Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Interdisciplinary Cooperation...Something New?


The scale of the global challenge that is called climate change seems to be dawning upon our institutions of higher education. I was pleased to see one of my BGI classmates post this recent article from the NYTimes, A Threat So Big, Academics Try Collaboration, highlighting the multi-disciplinary "sustainability" centers popping up around the country over the past five years or so. I was surprised to see that there were so many, though I knew that some of the universities mentioned in the article, Duke, Michigan, Yale etc., had ranked highly in the Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey on business schools that integrated social responsibility in their curriculum at some level. (image from Mills Lawn School)

The cynic in me can only think that there are enough wealthy graduates that are looking to plop their name on some "Center for saving the Planet" at [Insert Name Here] University. But, you know what? If it takes the increasing cultural popularity of greenness and the growing understanding of the risks associated with climate change to get some money thrown at the problem, I suppose we'll take it.

The concept of working across disciplines is something that we should be working on in all capacities. There is a convergence of technology and society happening and a broadening of the gap between the haves and have-nots. Working alone will not solve the complex and global issues we are facing with energy, water, poverty, and environmental concerns. Not too long ago, the rage was the "Technology" MBA, perhaps I am part of the next wave of MBA innovation, the "Sustainable" MBA. I can say one thing , working across silos is something we are working on; social justice runs right alongside economics and accounting. It is fascinating to see the parallels and glaring blond spots disciplines have. Part of our job is to recognize those blind spots, call them out for what they are, and work to close them with the assistance of professionals and advocates that can help fill the gap. It's recognizing the gap from where we are and where we want to be on a organizational level, and working to close that gap.

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