For students who are deeply passionate about sustainability and social responsibility, and who want to make an impact through their career, getting involved with the SRS department, and with CESR, is the first step at Leeds, says Sara Neuner, Program Manager, CESR
What are the SRS major and SRE Certificate?
The Social Responsibility and Sustainability Division (SRS) track at Leeds is designed for students who want to devote their education to learning more about social responsibility and sustainability. It prepares students to work as changemakers in the world of business.
The Social Responsibility and Ethics (SRE) Certificate offered by the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) is an opportunity for students studying any major to take three SRS classes of their choice and gain hands-on experience through an experiential learning opportunity. SRE students come from accounting, marketing, operations and more. Those students go on to do work in their functional area with the skills and knowledge to be advocates for sustainability within their company. As an added bonus, SRE Certificate candidates become eligible for the Marc Prisant and Heidi Heltzel Scholarship for Ethics & Social Responsibility.
"The SRS Track is a great fit for the Leeds student who finds their purpose in the business world in the areas of sustainability, social purpose enterprise, ethical leadership, DEI, and other social impact issues. However, these issues are highly relevant for every professional in today’s business world, so the SRE Certificate offers a way for students in other tracks at to demonstrate focused study and practical experience in these critical areas as well," says Birdie Reznicek, Associate Chair of the SRS Division and the Director of the SRE Certificate program in partnership with CESR.
Whether students want to help move a more traditional business forward, or work in a DEI or CSR role at a firm already committed to sustainability, both the SRS major and SRE certificate are incredible opportunities for students to prepare themselves for high impact careers.
CESR 4005 - Business Solutions for the Developing World: Learning through Service
This experiential learning class is part of the SRS major and counts toward an SRE Certificate and is a student favorite. Students are paired with partner organizations that focus on social enterprise with some form of earned income, based in the developing world. For partners whose primary source of financial support comes from donations, students focus on specific programs that have a fee based model where they can apply the business skills they are learning in school.
First and foremost students learn to use consulting skills. They want to do everything they can for the partner organization and quickly realize they need to focus. Unlike a hypothetical case and client, students know the work they do in this class impacts real people. Students say this class helps them find meaning and purpose. It is my favorite class to teach,
Past projects have included conducting a B Impact Assessment, and a social marketing campaign for a coffee company. For the Kinshasa-based Farms for Orphans, students helped create a business plan for a project to market palm weevil larvae. Another former project partner was a group of undergrads from the engineering school who had developed a solar powered irrigation technology and wanted to assess the market potential of their innovation.
Case Study: Thinking Huts
Thinking Huts is a nonprofit, founded by CU Alum Maggie Grout (Management, 2021) when she was still in high school. It uses industrial 3D printing to build schools. This process decreases construction time for critical infrasrtucture in developing countries, while also decreasing carbon footprint. Maggie raised the funds to build her first school in 2019 and worked with the local government in Madagascar, where 70% of people live below the poverty line, to complete her first building project. As a student at Leeds herself, Maggie was in a unique position to offer her venture as a possible partner project to students in the CESR 4005 class.
I had a vision from a young age to make a social impact and felt a nonprofit would be the best way to do that. I decided to get a business degree to build my skills in financial literacy, communication and partnership development. The biggest part of this project has been mobilizing everybody, and I have needed to understand how a business runs,
Maggie’s biggest challenge has been finding the money to launch her pilot project. The team of students who worked with her focused on a sustainable funding strategy for her organization.
For a long time she was the only employee but in the past year brought on someone who has been working with her on pitch competitions. They also entered accelerator programs and participated in the pitch competition Net Venture Challenge (NVC) at CU Boulder in 2020. They now have ten volunteers around the world working on outreach and marketing projects, and three people on the ground in Madagascar. Maggie also gave a TED talk about her work and looks for new opportunities to spread the word about her social enterprise.
Case Study: Hope for life
Amanda Taylor Good (Marketing, 2013) learned about Hope for Life as a student in CESR 4005 and moved to Rwanda after graduation to work for them full time. The Executive Director of Hope for Life happened to be in Colorado in 2012, and had connected with Leeds faculty Catherine Milburn, who brought the organization into the class. Amanda worked with Hope for Life on ways to improve sustainability to save money and was so excited about the program that she reached out again after graduation and negotiated a two year contract. That was over seven years ago, and she is still there.
Hope for Life is a long term rehab center for boys from the street. It helps youth catch up in school, offers behavioral and mental health support, and works to trace families. Reconnecting children with families is an increasing focus of the government in the aftermath of the genocide. Trauma informed care has also become a bigger part of their work. These shifts in priorities has meant changing the program from a focus on long-term support for fewer beneficiaries to helping a greater number of families become financially sustainable and independent.
Recognizing that poverty is a major contributor in situations in which young boys are separated from their families, Amanda started working to guide a group of boys to conduct a market analysis to identify new business opportunities, and help families create business plans. Amanda's goal is to create jobs, and improve families’ economic standing alongside the mental health and counseling already offered by Hope for Life. Her first big social enterprise will be a new soap brand that the boys make and sell. She sees this soap as a quality product that brings value to the country and which can compete in the US. Faculty Stacey Edgar’s advice to Amanda was to sell the first bar with a good story, and to sell the second bar because it's a good product.
I always wanted to work in nonprofits so my parents encouraged me to go into business because it is applicable. As soon as I got into SRE classes I knew I was in the right place. My values are about caring about stakeholders, not just making money. The Certificate prepared me for this work,
She is sourcing essential oils in Rwanda, and other natural resources in Kenya and Zambia.
As the only foreigner on staff, and only one with a business background, Amanda sees different opportunities than the others on her team. Her goal is to employ as many people in Rwanda as possible. She is pushing for business and employment opportunities as part of giving families their dignity, and a path toward financial independence.
Want to Learn More?
Are you interested in learning more about the SRS major or SRE Certificate? CESR wants to hear from you! Whether you are a freshman just starting your journey, a transfer student mid-way along your degree, or a senior interested in adding these skills before graduation, set up an appointment with Sara Neuner to learn more.