The Environmental and Risk Management MBA major was primed for change when Samantha Klug, WG’19, reached out to Assistant Prof. Sarah Light and Assistant Prof. Arthur van Benthem to discuss reconfiguring it with additional content and options.
“One of the reasons why I came to Wharton is because there is an academic focus and extracurricular focus on sustainability, which is really important to me and my career path,” Samantha said. In collaboration with the Wharton Sustainable Business Coalition, she surveyed student groups like the Energy Club to see what other MBAs wanted in preparation for careers in clean energy, corporate sustainability, and even food and agriculture.
“We sent that data off to Prof. Light and she came back and said, ‘OK, done! We created it for you.’”
The BEES Major
The major has since been renamed Business, Energy, Environment and Sustainability, or “BEES.” It allows MBAs to count up to two non-Wharton classes towards their requirements. “At Penn, there are so many interesting cross-disciplinary things going on that I felt like I really wanted to take advantage of that,” Samantha said. “Working with Prof. Light to figure out what are the right classes in the sustainability space across design, environmental science, and Wharton was really helpful.”
“Several changes are substantive — it’s not just the name,” said Light. “Faculty who teach in environment and risk management had been talking about broadening and updating the major to increase student interest, and we brought in faculty in management who hadn’t taught this area before. We added additional relevant courses from other departments. Prof. Witold Henisz teaches a course in Corporate Diplomacy that uses so many cases related to energy and the environment.”
For Samantha, optimizing the sustainability focus at Wharton is enriching more than just her own education. “My personal belief is that sustainability is something that every single consultant — especially consultants working in operations — is going to have to know in order to be successful in the future,” she said. “So for me, as much as it’s a passion, it’s also a strategic skill-building exercise.”
She was an EDF Climate Corps Fellow this past summer, where she trained with 100 other Fellows before interning with Under Armour’s sustainability team. She’ll be bringing the skills she built there and at Wharton to her upcoming position at Accenture, in sustainability and operation strategy.
Samantha recently led a trip to the Appalachian Trail as a Venture Fellow, one from a range of Wharton leadership opportunities she had been eager to explore. Her first venture to Antarctica last year convinced her to get involved. She reflected: “It was one of the more transformative experiences I’ve had at Wharton. I made really deep connections with the people on my team, and knew that was something that I wanted to facilitate for other people.” Spring break will see Samantha working on similar exercises at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Utah.
Back on campus, she’s co-president of the Wharton Sustainable Business Coalition (WSBC) — she describes it as a student component of Wharton IGEL, the Penn-wide Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership. “WSBC tries to support people like me who are interested in a career path in sustainability with academic and professional resources, and then connect the broader audience of people who are more peripherally interested in the space to talk about their interests and educate people who might not even be thinking about sustainability.”
By initiating speaker events, social gatherings, and knowledge campaigns, Samantha hopes to prompt new audiences to think about sustainability in their relative spaces, whether those be financial services or retail. “Sustainability is a lens,” she said. “It’s a lens you apply to a function or a lens you apply to an industry. I want to run our club that way.”
— Gloria Yuen with reporting by Kelly Andrews
Posted: December 17, 2018