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Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program

Friday, May. 6, 2011

Pilot programs are risky, especially ones that involve undergraduate business students, two-hour long Friday night meetings and entire Saturdays spent away from the Santa Clara bubble. But the Contemplative Leadership and Sustainability Program (CLASP), now in its second year in the Leavey School of Business, only seems to be gaining momentum.

Created last year by leadership lecturer Bill Mains, sustainability director Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner and John Braverman, S.J., CLASP aims to build critical leadership skills while fostering business students' knowledge about sustainability and its place in the modern marketplace. CLASP is designed within the context of a Jesuit framework and encourages students to contemplate their personal values, specifically as they relate to sustainability, and reflect upon how they will make professional choices that align with those values.

CLASP developed from a conversation between Mains and Braverman during the fall of 2009. "Many students in the business school appeared to be interested in sustainability, but did not have many resources available to them for exploring the topic as it applies to business," said Mains. The two approached campus sustainability director Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner about designing the program, who enthusiastically agreed. After initial funding in its first year from a Bannan Grant supported by the Ignatian Center, CLASP is now supported by Undergraduate Business Programs.

Roughly one Friday a month, participants meet for a presentation from their peers about how fields like economics, accounting and marketing are addressing the issue of sustainability. Student talks are followed by guest lectures. Professionals from non-profits and big business alike share how sustainability affects their companies, sparking impressive Friday night dialogue. "Most of the guests have remarked about how refreshing it was for them to spend time with such inquisitive and enthusiastic people. It recharged them and gave them a renewed sense of purpose to continue their sustainability work," said Kalkbrenner.

The following Saturday the students go for a hike at area open spaces like Castle Rock and Big Basin State Park, where they reflect on how to align their future professional behavior with their personal values. The group usually meets back on campus for an evening meal and discussion.

The program has been refined in its second year. "We really wanted to emphasize the interpersonal relationships and social justice aspects of sustainability this year, so we added two service days to our schedule," Kalkbrenner said. In early spring, business students helped pound nails and paint trim at a Habitat For Humanity location in Morgan Hill. And more recently planted tomatoes and peppers at the Bronco Urban Gardens Farm in Hollister.

Many students had little exposure to the idea of sustainability before CLASP. "I only had the most basic understanding of sustainability and wanted to learn more," said 2011 participant David Bibee, '13. "Also, I figured that understanding sustainability in the context of business would be invaluable for my future as a business professional," added Bibee.

Graduates from the Leavey School of Business are highly sought after by employers, which is all the more reason for students to have an understanding about sustainability. "I believe that business leaders are in one of the best positions to really affect how society deals with sustainability, and by leading the way in developing more sustainable practices, I believe that business leaders will encourage others to do the same," said Bibee.

As a finance and religious studies double major, Bibee has truly enjoyed the discussions involving sustainability and spirituality as he sees an enormous connection between the two. "I have really enjoyed bringing in spirituality and God into the discussion of sustainability. I believe that caring for the world is a Divine Mandate which we received from God, and it is honoring to God when we consider how we can best take care of it," he said.

Only in its second year, CLASP has plenty of momentum behind it. "Ideally, I would like to develop shadowing, internship, and employment opportunities for students. I am also interested in connecting our business students to opportunities that explore sustainability in a global context," said Mains.

But for now, Mains is pleased with the success of the program and its participants. "It is truly an honor to work with them and play a small role in their formation into leaders of competence, conscious, and compassion," he added.

Emily Orbanek, '11
Sustainability Intern

Tags: Community Engagement, Education and Research, Program Highlights, Spirituality, Student Life

 

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