- Academic Philosophy
- Degree Requirements
- Graduate Program
- Areas of Study
- Off Campus Study
- Internships & Career Services
- Academic Calendar
- Student Work
Our Approach Considers Everyone An Entrepreneur
- For/Non-Profit — Combining traditional & social entrepreneurship
- Sustainability — Driving innovation and competitive advantage
- Applied Learning — Experiencing where theory & practice collide
- Interdisciplinary — Reaching beyond business into other branches of knowledge
- Open Format — Examining and starting enterprises across sectors, sizes and scopes
Learn more about our syllabi, faculty, course offerings, and engagement opportunities.
sustainable business education re-imagined
At COA, we teach how the power of environmentally and socially focused strategies bring about positive change in the world, while also strengthening the enterprise itself. These strategies are used by small innovative companies including Newman’s Own Organics (started by COA graduate Nell Newman) as well as industrial giants such as General Electric.
Companies focused on sustainability are fostering significant social, environmental and economic change. For example, Grameen Bank, the microfinance bank founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, pioneered a new industry by making loans to millions of the poorest of the poor, offering them an opportunity to improve their lives. Zipcar created a multi-billion dollar industry by providing convenient and flexible access to vehicles in urbanized areas without sacrificing access to style or mobility. Zipcar has also removed millions of pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere by changing auto transportation from an ownership to a solutions model.
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS FACULTY & STAFF
Faculty: Jay Friedlander
Sharpe-McNally Chair in Green and Sustainable Business
ES524Physics and Mathematics of Sustainable Energy
The aim of this course is to help students learn some basic physics and quantitative and analytical skills so that they can participate intelligently and responsibly in policy discussions, personal and community decisions, and ventures in the area of sustainable energy. We will begin with some basic physics, including: the definition of energy, the difference between energy and power, different forms of energy, and the first and second laws of thermodynamics. We will also provide students with a basic scientific and economic introduction tovarious alternative energy technologies. Along the way, students will gain mathematical skills in estimation and dimensional analysis, and will learn to use spreadsheets to assist in physical and financial calculations. There will also be a weekly lab to help students understand the physical principles behind different energy technologies and gain experience gathering and analyzing data. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to apply what they have learned to basic issues in sustainable energy. For example, they will be able to evaluate and analyze a proposed technology improvement by considering its dollar cost, carbon reduction, return to investment, payback time, and how all this might depend on, say, interest rates or the cost of electricity or gasoline. Students will also be able to analyze the potential of a technology or energy source to scale up. E.g., they will be able to consider not only the benefits to a homeowner of a solar installation, but to also analyze the degree to which solar power may contribute to Maine's energy needs. This will be a demanding, introductory, class. Evaluation will be based on weekly problem sets, participation in class and lab, and a final project. At least one college-level class in mathematics or physical science is strongly recommended. Level: Introductory; Permission of instructor; Class limit: 20; Lab fee $50.00; *QR* *ES*
ES561Sustainable Material Design
This course will look at designing safe, environmentally friendly materials from renewable resources. With a focus on polymers, we will delve into how one would begin the practice of developing a new product from initial raw material selection through processing/fabrication and into its afterlife as new material. Students will learn in-depth aspects of the chemical structure-property relationship of renewably sourced polymers (plastics), like natural rubber, starch/cellulose, poly(lactic acid), and poly(hydroxyalkonates). We will also examine the recent expansion of biorefineries and microbial fermentation as a means for the production of biobased commodity chemicals. By the end of the course, students should be able to evaluate target applications for renewably sourced materials and understand their potential human health and socioeconomic impacts. Chemical structures will be presented; therefore students will be expected to learn small portions of organic chemistry throughout the course. Evaluations will be based on class participation, a mid-term examination, and a final report and poster presentation. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Chemistry I; a general course in economics concurrently or prior to enrollment will also be helpful. Class Limit: 20 Lab fee: $20. *ES*
HS651Microeconomics for Business and Policy
What is the best way to insure that communities can provide dependable, well-paying jobs to their citizens? Why does Coca Cola spend millions of dollars to advertise a product with which most people are already very familiar? What can the game of blackjack tell us about how industries are structured? How can we get coal-burning power utilities to reduce their carbon emissions while they save millions of dollars in the process? How can we provide much better health care to all Americans, at much less cost, while making it easier for small businesses to grow? All of these questions, and many more like them, are answered by microeconomic theory. This intermediate-level course exposes students to basic microeconomic theories, models, and concepts that shed insight on the economic behavior of businesses, individuals, governments and politicians, and international organizations. We will emphasize approaches that have numerous overlapping applications to both business and policy evaluation: markets, pricing, firm structure and decision-making, strategic behavior (using game theory), consumer behavior, externalities (such as greenhouse gas emissions) and the provision of public goods (such as military, education, and environmental conservation). We will pay special attention to the economics of asymmetrical information (adverse selection, moral hazard, and principal-agent situations) that have a wide range of applications, including issues such as the ineffectiveness of the American health care system, the structuring of business finance, and the hiring and paying of employees. This will be a non-calculus course, but will give students exposure to technical economic modeling, with heavy emphasis on graphical modeling of complex social phenomena. We will use a lab period to conduct extensive experiments and games that illustrate or test economic concepts and hypotheses. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Signature of instructor or 1 course in economics or business. *
HS652Beyond Relativism: Negotiating Ethics in the 21st Century
How can - and should - questions of ethics get resolved in the contexts of interdisciplinary and multiperspectival dialogue, conflict and decision making - as when two communities need to resolve disputes and each have different paradigms of thought and action? These questions may come up in dealing with human ecological problems when people from different professions, religions, or other cultural and social settings need to deal with each other to address common problems and opportunities. They also arise in business, government and NGO work when people pursue socially responsible projects and policies of a variety of sorts. This course will look at the common strategies in normative ethics for dealing with these problems as well as explore ways in which methods of negotiation and conflict transformation can also be helpful. Readings will include classic texts from Aristotle, the Bible, Mill, Kant, Nietzsche, and Buber as well as contemporary readings in professional ethics, in conflict transformation, and philosophical ethics (such as Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue). Students will write a series of short papers on texts and case studies and develop a final project in which they work to identify and resolve an ethical problem. Evaluation will be based on class participation, papers, and the final project Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Lab fee: $20. *HS*
HS694Human Relations: Principles and Practice
Antoine de Saint-Exupery - World War II French pilot and author of The Little Prince - once noted: "There is but one problem - the problem of human relations....There is no hope or joy except in human relations." Beneath this sanguine notion, however, dwells a complex web of ideas and questions. The purpose of this team-taught course is to explore these underlying issues from two different, but overlapping, perspectives. On the one hand, we will review foundational theories and research from intra-psychic, social and organizational psychology - emphasizing topic areas such as attitude theory and change, social influence, group dynamics, conflict resolution and leadership. On the other hand, we will simultaneously draw on real-world case studies from business and organizational management. The emphasis here will be on issues of personnel assessment and management, market performance, negotiation, crisis management and the role self-knowledge in the "inside game" of commercial enterprise. Connections between these two realms will be drawn via class discussions, presentations from the instructors, and selected visitors with significant backgrounds from a range of organizational, business and government settings. Lessons derived from failure events and the 'cost of not knowing' will be investigated, as well as examples from models of successful human relations experiences. The overall aim of the class will be guided by the ideals and practices of: the psychologist Abraham Maslow, who advised "The best way to see everything is to consider the whole darn thing" and Steve Jobs - founder and CEO of Apple - who expressed his success succinctly as "It was small teams of great people doing wonderful things". Student evaluations will be based on multiple criteria, including class participation, several individual papers and research reports and contribution to team projects. Level: Introductory. Lab Fee: $40. Class limit: 15. *HS*
HS701Public Speaking Workshop
This class will be conducted as a workshop with an emphasis on students producing increasingly advanced speeches for public performance and/or consumption. We will cover a wide variety of areas including those related to constructing the speech in advance (invention and arrangement), as well as those related to the actual performance of the text (style, memory, and execution). While the primary goal of the class is to create an environment in which students can improve these vital public communication skills, another important goal is to cultivate critical and respectful listening skills (which are themselves vital public communication skills). A wide variety of speaking genres will be covered during the term, though there will be a strong emphasis on public advocacy and persuasion: This class is designed for students with varying levels of public speaking backgrounds. A diverse array of experiences, skills, and strengths helps foster a collaborative and supportive speaking environment. Throughout the term students will work on individual projects, in pairs, and in larger collaborative groups. There will be a minimal focus on theoretical questions in favor of a "hands on" approach to constructing speeches. Students will be evaluated on a number of "process" oriented assignments. Final evaluation will be relative to individual participation in the process and not to an objective scale of public speaking talent. As such, students who feel that they are less proficient in the area of public communication should not be worried that this would somehow disadvantage them in terms of grading. In order to facilitate a vibrant working environment, a lab session and fee will be a component of the class. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 10. Lab fee: $10. *HS*
Leadership skills that help people come together to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities are essential in a complex world. This course will provide a context for collaborative (or facilitative) leadership, drawing examples from community settings, non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses. Collaborative leadership leads to productive and supportive relationships, jointly developed goals and structure and shared responsibility for achievement. We will study useful strategies and techniques for involving stakeholders, building consensus, laying out a problem-solving process, facilitation of that process and drawing in the full experience, knowledge and wisdom of participants. Students will write a final paper (or participate in a group project) to integrate results from interviews and opportunities to shadow local leaders, class discussions with guests and the instructor, and material from assigned readings. This course is designed to include both COA students and community members. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Lab fee: $20.
HS723Launching a New Venture
This course will cover the process of new venture creation for students interested in creating businesses or non-profits with substantial social and environmental benefit. It is designed for student teams who have an idea and want to go through the formal process of examining and launching the enterprise. Topics covered in this course will include: opportunity recognition, market research, creating a business plan, producing financial projections and venture financing. As part of the course, all students will submit their ideas to the Social Innovation Competition. In addition, students will make a formal business plan presentation. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Signature of instructor. Class limit: 15
HS742Business and Non-Profit Basics
Anyone who is involved with for profit or non-profit enterprises needs to understand a wide variety of interdisciplinary skills. This introductory course will introduce students to marketing, finance, leadership, strategy and other essential areas of knowledge needed to run or participate in any venture. This course is meant to build basic skills and expose students to a variety of business disciplines and is REQUIRED for all future business courses. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 18. *HS*
Business has tremendous societal ramifications. Inventions and industries from the automobile to the internet impact everything from air quality to economic and political freedom. Entrepreneurs, who are often at the forefront of business and thus societal innovation, are changing the way business is conducted by creating businesses that are beneficial to the bottom line, society and the environment. Through cases, projects and present day examples, the course will challenge students to understand the impact of business on society and the challenges and pitfalls of creating a socially responsible venture. In addition, it will offer new frameworks for creating entrepreneurial ventures that capitalize on social responsibility to gain competitive advantage, increase valuation while benefiting society and the environment. The final deliverable for the course is an in-class presentation in which student teams will either: (1) recommend ways to improve the social and environmental impacts of a company, while increasing competitive advantage and bottom line; or (2) benchmark two industry competitors, a socially responsible company versus a traditional company. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 15.
HS782Tutorial: Advanced Seminar in Human Ecology
The purpose of this tutorial is to review the many uses of the term ?human ecology?. It begins with an historical review of the academic and intellectual origins of human ecology. From these foundations, we proceed through the development of more interdisciplinary approaches to human ecology --- working with primary source materials (e.g., books, articles, position papers, academic program descriptions and related documents). We will further explore the activities of various regional, national and international associations and the aims of leading educational institutions. Assignments and discussions will revolve around several current problems that face human ecology. In particular, we will focus on: various theoretical controversies within and between biological and human ecology; issues and proposed methods of inter-disciplinary problem-solving, planning and application; and the growth of professional opportunities in human ecology worldwide. Evaluations will be based on careful reading and review of assigned materials, participation in discussions, individual papers and a collaborative group project. Level: Advanced; Permission of instructor required; Class limit: 3 Permission of instructor required.
Business, like all disciplines, has its own language. Being able to speak the language of business is critical for activists, social entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Financial statements are a key component of this language. These statements measure the fiscal health of both non-profit and for-profit organizations. They provide insight into all areas of the company. They are a powerful tool for determining investments, competitive positioning and have extraordinary impacts on all of an organization's stakeholders. Unfortunately, most people, including many who run a wide variety of organizations, fail to grasp this language. In doing so, they undermine their organization's opportunity for success, as well as create obstacles to using business as a means of social change. Without guidance, looking at these financial statements is similar to examining hieroglyphics for the first time. Starting from a basic level and layering in complexity, the course will seek to demystify these statements in a way that is informative and unintimidating. In addition, time will be spent advancing students' understanding and familiarity with spreadsheets. Topics of the course will include: Creating and analyzing cash flow statements, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, as well as common sized income statements; Differentiating between each type of financial statement; Relating these statements to each other, tying them together and varying statements depending on business models; Comparing non-profit and for-profit financial statements and approaches; Examining key financial ratios and how they are different for different businesses; and Spreadsheet management and design. By the end of the class students will create their own financial statements and analyze a business through various financial statements. This class is positioned within the business program to provide the students' skills for business plan projections, exploring investing, general management, lead
HS795Advanced Seminar in Economics: Globalization
This seminar will use the topic of economic globalization as a context in which to learn, tinker with, and critique a wide range of microeconomic, macroeconomic, and economic development theories, models, and empirical evidence. There is no general economic theory of globalization, so our coverage will necessarily be eclectic, selective, and largely based on student interests. As a departure point for using economics to explore the contours of globalization, we will employ a rubric encompassing five themes: 1) fundamental processes (such as economic growth and population dynamics) that lead to economic globalization; 2) studies of the flows of economic inputs and products (addressing capital flows and controls, migration and remittances, international commodity markets, and trade and trade imbalances); 3) the institutions and governance that influence economic globalization (such as pre- and post-colonial institutions, corporate structure and governance, and the roles of the IMF and WTO); 4) inequality (addressing global class structure, foreign aid and sovereign debt, and gender issues); and 5) crises (currency crises and contagion, the recent financial crisis). Evaluation will be based on participation in extensive discussions in and out of the classroom, submission of pr?s and problem sets, and a synthetic capstone essay. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: courses in intermediate economics and international issues or equivalent, and permission of instructor. *HS*
HS813Environmental Law and Policy
This course provides an overview of environmental law and the role of law in shaping environmental policy. We examine, as background, the nature and scope of environmental, energy, and resource problems and evaluate the various legal mechanisms available to address those problems. The course attempts to have students critically analyze the role of law in setting and implementing environmental policy. We explore traditional common law remedies, procedural statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act, intricate regulatory schemes, and market-based strategies that have been adopted to control pollution and protect natural resources. Students are exposed to a wide range of environmental law problems in order to appreciate both the advantages and limitations of law in this context. Special attention is given to policy debates currently underway and the use of the legal process to foster the development of a sustainable society in the United States. Students are required to complete four problem sets in which they apply legal principles to a given fact scenario. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Introduction to the Legal Process or Philosophy of the Constitution strongly recommended. Offered at least every other year. Class limit: 20. Lab fee $20. *HS*
The Hatchery is applied Human Ecology in action; it offers students a bridge from coursework to actively creating their vision of the future. The Hatchery gives students from across the campus the opportunity to move from ideas to action. Hatchery students work either individually or in teams on a wide array of enterprises. Past projects have included: urban farming; international development; policy and planning; photography and film; alternative transportation; biofuel production; renewable energy; food systems; the arts; furniture production; technology development; social enterprise. Ventures have been for-profit and non-profit, encompassing the range from local businesses to scalable start-ups. Students selected for the Hatchery are required to devote an entire term to launching their venture. Each Hatchery enterprise, whether a team or an individual, must take the course for a minimum of three credits. Along with weekly instructional meetings, students receive office space, supplies, professional services, mentors and potential access to seed capital to develop their ventures. After the initial ten weeks of class, if students decide to continue their enterprises, they have access to the Hatchery space and resources for an additional nine months.
The Hatchery takes place in three phases:
--Application: Students apply for a position in the Hatchery over winter term.
--Rapid Prototype: The ten weeks of the Hatchery course. Students create a rapid prototype to test their ventures in the marketplace. These prototypes vary widely depending on the type of ventures.
--Creating an Enterprise Structure: During the ten weeks of the course, students will have weekly assignments that introduce key elements in an organizational structure and highlight operational considerations that are universal amongst enterprises.
--Development: The following 9-months. Students have access to the Hatchery space and resources to continue developing their enterprises.
Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.
HS821International Financial Institutions
International financial institutions (IFI) such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the regional development banks mobilize significant resources for both public and private sector investment in developing countries. Beyond this central role in lending and grant making to developing countries, the Global Environment Facility of the World Bank serves as the financial mechanism for major environmental treaties, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. What exactly are these institutions - how do they operate and who controls them? Why were they created and how have they come to be so powerful? The course will examine the history of the institutions, their governance structures, and their mechanisms of operation. Special attention will be paid to their role in the debt crisis and the subsequent era of structural adjustment lending, civil society critiques of the environmental and social impacts of bank lending, and the role and operation of the Global Environment Facility as financial mechanism for the environmental conventions. Readings will include primary documents of the IFIs themselves as well as decisions of the governing bodies of the UN conventions. We will also read both academic and civil society analyses and critiques of IFI lending. Evaluation will be based on class discussion as well as several problem sets assigned throughout the term and a final analytical paper. Level: Intermediate/advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Students should have course background in international politics and/or economics. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $10. *HS*
HS823Tutorial: Selected Themes in Ecological Economics
This advanced tutorial explores selected themes in ecological economics, which is both the economics of sustainability as well as a paradigmatic approach distinct from the mainstream neoclassical approach to the study of economic activity. We will use the first several weeks of the term to define and outline ecological economics. We will use the remainder of the term to explore topics of student interest, focusing on three to five major themes; possible themes include methodological issues (post-normal science, transdisciplinarity), biophysical constraints to economic growth (entropy, technological pessimism, capital substitution, critical natural capital), sociocultural impacts of economic growth (consumption, happiness studies), energy and resource flow analysis (entropy), measurement issues (growth versus development, ecological footprint, Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare), institutional arrangements (biodiversity protection, climate change economics), trade and development (embodied trade, pollution havens), community sustainability (philosophical issues (Buddhist economics, homo economicus), and historical issues of sustainability (Malthusian perspectives, Jevon's Paradox). Evaluation will be via a "gateway" exam at the end of the introductory phase, article pr's, and a final poster presentation. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: one term intermediate economics and instructor permission; students will be expected to come to the tutorial with a firm grasp of neoclassical methods and assumptions. Class limit: 5. Lab fee: none.
HS825COA's Foodprint: Our Local Food System
The food supply for most cities and small towns in the US depends on foods raised as efficiently as possible, manufactured into forms that are less perishable, and shipped long distances from centralized warehouses. This food system is largely responsible for some of the nation?s largest and most troubling environmental and social challenges, from water pollution to obesity to climate change. This course is designed to provide students with the background and skills to analyze local food systems by examining the "backstory" and impacts of food system choices at COA. Where does COA's food come from? Can we produce more of our own food? Should we? What are the impacts of the food purchasing and consumption decisions we make at COA, and what is the rationale and regulations behind purchasing decisions? How do impacts differ when foods are sourced from COA's farms, locally, within the state, or internationally? Students in this class will work with dining hall and farm managers to analyze current practices and examine alternatives. The particular emphasis of this course will vary from year to year, and students will build on analyses done in previous years. Topics and issues addressed may include: life-cycle analysis to compare environmental and social impacts of different production and consumption options; basic nutrition principles; food standards and regulations, especially as they apply to campus dining facilities; motivations for food choices and how people acquire them; social marketing; and local supply and demand for food grown with environmentally- or socially-responsible methods (including foods grown on COA's farms). In carrying out research projects, students will learn skills such as: descriptive statistics and data analysis, life-cycle analysis, survey design and interpretation, and qualitative research methods. Surveys and exploration of social marketing will provide opportunities to consider ethical research guidelines and apply for institutional review.
This course seeks to give students knowledge of macroeconomic theories, models, and concepts. Emphasis will be evenly placed on both formal modeling and intuitive approaches to understanding economic phenomena; an understanding of the relatively formal, abstract macroeconomic models of neoclassical economics will be used to provide a framework for discussion about contemporary macroeconomic phenomena and policy responses. Topics will include unemployment and inflation, fiscal and monetary policy, consumption and savings, economic growth, business cycles, monetary theory and banking systems, balance of payments and international macroeconomics, along with topics of student interest. Evaluation will be based on problem sets, quizzes, and classroom participation. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: one term of college economics, or instructor permission. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: none. *HS*
We hear regularly about "ecosystems", the "health care system", the "public educational system", the "food system" and the "global financial system". But what is a system, and what is "systems thinking"? The latter has become a buzz-word in many fields, put forward as a way to achieve breakthroughs in dealing with entrenched problems. Certainly systemic problems require systemic solutions; but this does not imply that all problems are best solved with holistic or systems thinking. This course will parse different systems into their generic components, examine when and where systems thinking is useful and appropriate, and explore how this approach can provide insights in various fields. It will begin with general elements of systems thinking, such as stocks; information, energy and material flows; feedback loops; and regulatory mechanisms. It will proceed to examine specific systems, such as those dealing with health care, food, and education, and students will learn first-hand through panel presentation show various actors within a system view barriers and leverage points for systems change differently. Students will experiment with simple computer-aided systems modeling. They will have the opportunity to model a system of their choice, and draft papers about leverage points for changing this system. We will interact with visiting staff from Elm Farm Organic Research Centre (ORC) in England on setting up systems research projects on COA's farms, and take advantage of distance learning resources that ORC provides on the farming systems approach. Evaluation will be based on class participation, final project and reading critiques. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 16. Lab fee: none. *HS*
HS855Introduction to Sustainability
Introduction to Sustainability is a gateway into current thinking and practice on sustainability in multiple fields. It will use examples of people and organizations trying to move toward more sustainable practices in city planning, transportation, food systems, energy, business operations, housing design, consumption, waste disposal and other areas. Guest speakers who are working to implement more sustainable practices in their businesses and society will help introduce students to the most current thinking and practice in their fields. Although most of the class will be grounded in specific examples, we will begin with controversies over the meaning of sustainability and address how it can be measured and evaluated. The last part of the class will deal with socio-cultural changes needed to move individuals and societies toward more sustainable practices and how these can become part of the warp and woof of the way we live. Students will be evaluated based on participation in class discussion, regular journal entries, completion of individual and group assignments, and independent projects and presentations that explore and share practices in a specific field of particular interest to each student. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 18. Lab fee: $25. *HS*
HS858Global Politics of Sustainable Development: 20 yrs after Rio
The Earth Summit that took place in Rio in 1992 defined the following two decades of global cooperation on environment and development issues. This course serves to review the history of those two decades and prepare students to be active participants in the UN review conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012. Students will read primary documents from the original conference and the 10-year review conference (the World Summit on Sustainable Development), and preparatory documents for the upcoming summit. They will examine positions of the main country blocs and the contributions of major UN specialized agencies (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Development Program and UN Environment Program). A central axis for study and analysis of documents and positions will be the political economy of sustainable development. Evaluation will be based on class discussions, weekly written summaries of information contained in readings, and a final presentation or analytical paper on a topic of their choosing. Course level: Introductory/Intermediate. Prerequisites: none. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: none. *HS*