objectives: providing an understanding of the conventional (neoclassical) microeconomic model and how this model relates to business decision-making; providing a critique of the neoclassical model, discussing Ecological Economics, and presenting a more heterodox view of economics; and exercising a variety of analytical skills that are useful for economic analysis as well as managerial decision-making. The course will cover basic economic relationships, focusing on analysis at the margin; supply and demand theory; production theory; capital theory; profit maximization and cost minimization; firm structure; and types of markets. The critical aspect of the class will both consider how the neoclassical model becomes unrealistic, and therefore of limited value, and how the model is problematic in terms of sustainability. Substantially different economic paradigms will be explored.

Pre-requisite: Successful completion of GMAT online (http://www.gmatbusinessready.com) quantitative skills module.

MBAS607 - Caring for the Human Organization

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS601 People and Teams

A caring human organization accepts responsibility for its sustainability impacts within the workforce, on the larger community, and on the environment. It strives to create alignment among a) organizational values, purpose, and strategy, b) the way its employees are engaged and managed, and c) the consequences of its operations for social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The emphasis in this course is on designing, measuring, and managing effective human organizational systems that motivate, engage and effectively deploy the workforce to deliver on the organization's sustainability strategy. In particular, we will explore how human resource management systems (e.g., staffing, rewards, performance appraisal, training), as well as organizational transformation strategies, can be used to support a flourishing and high performance mission-driven organization.

MBAS609 - Capstone I: Planning

  • 2 credits
  • Taught in Fall, Winter, Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS610 Needs and Wants in a Sustainable Society; MBAS612 Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business; MBAS605.3 Personal Leadership Development III; MBAS604.3 Exploring Sustainability III; MBAS621 Introduction to Systems Thinking

Students enroll in Capstone I: Planning in their penultimate trimester. The course offers guidance and support as students plan their response to the problem or opportunity they have identified. Each student completes a project proposal in his or her own website with the support of others in the class, course faculty and their Program Director. Deliverables for this phase include: completion of a comprehensive project proposal document and the first two pages of students individual Capstone websites, and creation and delivery of an elevator pitch  a very brief statement that communicates their Capstone project.

Capstone involves both process and product. Students engage in the process of identifying a problem or opportunity, planning and carrying out a project, and reflecting on their learning. During the two-trimester process, students create products including a completed website, a project deliverable designed to solve the problem or address the opportunity, and an elevator pitch. There is a strong focus on ensuring an agile approach to planning and implementation and on clear, professional communication. Together process and product provide students with a deep learning experience during their last two trimesters at the Graduate School.

MBAS610 - Needs and Wants in a Sustainable Society

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS601 People and Teams

Defining needs and wants broadly - to include but not remain limited within a conventional marketing perspective - this course examines and works with the practical dimensions of designing, pricing, distributing and informing/persuading stakeholders about a product or service. Includes marketing management and strategy, brands, cause-related marketing, social marketing and critical perspectives on marketing and the consumer society in ecological and globalization contexts, including the life-cycle (LCA) view of products, the bottom-of-pyramid perspective and the notion of sustainable consumption.

Prerequisite: Proficiency in using Power Point

MBAS612 - Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS002 GMAT online Accounting or permission of MBAS degree chair

Mixing financial and managerial accounting, with an emphasis on the latter, this course examines the theory and practice of identifying and analyzing financial and managerial accounting information, including the application of triple-bottom-line criteria, primarily for internal use by managers for decision-making. The course will focus on developing the financial skills necessary to be an effective manager of a project, program or organization. Topics include financial and non-financial performance measurement, internal control and risk, cost behavior and decision making and cost allocation and financial planning and control systems. The course also explores emerging measurement systems in use by values-driven organizations.

Pre-requisite: Successful completion of GMAT online (http://www.gmatbusinessready.com) financial accounting module.

MBAS613 - Macroeconomics and Political Economy

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Winter
  • Prerequisites: MBAS003 GMAT online Quantitative Skills or permission of MBAS degree chair

In this course, the economics of individuals, households, firms, and other actors are considered in the context of regional, national, and global economies. The uses and limitations of conventional macroeconomic theory in these larger contexts are examined. Ecological Economic and Heterodox Economic Paradigms will be considered. Business cycles, monetary and fiscal policies, the role(s) of the governments, trade, economic globalization, and long-term sustainability are analyzed from both a practical standpoint (i.e., one of pragmatic relevance to investors, managers, and entrepreneurs) and a critical standpoint, using such alternative frames as ecological economics, political economy, critiques of globalization, and social and economic justice.

Pre-requisite: Successful completion of GMAT online (http://www.gmatbusinessready.com) quantitative skills module.

MBAS614 - New Venture Creation

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS601 People and Teams; MBAS610 Needs and Wants in a Sustainable Society; MBAS612 Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business; MBAS621 Introduction to Systems Thinking

This course serves as an introduction to the nature of entrepreneurial endeavor, and the skills and insight required to successfully develop and manage entrepreneurial ventures. In particular, we will look at the role of entrepreneurship as a culture changing activity, and how entrepreneurial ventures can serve as change agents for sustainability. It will also be an opportunity to explore the use of traditional entrepreneurial skills in non-traditional or innovative contexts with respect to sustainability. Entrepreneurial ventures are typically successful team efforts. The course will be organized around entrepreneurial teams, each working to develop and launch a new venture. The venture can be a for-profit, non-profit, a social enterprise or other hybrid, or a corporate venture or other form of intrapreneurship. Ideally, the organizational spark for the teams will come from ideas brought by students. Teams will develop a complete business plan and related presentation materials. In short, we will work towards forming actual businesses in the course of the trimester. We will use the tools of collaborative teamwork, business plan development and the presentation as key forums for exploring the entrepreneurial dynamic. We will also to use this as an ongoing forum to discuss the role of entrepreneurial endeavor in sustainable practice.

MBAS615 - Finance II: Corporate Finance and Sustainable Capital Management

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Winter
  • Prerequisites: MBAS612 Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business

This course builds on the foundation established in Finance I. The capital management of ongoing ventures and the start-up financing of new ventures are both explored. Topics include debt and equity financing, with specific emphasis on capital investment decisions, capital structure, initial public stock offerings, dividend decisions, working capital management, financial risk management and the interface with capital markets. The relationship among sustainable performance, triple-bottom-line criteria and investor and other stakeholder expectations is thoroughly examined, with particular reference to financing alternatives, including entrepreneurial financing opportunities and their investment and return criteria. Throughout, the similarities and contrasts among financial, human, social and natural capital will be explored.

MBAS616 - Operations in Industrial Ecosystems

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS610 Needs and Wants in a Sustainable Society; MBAS615 Finance II: Corporate Finance and Sustainable Capital Management; MBAS605.3 Personal Leadership Development III; MBAS604.3 Exploring Sustainability III; MBAS622 Applied Systems Thinking

This course brings together a variety of concepts and practices from manufacturing, services, IT and natural resource and waste industries to cultivate in students an operations perspective with sustainability as its overarching benchmark. Operations management is defined, and the roles of plant managers, industrial engineers, quality experts, line supervisors and supply chain managers are explored. Special emphasis is placed on modern knowledge-intensive operations, and on the use of teams, outsourcing, flexible production, just-in-time MRP, kaizen, Six Sigma and other currently relevant practices. This course also includes a close look at management systems/standards of relevance to sustainability strategies, including ISO 9000, ISO 14001, EMAS and ISO 26000. Other topics include the value chain and industrial ecology.

MBAS617 - Law, Formal Regulation, and Civil Governance

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Winter

This course explores formal systems created by humans to govern society, especially its economic and resource dimensions. Law, civil governance, and policy are studied and analyzed in relation to private property, public goods and the commons, business and market efficiency, social justice, and sustainability. Basic concepts of business law, environmental and natural resource law, and tort law are surveyed. The emerging civil governance regime, pertaining to environmental, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and sustainability objectives, is explored, and its power analyzed in relation to binding state laws and regulations.

MBAS620 - Sustainable Strategy

  • 3 credits
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS601 People and Teams; MBAS610 Needs and Wants in a Sustainable Society; MBAS612 Finance I: Managerial Accounting for Sustainable Business; MBAS621 Introduction to Systems Thinking

The Sustainable Strategy course concerns the strategic management process and the tough choices managers in for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid organizations have to make about the future. It concerns strategic thinking about purpose, strategic intent and planning, as well as strategy implementation and change in times of turbulence. The course explores why and how key strategic decisions are made and implemented in organizations, within both conventional and sustainability contexts. Strategy frameworks for application in business and other organizational contexts are explored, as well as generic models used to develop and apply strategy. An application of the strategy "toolkit," especially the use of the business model canvas and strategy mapping, are combined with development of consulting skills, which are of significant importance to successful outcomes. Consulting skills are taught and then applied through assignments with real organizations to generate insights and useful recommendations on strategic projects identified by clients.

MBAS621 - Introduction to Systems Thinking

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Spring

This course introduces the concepts and tools of systems thinking. Creating sustainability within organizations, businesses and the world requires paradigmatic shifts, and insights into how to effectively create change. Systems thinkers have shown that the effective levers of change are often counter-intuitive, or only become obvious when the mental model which structures them is revealed. This course uses diverse readings and models to develop competence and comfort with systems thinking analysis and prepare students for Applied Systems Thinking.

MBAS622 - Applied Systems Thinking

  • 2 credits
  • Taught in Fall
  • Prerequisites: MBAS621 Introduction to Systems Thinking

In order to make transformational, lasting change that makes a positive difference, organizations need to help steer the systems they are embedded in: they need to apply systems thinking. This course will give students the opportunity to apply the basic concepts of systems thinking through a practical project-based hands on approach. They will learn how to apply simple, yet powerful, systems thinking tools and processes to facilitate learning and steer change.

MBAS623 - Introduction to Social Enterprise

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Winter

This course examines the structures that social and environmental enterprises currently use to accomplish their missions -nonprofit organizations, traditional for profits, L3Cs, B Corporations, cooperatives and other business forms that place Planet and People ahead of, or on an equal footing with Profit. The course contemplates the advantages and disadvantages of using these forms to accomplish these missions, how they should be adopted or modified, and whether society should devise other structures to further these missions. In a full-day workshop, students will be introduced to a taxonomy of social enterprises and will hear from a panel of individuals who have been involved in the launch of a range of innovative business models. They will then undertake a group project in which they explore financing options for an alternative business model. In a final session, students will present their projects and reflect on their learnings.

MBAS699 - Capstone II: Implementing

  • 4 credits
  • Taught in Fall, Winter, Spring
  • Prerequisites: MBAS609 Capstone I: Planning

Students enroll in Capstone II: Implementing in their final trimester and complete their Capstone project thereby completing a key degree requirement. Supported by an Advisor, students: create the deliverable planned in Capstone I; deliver a formal presentation of his/her project; participate in a conversation about what they have learned doing the Capstone and their course of study; and submit their completed Capstone website, which includes a written Project Summary and Retrospective on Learning. Students Capstones are assessed on a pass/fail basis.

Capstone involves both process and product. Students engage in the process of identifying a problem or opportunity, planning and carrying out a project, and reflecting on their learning. During the two-trimester process, students create products including a completed website, a project deliverable designed to solve the problem or address the opportunity, and an elevator pitch. There is a strong focus on ensuring an agile approach to planning and implementation and on clear, professional communication. Together process and product provide students with a deep learning experience during their last two trimesters at the Graduate School.

Elective Courses

MBAS670 - Capstone Extension

  • Variable credits

Register for this zero credit class to complete Capstone work.

MDO616 - Nonprofit Seminar

  • 1 credit
  • Taught in Fall, Winter, Spring

Short topic courses covering various aspects of nonprofit management and mission driven organizations.