James Conway, MBA '17
Graziadio Spotlight Stories
"I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and protecting the environment, so when I was thinking about getting my MBA I was particularly intrigued by the Social, Environmental, and Ethical Responsibility (SEER) program at the Graziadio Business School. I first learned about the SEER concentration a few years ago when Dr. Michael Crooke, who founded the SEER program, spoke at the City of Santa Monica’s Sustainable Quality Awards. It was inspiring to hear Dr. Crooke address the importance of social, environmental and ethical responsibility in the business world. I remember him talking about how sustainability needs to be embedded into every business that hopes to remain competitively successful in the long run."
A Steward of the Environment
"Being a steward of the environment – both personally and professionally – comes naturally to me. Since my childhood, I have felt a deep connection to the natural environment. As much as I love being around people, I feel most alive, connected, and reinvigorated when in nature. It provides me with an endless source of inspiration. On a professional level, I work in one of the most progressive sustainable cities in the world. The City of Santa Monica places a tremendous amount of value not only on its own well-being, but on the well-being of those who surround it, and relies on that for its success. The SEER program provided a wonderful complement to the work that I am involved in with the City.
The SEER program provides a multi-dimensional decision-making process that examines the impacts of companies from various social, ethical, environmental, and financial perspectives. This holistic approach to business ensures that companies will make less myopic decisions and take more long-term strategic approaches to preserving their success. One of the things I enjoyed most about the program was the ongoing connections between the various subject areas. Every professor required that we apply the content from previous courses. The SEER professors and curriculum reinforced that the most valuable assets of a company are often times the intangible ones such as culture, brand, employees, and the ability to innovate."
What Sets the City of Santa Monica Apart?
"The City of Santa Monica prides itself on being a leader in the sustainability movement.
The City works closely with all of its constituents to ensure that a forum exists
for every person. Residents and businesses align dynamically with the City to create
a vibrant local community that is internationally recognized. The City’s Green Business
Certification program is a great example of how residents, entrepreneurs, and civic
leaders can come together to create a vibrant sustainable local economy. This is just
one example of a socially conscious and financially viable program that benefits the
local economy, environment, and municipal operations. The multiple stakeholders have
joined in advancing the City’s Sustainable City Plan goals for reaching carbon neutrality,
water self-sufficiency, and zero waste.
I’ve been able to apply the financial, analytical, marketing, and strategic planning skills I’ve learned in the MBA program to my current job as a Senior Sustainability Analyst with the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. One of the cutting-edge initiatives that I am currently working on with the City is the goal of reaching a carbon neutral sustainable vehicle fleet by 2030. The City is using a combination of hybrid, all-electric, and renewable natural gas vehicles to convert its fleet and reduce the impact from greenhouse gasses. I think this approach will pay dividends for the City of Santa Monica and as Michael Crooke stated, “Businesses and municipalities that don’t address sustainability are going to be left behind.”
Flexible, Convenient and Rigorous Program
"My experience at the Graziadio Business School has been amazing. I formed incredible relationships with the professors and lifetime friendships with many of my peers. I would encourage prospective students who are interested in sustainability to apply for the SEER program. The professors challenged us throughout the program. The flexibility of the program was very important to me. I work full-time and have a family, so having a MBA program that was both close to home and work was very convenient.
Having grown up in Africa, Asia, and Europe, I appreciated having an international perspective from the foreign students and professors. I look forward to staying involved with the Graziadio community after graduating. Recently, I worked with SEER professor Rob Bikel to host Graziadio students at the City of Santa Monica so they can learn first-hand how the City is adopting environmental practices. Professor Rob Bikel has continued to showcase the ability of businesses to be financially successful while ethically and environmentally responsible through the annual SEER Symposium. This is what it’s all about for me – constantly innovating and working together to build a more sustainable future for the current and future generations."