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Holly Folyer found UW-Superior’s online sustainability management program to be a perfect fit.

Sustainability: This important buzzword is ubiquitous these days. And, with good reason. The future of our earth – and its inhabitants – depends on a deeper understanding of climate change, which all circles back to sustainability.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior offers a degree track which caters to this exact field of study. It’s called sustainable management. Both bachelor’s and master’s programs are available, in a fully online format.

This program is offered through a collaboration with other UWs and UW Extended Campus. Students can live anywhere, but must declare a “home” university, such as UW-Superior.

Rapid Growth

The program is growing rapidly, noted Sakib Mahmud, Ph.D., a professor of sustainable management and economics at UWS. “Many young folks are passionate about climate change and climate action,” he said.

“We currently have 82 students; 35 of which are enrolled through UW-Superior. We have the highest number of students, and I think it’s because of our location – students who choose this field of study select UWS because of Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), our green space and our beauty.”

Upon graduation, a degree in sustainable management is incredibly versatile. Mahmud shared some of the career tracks available to students, including:

  • Sustainability consultant
  • Solar consultant
  • Sustainability director
  • Green energy consultant
  • Environmental planner
  • Climate change consultant
  • Zero waste manager
  • Environmental health & safety manager

“This program is not only versatile, but flexible,” he noted. “We can provide you with the resources. But ultimately, your career is all about your passion; your motivation; your strengths.”

Holly’s Story

Holly Folyer, who lives in Neenah, Wisconsin, is currently enrolled in the program, and expects to graduate in December 2024. Folyer had previously earned an associate’s degree in marketing – and worked in the field for a time – but ultimately made the decision to pivot.

“I found that my degree in marketing and my experience just didn’t align with my values anymore,” she said. “Marketing is highly focused on consumption. I no longer want to be a part of that.”

So, she chose to study sustainable management, noting, “This felt like a good opportunity to explore environmental topics that interested me, but also use my business skills.”

She chose UW-Superior as her “home campus,” after doing plenty of research.

“I dug into each campus,” she said. “In researching UWS, I learned that the faculty and professors had professional backgrounds – in areas like environmental studies, business and economics – that aligned with the path that I wanted to pursue.”

Folyer shared some of what she has studied in the sustainability management program.

“We’ve studied topics which are sometimes referred to as ‘ESG’ – environmental, social, and governance,” she said. “Specifically, we’ve covered environmental science, triple bottom line accounting, supply chain, business/policy, energy, waste management, renewables and more. We’ve had to learn ‘systems thinking’ in all components.”

Upon graduation, Folyer is keeping her career options open.

“Sustainability is complex,” she said. “Ultimately, I want to be part of the adaptation and advancement of society. I’m exploring the fields of business and wastewater, but I’m not limiting myself.”

Flexible Online Format

The online format has been very accommodating for Folyer’s busy life. She and her partner, Eric, have an eight-year-old son, Oliver, and several pets. Folyer is also currently completing an internship for the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

“Going into this program, I had reservations about whether it would be a rewarding academic pursuit – in particular, by going from in-person to fully online,” she explained. “But every professor makes themselves available via email and Zoom. There is a level of personality that comes through.

“It’s integrative with the entire UW system, too,” she added. “That’s how you get such a rich experience. And I can have online, real-time conversations with my classmates.

“I don’t just want a piece of paper. Within this program, there is ample opportunity for growth, academic exploration, and networking. I would absolutely recommend it to others.”

“Here at UWS, we believe that ‘small is beautiful,’” added Mahmud. “We focus on the relationships between faculty and students, and prioritize good understanding and repertoire with our students, even online. We want to make sure they’ll succeed.”