November 18, 2008

Schools Come Together to Create Sustainability Course

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In an effort to increase the sustainability of the Cornell community and the world, the Johnson Graduate School of Management and the School of Hotel Administration have teamed up to create a course for all students, Sustainable Global Enterprise Practicum in the Hospitality Industry. This course gives both undergraduates and graduates the chance to learn about sustainability and, in conjunction with HEI Hotels & Resorts, perform fieldwork and research in the real world.
Former president Jeffrey S. Lehman issued a call to action during his tenure as University President, which spanned from 2003 to 2005. Increasing sustainability would be one of his three overarching goals.
Since, Cornell has seen the formation of a number of different organizations on campus, including the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise. Both of these organizations have led to increased awareness and development of sustainable practices on campus and beyond.
Prof. Mark Milstein, director of the CSGE, is the instructor for this new course. The Center joined forces with the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneur-ship, directed by Tom Ward, along with support from HEI Hotels and Resorts, to deliver a real world-oriented course for students to research and apply sustainability principles to the world in the age of globalization.
­The course, which spans the last seven weeks of the fall semester and the first seven weeks of the spring semester was the brainchild of Milstein and Ward. “I wanted to see more sustainability content [on campus]. This is an overlap of social and environmental issues [as they relate to sustainability and hospitality],” Milstein said.
The 15 students enrolled in the course, which include students from the College of Arts & Sciences, the hotel school and the business school, spent the first class scoping out projects to work on throughout the semester.
With the help of HEI Hotel & Resorts, a thriving hotel ownership company run by two brothers who are hotel school graduates, three principles were developed to focus on for projects. Students then had the opportunity to visit HEI’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn., to meet the owners and leaders of the corporation. “We believe this course will benefit the students, sponsoring companies and environment,” Gary Mendell ’79, co-founder of HEI Hotels & Resorts, stated in a press release.
The students will spend the rest of this semester planning their projects and will put their plans into action over winter break. This is the reason that the timing of the class was structured as it was, to allow for sufficient time to get out in the field to work.
The incorporation of this course into Cornell’s course roster serves two important purposes. First, it paves the way for more courses given by schools collaborating together. “We hope to form cross-collaboration linkages with many other programs,” Milstein said.
The Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, backed by the Johnson School, has already been to work with the College of Engineering in creating a management degree program. In the future they hope to work with the Applied Economics and Management program in CALS and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “It’s this cross-collaboration which keeps [our center] going,” Milstein said.
Secondly, the inception of this course brings sustainability more to the forefront of Cornell’s academic community.
“The hospitality industry must take the lead in confronting social and environmental issues such as global poverty, climate change and ecosystem degradation. Through this partnership, we aim to help students fully appreciate the need for sustainable business practices,” Tom Ward said in a press release.
Cornell is on the right track to becoming a sustainable community and teaching students the principles of sustainability. “We are in a nice position of growth right now. But, there is a lot more we could be doing,” Milstein said.
He hopes that with initiatives like developing more courses like Sustainable Global Enterprise Practicum in the Hospitality Industry, Cornell will continue this growth, improving on what it’s doing to create a more sustainable world.