Sustainable Global Enterprise – An Experience in Combining Perspectives

by Sheffin Joseph, MRP ‘15 (4/22/16)

Sheffin Joseph, MRP ‘15

Stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in a different field of study.

One of my favorite things about Cornell is the opportunity it provides students to go outside their department and “immerse” themselves in different fields of study. One such opportunity is the Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion (SGE) at the Johnson Graduate School of Business. An immersion can be thought of as an experiential learning project for business students that gives students a chance to work with real world clients on consulting projects. SGE specifically focuses on projects that have some mix of social, economic and/or environmental goals. The SGE immersion is available to non-Johnson students and selection is based on a competitive application. As a master’s student in City Planning, SGE gave me a great opportunity to work with students from a variety of backgrounds on a real consulting project.

Each of the non-Johnson students are placed in a team of 2-3 Johnson students with a unique client and project. The clients range from small start-ups and non-profits to large multi-national corporations. The projects are also quite diverse. For instance, my team worked on a project to determine the best country to locate a manufacturing facility in the Asia-Pacific region for a benefit corporation. In order to create a recommendation, we had to address many criteria including labor conditions, wages, tariffs, and taxes among many others factors. It was a great experience in understanding the complexities involved in expanding a business globally.

The best part of the immersion was the opportunity to work closely with business students and a real world client. It was a great chance to face the scrutiny of clients who actually depended on our analysis and proposals to make decisions that might have major implications for their company and stakeholders. It was also especially illuminating to see the different perspectives that different disciplines such as City Planning, Public Policy, and Engineering can bring to business problems.

Another highlight of the program was our treks to New York City and Washington D.C. During our trek, we visited multiple organizations to see what they were doing at the frontiers of sustainability. Some highlights included the NYC Metro Transit Authority, several tech startups, and an impact investing firm. I gained exposure to many different and exciting initiatives in the world of sustainability that I had never heard of before.

I would highly recommend that more non-johnson students take advantage of the SGE opportunity, especially if they have an interest in understanding the role that the private sector can play in promoting social, economic and/or environmental sustainability.