Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The University and Natural Disasters

Sarah Murray has an interesting article in the January 7, 2013 edition of the Financial Times - - Destructive storm offers constructive lessons.  The article looks at the trend of incorporating environmental strategies as part of MBA courses given our recent weather disasters and the era of extreme weather.  The core questions of climate adaption appears to be coming to business schools and engineering.  Risk analysis, environmental management, uncertainty in global supply chains, and energy security are becoming required subject material for an uncertain world.

None of this will be easy.  Climate adaption is a multidisciplinary problem requiring multidisciplinary vision.  Both academia and the business world struggle with systems and holistic thinking.  Murray writes the following:

"There is evidence that schools are beginning to put issues of environmental responsibility and climate change into the heart of the MBA rather than leaving them as optional electives.

But the challenge facing schools is that the issues raised by Sandy could be taught through a number of management education topics, from finance and strategy to climate risk, energy management and environmental sustainability.

"All the disciplines come in, in one form of another," says Prof. Kunreuther {professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of Wharton's Risk Management and Decision Processes Centre}.  "You can talk about sustainability or the environment and you have financial questions, management questions, decision-making questions and public policy questions."

Some attempts have been made in academia to link these different fields.  At MIT, the Engineering Systems Division was established to tackle complex engineering systems problems by incorporating thinking on engineering, management and social sciences."

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