New Collaborative Certificates Prepare GW Business Students for Multidisciplinary Careers

Three new graduate certificates launch this fall as part of a new partnership with the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

faculty gates
September 07, 2021

By Kristen Mitchell

Graduate students in the George Washington University School of Business will be able to pursue three new graduate certificates this academic year as part of a new partnership with the School of Engineering and Applied Science, preparing students for emerging careers innovating and managing through crisis and climate change. 

Starting this fall, students will be able to earn graduate certificates in crisis management, energy systems management and environmental systems management as they fulfill requirements for their GWSB programs. Each certificate requires students to complete 12 credit hours of coursework in SEAS, nine hours of required courses and a relevant elective. Students will be taught by faculty in the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering (EMSE) and work alongside peers pursuing degrees in both GWSB and SEAS. 

Over the past several years, GWSB leaders have been hearing from alumni and business leaders how critical engineering and technology skills have become to tackling the toughest challenges in industry, said GWSB Dean Anuj Mehrotra. Establishing new programs to fulfill these needs—and partnering with SEAS, which already has the expertise in house to do it—emerged as a natural path forward.   

“The way to be successful is not to have one lens—whether that’s business, or policy or understanding the technical aspects,” he said. “To address the best interests of our students, it’s necessary to break silos and facilitate a collaborative, interdisciplinary outlook that generations have been talking about but very few schools have.”

This new cross-school collaboration is the result of a year of work by Dr. Mehrotra, SEAS Dean John Lach and faculty and staff from both schools who helped identify relevant coursework and eliminate administrative barriers to develop these new programs. These programs represent only the start of a new partnership that highlights the type of well-rounded education students can receive at GW. 

Cross-disciplinary Learning
This new partnership comes at a time SEAS is thinking about the role of engineering at GW, and in society more generally, Dr. Lach said. This fits into a broader concept coined “engineering and…” — emphasizing the school’s desire to provide students the kind of opportunities and experiences they might not be able to get at another institution and that will prepare them for leadership and societal impact. This includes exposing SEAS students to the rest of GW, as well as other GW students to engineering and computing.

GW business students were previously taking SEAS courses to learn more about these topics. The new certificates have created an easier pathway for students to pursue these subjects.

“We’re now presenting it to the students in a way where they don't have to figure it all out on their own,” Dr. Lach said. “We’re telling them, here is a set of classes that could really fit well into your program and prepare you to be the leaders of the mid-21st century.”

Having students from different academic backgrounds enhances classroom discussion, said Zoe Szajnfarber, professor and chair of EMSE. Classes for each of the three certificates include significant case study. Students determine how to best approach challenges, using both analytical techniques and their own real-world experiences. These types of conversations encourage students to think about challenges from a new angle and explore lines of thinking they otherwise might not have considered, Dr. Szajnfarber said.

“Everyone introduces their own perspective on how they would solve the problem or what the key issues are, and what you find is when you have people from different backgrounds everyone notices different things, and those perspectives combined often lead to better solutions” she said. 

GWSB offers 27 for-credit graduate certificate programs—12 in STEM disciplines—that can either be taken on their own or for students who want to deepen their knowledge in a particular field or discipline as part of a broader graduate program. Since Dr. Mehrotra came to GW in 2018 he and Liesl Riddle, GWSB’s vice dean for strategy and an associate professor, have been leading faculty and staff to reimagine business education. As part of that, they revised the school’s graduate certificates to be standalone learning experiences. 

Dr. Riddle hopes the new graduate certificates are just one early step in a growing collaboration with SEAS and other schools.

“We have some amazing schools at GW,” said Dr. Riddle. “If we can leverage that in partnership, I think that will help our students in terms of their competitiveness and our university's distinctiveness.”

Both schools credit the launch of these certificates to strong communication between school leadership and an openness to partnership among faculty, including Jonathan Deason, professor and lead of the environmental and energy management concentration, and Joseph Barbera, associate professor who leads the crisis, emergency and risk management concentration. Dr. Deason and Dr. Barbera also pursue cross-school collaboration through their leadership of the GW-wide Environmental and Energy Management Institute and Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management, respectively. 

Previous collaborations on individual classes taught by faculty from both schools, and projects like the cross-disciplinary Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics, set an example for what can be gained through teamwork. 

“Everything we do is going to happen because of the enthusiasm and the creativity of our faculty and our students,” Dr. Lach said. “As deans, it's a matter of recognizing where our students and faculty see the opportunities and providing support to let those things flourish.”

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