A New Jewel at CSU

Aug 232007
Authors: Jessi Stafford

The College of Business at CSU is now offering a master’s degree in Business Administration that has been altered to fit an ever-expanding classroom.

It is a degree, once earned, that will take students to the nooks and crannies of developing countries with the skills necessary to begin a successful business with not just one bottom line, but three.

The week-old program, called the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise (GSSE) program, has been created to give students a strong educational base in business with equal emphasis in both environmental and social issues. This three-part relationship is not only the point of the GSSE program, but is exactly what makes this curriculum different than others.

“We are interested in ventures at the base of the pyramid, which is unique,” GSSE Director Carl Hammerdorfer said.

Beginning a business at the foot of the pyramid means, for Hammerdorfer, working from the bottom and moving up.

“It means working with people who are affected by the company, the policy change, the business, who are usually poor with little resources,” he said. “That is grassroots development.”

This way of thinking will be emphasized in the classrooms at CSU, but is not a prevalent way of teaching, learning, or implementing in other programs similar to this.

“This program is more focused on starting businesses in a developing world, it’s focused on the world market,” said GSSE adjunct faculty member Paul Hudnut.

And starting businesses in the developing world is what’s necessary for the people living there, Hammerdorfer said.

“A lot of organizations do what they think the grassroots need,” he said. “There have been a lot of spectacular failures.”

The Peace Corps, one such organization focused on aiding developing countries, has its heart in the right place, but lacks business savvy, Hammerdorfer said.

“The Peace Corps has not cracked the code of serious business development,” he said. “We’re cracking the code.”

Once the 22 students, from all over the globe, graduate from the program, they are expected travel to developing countries, integrate, create businesses and make money- all the while keeping in mind the needs of the people and the environment.

“Students who graduate will have the skill and he experience to build and operate these businesses,” Hudnut said.

It may sound like a daunting task, but this is not too much to anticipate from Hammerdorfer’s students.

“I have always wanted to be in business, but I am also interested in helping the poor people of the world,” said support assistant and GSSE student John McKinney.

So, when McKinney ended his service in the Peace Corps, this was the obvious place that would allow him to exercise both passions.

“I fell in love with the program,” he said.

And the program fell in love with him.

“We want students to launch, work and improve developing countries,” Hammerdorfer said. “They are my co-entrepreneurs.”

McKinney considers himself just that.

“I am interested in entrepreneurship,” McKinney said. “I hope to solve technological problems.”

The GSSE program primarily considers applicants who have been to other countries, although it is not a requirement.

“It looks really sexy, on movies and TV, to go to developing countries. But unless you’ve done it, you don’t know for yourself,” Hammerdorfer said.

The program also encourages students with a technological background to apply.

“We are in a unique space in that we’re a big technology farm, so we can tap into that,” Hammerdorfer said. “It’s a unique niche.”

The technological atmosphere at CSU and the innovative GSSE curriculum are what Hammerdorfer and his team of triple bottom line-thinking colleagues say will make this program a priceless addition to the university.

“It should become one of the top three in the country, otherwise I’m not doing my job,” he said. “It’s a jewel in their crown.”

Associate News Managing Editor Jessi Stafford can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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