Teaching Sustainability Leadership at BCIT

Project Summary

Dr. Mark Giltrow incorporated sustainability into his course on leadership and organizational change.  Students will be better prepared for their careers and the class projects benefit BCIT.

Project Description

In the fall of 2007, Dr. Mark Giltrow from the School of Business decided to incorporate sustainability into a course designed to enhance the capacity of students to sustain the demands of leadership in a changing environment.  Giltrow was motivated by knowing that sustainability issues will create significant changes that today's BCIT students will face in their future careers.

"By the year 2050 when many of today's students will be in their 60's, greenhouse gases are projected to be close to 500 ppm, up from 280 ppm from the industrial revolution.  This is the point of 'no return' and will create many new and complex sustainability challenges", says Giltrow.  While many technical issues have a 'right' answer, there are few easy or clear answers to sustainability challenges because they involve people's values and perceptions.  According to Giltrow, this calls for 'adaptive' leaders with strong people skills to complement their technical skills.

While the learning objectives of Giltrow's course didn't specifically mention sustainability, he recognized the logical connection and found an appropriate way to bring it in.  He asked students to focus their major team change project on a sustainability challenge, and ideally one that BCIT was facing.  In small teams, his students identified a sustainability challenge, described its current state and then outlined the challenges and opportunities of changing towards a more sustainable state for a particular market or audience.  The final requirement was to outline an implementation plan.     

Results

Giltrow's students developed recommendations and implementation plans for a range of sustainability changes, including:

Giltrow hopes that students will present their findings at BCIT's next EcoFair and that some of the ideas will be implemented at BCIT by students, faculty and/or staff.  He also hopes that students will help business and organizations address their sustainability challenges in their careers ahead.  Based on the success of this first effort, Giltrow plans to incorporate sustainability into this course again and also bring it into another course he teaches on Canadian Business.

Lessons Learned

While it is important to fulfill course learning objectives, there is a lot 'wiggle room' to incorporate sustainability because it is connected to almost every facet of what BCIT teaches.