This year is the tenth anniversary of the Leeds School of Business Social Responsibility and Ethics (SRE) Certificate offered by the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR). The SRE Certificate is available to undergraduate business students who seek to distinguish themselves in the field of socially responsible business, whether their unique interests lie in environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurship, business ethics or values-driven leadership. Students who complete the Certificate develop practical knowledge and marketable experiences that set them apart as purpose-driven business professionals.
Birdie Reznicek, instructor in the Social Responsibility and Sustainability division at Leeds, and faculty director of the program says, “I remember attending the celebration of our very first cohort of SRE graduates, and this decade milestone has been a great opportunity to reflect on the hundreds of remarkable students who have earned the same distinction, all driven by a desire to apply business acumen toward social impact. In the past decade, Leeds has launched SRE graduates to impact the marketplace as consultants, sustainability communications strategists, impact investors, B-Lab specialists, founders of social impact enterprises and much more.”
The SRE Experience
The SRE Certificate requirements are made up of three parts: business coursework, experiential learning and reflection through a short essay, and an exit interview. In their exit interviews, students often mention that the SRE courses have been their favorites at Leeds. Mark Whitaker (BS‘18) said that “in each class for SRE, every student was energized to be there and contributed; I saw the authenticity of CESR students through the way they approach class discussions and projects.”
Spencer Turk (BS‘18) said that “pursuing CESR’s SRE certificate not only gave me inspiration to help solve pressing current issues, but has given me realistic approaches to solving them effectively.”
The experiential learning portion of the Certificate can take a variety of shapes -- an internship, a personal project, or anything that provides hands-on learning and application of classroom topics in the social impact or sustainability space. Students have arranged experiential learning internships at organizations like EcoCycle, Girl Effect, Engineers Without Borders and at companies like Bobo’s Oat Bars and Celestial Seasonings, and independent projects like an initiative to “green” the campus’ Greek community. It has been “an immense privilege to work with these students on tackling experiential learning projects, finding meaningful internships and securing jobs -- especially as the need for social impact professionals in the marketplace continues to grow,” Reznicek says. “There’s nothing more satisfying for a teacher than to work with highly engaged students driven by a personal passion for positive change.”
SRE students meet rigorous standards of academic excellence and work in every functional area across diverse industries. They consistently reach above 90% placement within three months of graduation, including this past year in 2020. Employers of our graduates include KPMG, Deloitte and Techstars but also Certified B Corporations like EarthHero and natural products companies like Blue Moose. SRE students also go on to graduate institutions including the London School of Economics and the Colorado Law School (University of Colorado Boulder). The SRE Certificate is a differentiator, with one third of students reporting that the Certificate played a direct role in securing their post graduate opportunity.
The Certificate program wouldn’t be possible without the support of alumni and friends of Leeds. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Marc Prisant and Heidi Heltzel for fueling the growth of the SRE Certificate program through their scholarship support,” said Reznicek. The Marc Prisant and Heidi Heltzel Scholarship for Ethics and Social Responsibility is available for students who are actively pursuing the Certificate, and awards at least two scholarships annually. Michelle Ried (BS‘11) was in the first cohort of SRE Certificate graduates and is a current CESR Advisory Board member. She says “even today, the classes I took for the SRE Certificate and the ethics they instilled in me help guide my career, especially during this unpredictable time."
Through this program, which graduated seven students in its first year, now has hundreds of alumni who have been equipped with the tools and practical knowledge to dare to do business differently. Each is a changemaker who, through their career, is creating waves of impact in the business world.