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Presidio Graduate School acquires Pinchot University — powerhouse, anybody?

They were the first to offer pure sustainability-focused graduate management programs. Already leaders, what will the merger bring?

Presidio Graduate School (PGS) and Pinchot University, the two universities most distinguished for their sustainability management programs, announced they've joined forces, with San Francisco-based PGS acquiring metro Seattle-based Pinchot.

Using "sustainable" in the financial sense, the acquisition ensures longevity of the organizations.

"Internally, this acquisition gives us the added bandwidth we’ve been looking for in our goal to expand our network and reach in the business community. With the clarity and similarity of our missions and values, the two together as one are stronger and more robust in seeking a just and resilient world," said Suzanne Farver, chair of the PGS board. 

Talent Show spoke with PGS alum Danielle Ginach Jezienicki, who said that if she were applying today, she would be highly encouraged by the acquisition. It will bring together the two top sustainability programs, "establishing them as the leading program for professionals dedicated to learning more about and implementing sustainable business practices."

We also spoke with Pinchot alum Grace Carlson, who said that she is "delighted with the partnership. Not only has my alumni base doubled two months after graduation but we have joined forces with an incredible institution."

The former Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Pinchot says on its website that it launched the nation’s first MBA in Sustainable Business in 2002. It is located on IslandWood just outside Seattle. Presidio was founded in 2003. 

"The two pioneer organizations have been the No. 1 and No. 2 sustainable MBA programs for over a decade and have a long history of sharing faculty and collaborative student and alumni/ae ventures," the two schools said in a statement announcing their merger.

"Both schools’ missions are focused on creating effective business leaders who establish and sustain frameworks that ensure profitability and progress aligned with the common good."

Benefits of the combination

Location, location, location: Students will find more choices in where to conduct their studies. PGS will launch an online program in 2017, giving incoming students the flexibility to choose from two hybrid programs in San Francisco and Islandwood, a Seattle-based Metro program, or a remote online experience, catering to a variety of learning needs.

Program options: While the curriculum won’t change, those who would’ve attended Pinchot now have access to PGS’ sustainable MPA and dual-degree (with MBA) programs, which are unique to PGS.

Increased reach: With a larger student and alumni base, the university can bolster its collective impact upon society by placing more alumni into responsible business and policy decision-making positions.  

International draw: The addition of Pinchot’s Seattle-based Metro program will attract a more global student body, as it is able to accept international students. A more international alumni will bring a global perspective to the organization that has been missing on the PGS side, as its hybrid programs did not allow for international students to garner a visa to attend.

Stability: Running a small MBA program is not cheap. Without thousands of students and large endowments, these small schools struggle to keep finances in order. Pinchot, the smaller of the two schools and the one acquired, was rumored to be in financial trouble. This solution will support stability for this unique MBA.

In today’s MBA landscape, it’s become increasingly common to see traditional business school programs that offer a sustainability track or certificate.

Essential not the exception

In today’s MBA landscape, it’s become increasingly common to see traditional business school programs that offer a sustainability track or certificate. So what sets this now double-threat, fully integrated sustainability curricula apart from the conventional MBA program with a sustainability side program?

Jezienicki noted that, unlike a standard MBA program that may tack on some sustainability classes to a long-standing core curriculum, PGS and Pinchot programs "provide students with a fully integrated curriculum as well as the irreplaceable hands-on experience that has no substitute in building the critical skills required of sustainability practitioners."

There are differing views on the best sustainability management programs. U.S. News & World Report lists its favorite environmental policy and management programs as Indiana University, University of Washington and, tied for third, Duke University and University of California, Berkeley.

Net Impact, meanwhile, lists University of California, Santa Barbara, Presidio (PGS) and Pinchot as its top three picks.

So is the world waking up to the value of this type of "all-in" sustainability education? School President Mark Schulman says yes.

"There’s been no better time to be a part of this movement. Old School MBAs with 'sustainability tracks' are just what that implies: add-ons that don’t achieve critical mass. We go deeper and seek more long-term and profound answers than traditional MBAs. We’ll redouble those efforts as one institution," he said.

Today’s complicated world problems require an adaptable, resilient workforce educated in the intersectionality of sustainability issues and business acumen. The argument is that PGS graduates can translate "business speak," but then actually go out and apply it to environmental and social real world issues with a toolkit of responsible, sustainable practices.

What the combined PGS and Pinchot says set its graduates apart in the workforce is that they receive the same training as the traditional MBA, "but are also uniquely trained in leadership and disruptive systems thinking that helps us not only survive but thrive in a competitive business landscape," explained Tanya Weliky, school's marketing director.

Logistically speaking

For this fall, the roughly 190 enrolled students (150 at PGS and 40 at Pinchot) will see little change. The rollout of curriculum and structure shifts will take some time. On the other hand, the two programs are so aligned that the curriculum may not see large shifts.  

Administrative operations will be headquartered at PGS’ San Francisco offices. Pinchot’s faculty and curriculum will stay intact under the leadership of Schulman, who has been president of PGS.  

The combined alumni network will total over 1,500 graduates. These alumni represent both the public and private sector at all levels of the supply chain, including agriculture, food, waste, green building, technology, environment, healthcare and social impact.

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