Two MBA alumni, Morgan Gary and Simon Tam, were named runners-up in the Portland Business Journal's Top 40 Under 40 list for 2015.
Marilyn Graham grew up in El Salvador. She started her first business there — a wholesale bakery. Now living in North Carolina, she has worked as an interpreter, language teacher and small business facilitator. Her bachelor's degree is in entrepreneurship and business development/marketing, with minors in environmental studies and Latin American studies.
She's pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Business to gain experience and credibility in this growing field. She chose the renewable energy track because of its focus on operations management. "Those skills are important for any organization," she says.
Marilyn did extensive research on master's programs in sustainable business before settling on Marylhurst University near Portland, Oregon.
"What caught my attention about Marylhurst," she says, "was that ALL of the curriculum is immersed in sustainability."
She loves that her classmates are from varied backgrounds. In this Oregon sustainable MBA program, she's encountered a project manager from an electric company, entrepreneurs, managers in wind and solar power, a television news anchor and a school bus driver.
"The one thing we have in common: We're all passionate about this topic," Marilyn adds. "I'm not just going to class; I'm going to people who are always talking about [sustainable practices]. It's always top of mind; it keeps me updated."
Her favorite faculty
Paul Ventura, Strategic Leadership in Sustainable Practices.
"Professor Ventura has been very helpful in leading me to information" for research outside of classroom assignments, Marilyn comments. "He's provided a wide range of support."
Ken Pinaire, Principles of Sustainability.
"I really enjoyed that first class," Marilyn says. "It was very challenging, the materials were amazing and it was well-structured."
How she's applying what she's learning
While an undergraduate student, Marilyn developed a recycling pilot project at a local elementary school, which included creating an educational resource website and facilitating a roundtable to discuss the findings of the pilot project. The participants included members of New Hanover County School, county recycling organizations, UNCW environmental sector, NHCS PTA Green Council and school recycling coordinators.
Today, Marilyn works part-time at Brunswick Community College, where she is leading the formation of a "green committee" that will help guide the college's sustainable practices. She notes that Marylhurst University, with its MBA in Sustainable Business and Sustainability Advisory Council, is a step ahead.
Nevertheless, she's excited about being on the ground floor of the sustainability initiative at Brunswick.
"It's a great opportunity – think about it!" Marilyn says. "I'm helping to develop a program, give it structure, watch it grow and succeed."
She envisions that as the program takes shape, it will be a model that can expand to the larger community, including local businesses and homeowners.
Sustainability starts in the schools, she believes.
"We need to inform," she stresses. "But before we can inform, we need to learn so that we can teach."
Recognizing that she needs to be an excellent educator in her leadership roles, Marilyn is simultaneously pursuing state certification in environmental education.
What does the future hold?
Marilyn hopes within the next few years to broaden her horizons, expanding her focus to a wider community — possibly international.
"The environment's changing; corporations have to change how they do things," she says. "Opportunities are going to be there for people who have the experience."