Polly Chandler, MEd '05Chair, Department of Management
Sustainability's Champion of Champions
When Polly Chandler began as chair of the Department of Organization and Management (O&M) at Antioch University New England (AUNE), a student could earn an MBA in Sustainability (Green MBA) just one way—a 24-month program of weekend classes. Since then another avenue has been added: a twelve-month accelerated option.
To Chandler, the expansion of options promises more sustainability champions in the workplace. "If we can graduate more students, we can really tend to the planet and effect change," Chandler said. "If they're all advocating for environmental sustainability, that's where the hope for the future starts to build."
A Childhood Outdoors
Chandler has been an advocate of the outdoors since growing up in Minnesota, where she spent much of her childhood swimming, fishing, hiking and biking. After earning a bachelor's degree in resource management and environmental science from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, she moved to the East Coast. She taught students of all ages, including adults, about science and nature and worked for environmental organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In 2004, Chandler and her husband, after a cross-country journey, landed in Keene. She went to work for Antioch New England Institute and earned a master's in administration and supervision from AUNE. During her graduate work, she also served as the service learning coordinator for Keene State College. After directing the Tomey Center for the O&M Department, she was asked to manage the Green MBA program and later, in 2008, was named department chair.
Out in the Field
When Chandler taught in secondary schools, her colleagues called her the "Field Trip Queen." She continues her reign by incorporating field experiences into all her courses and, last fall, introducing to the accelerated MBA program the AUNE version of a field trip, the learning journey. Each learning journey is nested into a specific course. Next fall's learning journey is open to students from each of the Green MBA options. "This is where it all comes together, and it's been wildly successful," Chandler said.
It's a basic tenet of AUNE philosophy that students spend time in the world outside the campus to test the theories they're learning and to engage with their field. Through the learning journeys' multiday tours, other field experience and practicum, students do just that, learning how companies put sustainability into practice. They don't just sit and listen to company executives, Chandler said; they engage in professional dialogue.
In one of Chandler's courses, the students went to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury, Vermont. There they homed in on the fact that, in 2006, the company had bought Keurig Inc., which made the K-cup. Instead of bagging coffee, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was now putting most of it in little plastic cups. The company recognized that it had an environmental challenge and was working to solve the waste stream problem.
"Our students were taking them on about the waste stream," Chandler said. "They asked about the supply chain, the cost of cups, the cost of the waste stream. … It allowed them to untangle all the threads and see how things work." The environmental staff at Green Mountain and O&M students had a professional conversation about options and future planning.
Off to Change the World
Green MBA students take their AUNE experience and education with them after graduation. Some have started their own businesses. Some have joined companies where they hope to make changes. "Others have worked in a company and transformed their position to include sustainability-'intrapreneurs,' " Chandler said. "A lot of students see that as a way to drive change." One student, for example, is the sustainability coordinator at Clark College; another is vice president of a solar company.
To Chandler's surprise, the recent recession turned out to be a real boon for the field of sustainability. As the price of oil rose, "it made people think about energy consumption," she said. "The bottom line has driven many business decisions, and we prepare our students to think about the triple bottom line: instead of a company focusing on just the dollar, we're looking at the environmental and human aspects, as well."
It's not only the students who are encountering a new program. Chandler said she's impressed by O&M faculty and staff. "Many transitioned from our MS in leadership program. That's a big shift, and I couldn't be more proud of faculty for stepping into the transition with genuine passion for the MBA in Sustainability."