Sydney Mullins planned to concentrate in management when she entered Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business. But the essence of business is recognizing opportunities, and she sees one in sustainability.
"I learned in orientation that businesses throughout the Valley are constantly looking for college graduates that can promote and design an eco-friendly establishment," Mullins said.
In addition to a Bachelor of Science in Business offering specializations in traditional subjects such as finance, accounting and marketing, starting this school year students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Business that offers a specialization in sustainability.
Mullins, a freshman who started at ASU in August, is switching to the new degree.
"I love the environment and I love business, and now I can learn about both," she said.
ASU's interdisciplinary degree reflects a green trend among business schools. The University of Arizona's Eller College of Management is preparing a curriculum to add green business principles to its MBA degree, and Northern Arizona University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management make sustainability part of business studies.
The W.P. Carey School of Business developed its new degree after professors and academic advisers saw a demand for individuals who could design and run eco-friendly companies or make existing companies greener, said Tim Desch, assistant dean for undergraduate admissions.
"We believe individuals who choose a sustainability emphasis will be in great demand," Desch said.
"Many businesses are looking for experts in the field to come in and guide them through this process, from building green structures to converting a workforce that will accommodate the environment," he added.
About 1,000 students are pursuing the degree, and of those, approximately 100 are pursuing the sustainability concentration.
Freshman Luis Aguilera said the degree appealed to him because he enjoyed a high school class on the environment.
Business students concentrating in sustainability will take classes at ASU's School of Sustainability, which was established in 2007 with a goal of developing professionals and scholars who can address environmental, economic and social challenges related to sustainability.
Sustainability plays a role in other programs at the Carey School.
For example, an MBA course on managing enterprise systems had added a module focusing on conservation and energy consumption. And business graduate students can participate in an eight-year research focusing on bettering the environment through business.
The UA's Eller College of Management plans to add green business principles to its MBA degree next year.
Paul Portney, the school's dean, said the curriculum could involve case studies on solar power, water conservation, clean vehicles and other environmentally friendly technologies.
"Eller College students at all levels are interested in careers that will be both financially rewarding for them and also good for society," Portney said in an e-mail.
Northern Arizona University's W. A. Franke College of Business offers two courses dealing entirely with environmental subjects and five others with environmental components.
The Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale has changed its mission statement to say it educates leaders who create sustainable prosperity worldwide, and core programs this year added modules on global citizenship.