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Lillis Hall on the University of Oregon campus is home to the Lundquist College of Business. (Emerald Archives)

In response to high student demand, the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business is now offering a new minor in sustainable business. About a dozen other universities have similar minor programs, including Loyola, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wyoming. The minor’s first courses will begin in winter 2020, but non-business and accounting majors can enroll in the minor starting this fall.

These courses will be at home at the Lundquist College of Business. The Lillis Complex, which houses the business school, is one of the most environmentally friendly business school facilities in the country, according to the college’s website.

The business school also offers a sustainability-concentrated MBA program ranked sixth in the nation by the Princeton Review, as well as the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and the student group Net Impact, which is dedicated to preparing students to make a positive impact on the world.

It was the members of Net Impact who were the catalyst of the new minor. Izabel Loinaz, Net Impact’s faculty advisor, called members of the group “the Gretas of the world,” referring to Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who led a global climate strike on Sept. 20.

With no official route to get an education in sustainable business as an undergraduate, the students began taking classes in business, environmental studies, geology, history and more to round out their education. As Net Impact’s faculty advisor, Loinaz learned of the students desires and paired with Professor Mike Russo to develop a program that would satisfy the students’ desire for a minor that “gives [students] confidence what they’re doing really matters.”

Since summer 2018, Loinaz and Russo have collaborated with schools across the campus and the students who demanded the minor to develop a curriculum. Loinaz says she “reverse engineered” a lot of the curriculum by asking Net Impact members which classes they had been taking and why. From there, she and Russo reached out to the schools offering those courses and asked them to pair with the business school to offer the minor.

The result is a minor that combines the values of environmental protection and business operation. Russo said this interdisciplinary approach is the best way to bridge the gap between business-oriented and environmentally-minded students.

To complete the minor, students will first take three classes on the fundamentals of business. The remaining classes are grouped into what Russo called clusters: groups of classes that fulfill the same requirement. From the first cluster, students will choose to focus on a specific aspect of business, whether that be accounting, marketing, financing or something else. The second and third clusters offer a range of classes from Green Product Design to Physics of Solar and Renewable Energy. The result is a highly customizable minor wherein students will be able to pursue their own interests.

Students who are interested in learning more about the minor in sustainable business can visit the College of Business’ website or the business school’s undergraduate advisors at the Lillis Business Complex.