When Cleveland native Alexandria Skoch (pictured with Prof. John Katers) wanted to dig deeper into “greening” her hometown NFL franchise, the Cleveland Browns, she turned to a partner NFL city Green Bay and its hometown University, UW-Green Bay, for guidance.
Skoch graduated a few weeks ago with a master’s degree in Sustainability Management from UW-Green Bay. Her capstone project is “Greening the Browns: Understanding and Analyzing the Environmental Implications of a National Football League Team.”
“My final project focused on the Cleveland Browns’ environmental implications, and a lot of research, observation, and time went in to the final paper,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to experience home games at FirstEnergy Stadium from a behind-the-scenes perspective. This opened my eyes to numerous shortcomings of National Football League teams and the Cleveland Browns. Perhaps most importantly, this project has shown me that sustainability, when viewed through a business lens, is handled through more of a “greenwashing” approach rather than a truly impactful approach. Honestly, there is a lot left to be done in sports sustainability, and although the Green Sports Alliance exists and has numerous resources to help NFL teams become more sustainable, little action has been taken by a majority of teams…”
Skoch’s final recommendations for the Browns focused on fully integrating sustainability into each department, branch, division and location within the organization and hiring an individual who would focus on full integration.
“Unfortunately, for now, like most NFL teams, they will continue to grab the ‘low hanging’ fruit,” she says. “However, I believe that eventually all national sports teams and leagues will be required to meet set environmental impact reduction goals in the very near future.”
Skoch is the the sixth UW-Green Bay graduate out of about 50 enrollees in the relatively new Sustainability Management program. Five University of Wisconsin system institutions carry the program. So how did Skoch find her way specifically to UW-Green Bay?
“I found the UW Sustainable Management Master’s program through a simple online search,” she says. “At the time, I was interested in pursuing a higher degree in the sustainability field, and my undergraduate studies focused on the environmental impacts of business. Therefore, UW’s program was perfect. I also liked that the degree is a master of science rather than a simple one-year MBA and the fact that it was catered to business professionals. After researching the UW Sustainable Management program’s campuses it was easy to see I fit in best at Green Bay!”
Skoch said her faculty member of expertise — UW-Green Bay Professor John Katers — was integral to her success. Working with Prof. Katers quickly dispelled the myth regarding ‘detachment’ of online programs.
“I knew I chose the right campus once I got the opportunity to communicate with him,” she said. “Dr. Katers is always quick to respond and help out in any way. His experience and expertise in a variety of fields helped me tackle a number of issues as I worked through the program. Furthermore, the other faculty members in the program were always willing to assist in any way possible. I think that online education has a sort of bad-reputation for being ‘detached’ from the student, but my experience was the exact opposite. Each of the instructors in the program were quick to respond and were able to help me further understand topics that I, personally, was not knowledgeable on.
“I truly enjoyed the program. It touched on all aspects of sustainability as well as the triple bottom line. Therefore, it was more of a hybrid education than a one-sided program. I also enjoyed the science aspects of the program, as I believe that any sustainability business professional must have a thorough understanding of the science behind environmental impacts.”
While in the program, Skoch took advantage of taking elective credits in a faculty-led travel course to Chile. It was the first time Skoch would meet Prof. Katers in person. What ensued was a 16-day whirlwind sustainable learning opportunity and South American adventure which Skoch describes as “incredible” and “an experience of a lifetime.”
“I truly fell in love with South America and I learned so much about the culture and the environmental issues facing the country today,” she said. “Those who I traveled with became life-long friends, too, especially those who traveled to Easter Island with me. The Chile trip helped truly solidify my path as well, as it opened my eyes to the numerous sustainability and environmental issues the world as a whole faces. I feel that it was an eye-opening experience and it gave me an opportunity to take what I had learned in class and see a real-life example of it.”
As for the future, Skoch said she is looking at a couple of possibilities, including working within governmental agencies or, perhaps pursuing a Ph.D.
“I believe that sustainability or earth sciences and human impacts should be integrated into all science courses and perhaps I can help do just that at the college level.”
Learn more about the University of Wisconsin Sustainable Management degree opportunities by visiting http://sustain.wisconsin.edu/.
Photo by Eric Craver, Outreach and Adult Education