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Partnership to infuse sustainability concepts into project management curriculum

ASU, Green Project Management partner to prepare students, community to make an impact in a sustainability-driven workforce


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January 08, 2024

Aligning with Arizona State University’s top-rated sustainability practices, ASU’s project management program recognizes the urgency for a more sustainable environment and society and, as a result, is the first American university to partner with Green Project Management, a global sustainability organization and recognized United Nations Global Compact PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education)-supporting organization, to incorporate sustainability into undergraduate and graduate-level project management curriculum.

“With concerns about climate change, deforestation, plastic pollution, water scarcity and biodiversity loss, organizations are increasingly expected to shift their culture and act in ethically, environmentally and socially responsible ways; therefore, we want to invest in the people, tools and technologies with a sustainable focus,” said Emily Mertz, an associate teaching professor in ASU’s School of Applied Professional Studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, a senior global futures scholar in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and a Green Project Management Global Ambassador.

Together, faculty in ASU’s School of Applied Professional Studies and Green Project Management will infuse PRiSM and P5 standards for sustainability in project management frameworks — which align with the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals — into undergraduate and graduate-level curriculums, as well as the growing local industry.

“What better way to send our graduates into the world — with skill sets in sustainability, so they can stand out in the job market and do their part to make the world a better place,” said Professor Sean Williams, director of ASU’s School of Applied Professional Studies at the Polytechnic campus.

Green Project Management, an organization that advances sustainability and planetary regeneration through sustainable project management methods and standards, and ASU’s School of Applied Professional Studies faculty agree that, as Williams put it, “incorporating sustainability practices at the project management level is vital ... and supporting this initiative via educational opportunities in a large market like Phoenix would make a profound impact.”

David Smyth, vice president of engagement for Green Project Management, added, “We are thrilled to be working with Arizona State University. Their level of professionalism, outstanding team and commitment have built the top sustainability program in the country. We look forward to jointly advancing the cause of sustainable development and providing ASU students with the skills required to be leaders in the profession.”

This first-of-its-kind partnership establishes ASU’s project management program as a leader in training sustainable project managers.

“We hope this model sets the stage for other universities so sustainability becomes diffused throughout the entire project management discipline,” Williams said.

Advancing the project management program at ASU has been a priority for Williams, considering the amplified demand for project management professionals in the Valley, across Arizona and beyond. To meet the demand, CISA recently launched a bachelor’s degree in project management and has one of the handful of master’s in project management (MPM) programs in the country. ASU’s MPM program is one of six top online MPM programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2024).

Building upon that momentum, this partnership will enable CISA to offer sustainability-focused training modules, capstone projects and certifications for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as community workshops and seminars for those in the workforce looking to upskill and reskill to become more competitive in their industries.

“My course modules examine how sustainable leadership and sustainable project management can engage stakeholders to jointly confront wicked challenges and promote just conservation and development practices, aligning with environmental sustainability and social justice,” said Mertz.

Students in the MPM program can look forward to transforming an existing unsustainable project or practice into a sustainable one in their capstone course: Impact Analysis and Sustainability in Project Management, developed by Mertz. In addition, the GPM-b exam is integrated into the final module, accrediting students as certified green project managers upon completion of the course.

“Phoenix has a lot of large companies moving into the Valley, especially along the 202 corridor, with large project management operations, and we are increasingly interested in supporting these industries by integrating sustainability into their projects,” Williams said. “So by building up the community around us and giving our students the sustainability tools they need to be successful, we hope to generate a synergistic effect that benefits current and future project managers and, eventually, the world.”

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