Suiting up to protect the planet

IoES introduces a new undergraduate course for spring quarter with a focus on entrepreneurship and finance

Environmental professionals need a wide-ranging portfolio of competencies to suitably stand-up to climate risks. With a new addition to the curriculum, the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s (IoES) undergraduate degree program expands its academic holdings to include instruction in financial affairs.

The Institute’s Environmental Science major and Environmental Systems and Society minor were designed to be multidisciplinary, combining the sciences with math, humanities, and more. For the first time in the program’s nine-year history, a course will explore how to succeed in business and safeguard the environment.

Environment 188A – Entrepreneurship and Finance for Environmental Scientists, will cover entrepreneurial and financial aspects of implementing environmental projects in private, public, and nonprofit settings. Topics to be addressed include basic elements of finance, project evaluation, financial planning, and marketing.

The course will emphasize the development of entrepreneurial skills to recognize opportunities and transfer ideas into viable projects to better the environment. Case studies will help equip students with the tools necessary to successfully execute environmental objectives.

Instructor Melike Bulu-Taciroglu elaborated on the syllabus:

“The class will cover the basics of financial reports, financial ratios, time value of money, project evaluation methods such as internal rate of return, and decision-making under uncertainty as well as environmental entrepreneurship and financing in NGOs and public agencies,” she said.

Taciroglu continued, “We put together content that would best help students when they are out in the workplace. We received input from a pool of professionals and asked them what skills they would like to see in students who are applying for positions in their organizations. In the second half of the course these professionals will come in as guest lecturers to share their experiences with the students.”

Xiaoyun Xu, a third-year Environmental Science major, elected to take the class because she is interested in how to use financial tools to evaluate and promote environmental projects, and how businesses can make money by treating the environment well. Through the course she hopes to get a better understanding of market solutions to environmental problems.

Environmental Systems and Society minor Jenna Hoover enrolled because she is interested in a career in sustainability consulting and believes the class, especially the finance portion, will help her develop skills that will be useful in this field. Jenna said, “I hope to better articulate the financial costs and benefits for companies when they adopt sustainable practices.”

Entrepreneurship and Finance for Environmental Scientists is a result of feedback from the Institute’s Advisory Board, as well as outside counsel, that Environmental Science students needed a better understanding of investment and enterprise. A private donation made this new course possible, creating the opportunity for students to acquire a more solid foundation in business concepts that will serve them in a variety of sectors.

“It is important that tomorrow’s environmental workforce is equipped with this specific knowledge and skill set so that they can create a viable market for their ideas and better defend their positions from a financial point of view, in addition to an ethical one,” said Taciroglu.

She added, “After taking this class students will see the financing not as a hurdle that stands in the way of implementing their ideas to better the environment, but as a necessary aspect of bringing ideas to reality.”