Bard MBA

Curriculum

Bard offers a unique MBA, one of a handful of programs globally that fully integrate the study of business and sustainability. Our curriculum ensures that students master the business case for sustainability, understanding how to align profit with ecological and social mission. Students in the MBA program take a series of 19 classes over two years of study. The curriculum is organized around weekend-intensive residencies supplemented by regular online instruction. Each residency has a theme, and the four courses offered each semester are woven around that theme.

Modules and Classes

The Bard MBA focuses on different big ideas in each weekend intensive and in the related online instruction. Below you can explore the curriculum for all four terms.

Clicking on any of the course headings will take you to that course's syllabus. Click the "plus" buttons to expand the table to view the course topics and mouse over any of the course topics to get more detail.

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Term One more/less Foundations of Sustainable Business Economics for Decision Making Leadership I Accounting & The Integrated Bottom-Line NYCLab
Modules Orienting August at Cary Institute The sustainability paradigm
This session explores the historical, scientific and ethical basis of sustainability as critical normative compass for individuals, for society and for business.
The evolution of economic thought
This session lays out the history of economic thought, from the mercantilists through to the present day, emphasizing the interplay between the development of the market system and its analysts, and the tension between economics as a social science and economics as an ideology.
From The Republic to The Social Network
Starting with Plato's Republic, we reflect on training for leadership, and the degree to which today's companies are or should be run by philosopher kings and queens.
Managing and measuring
We begin with a discussion of recent catastrophic business failures—and consider whether bad information systems were to blame, or whether managers failed to heed the warnings provided by those systems. We also introduce basic statistical concepts: central tendency, variance, and the normal distribution.
Build the team
Foundations September in NYC The business case for sustainability
We first develop the vision that can align profitability with a focus on reduction in environmental impact, and engagement with stakeholders. What does it mean to run a sustainable business? How does sustainability differ from social entrepreneurship?
Market fundamentals
We begin framing the economic question of sustainable development on a finite planet. Then we will review the fundamentals of market interaction: supply, demand, elasticity. Because markets require access to the commons, externalities arise. We conclude with strategies for managing the commons--regulation, taxes, cap-and-dividend.
Self awareness; transformative leadership
We begin with a focus on developing a greater understanding of self through a number of experiential and reflective activities. How do issues of race and gender affect leadership?

We will look at different leadership models and the differences between transactional and transformative leaders and organizations.
Causality and management
Measurement is only useful if it identifies the causal linkages between inputs and outputs. We will focus on performance measurement, non-financial performance management, understanding causality and evaluating how choices of what to measure affect behavior. We will highlight why sustainability factors have traditionally been left out of the accounting process.
Two-semester consultancy. Students work in mentored teams.
Stakeholders and Communication October in NYC Stakeholders and sustainability
We explore here the six foundations of the business case for sustainability: resource efficiency; design from nature; continuous innovation; employee productivity; partner synergies; customer engagement. These in turn arise from productive relations with nature, customers, employees, suppliers, investors, and business, NGO and state partners.
Production theory and market structure
Here we review the short and long run cost structure of the firm—determined by the productivity of labor and the availability of capital. We illustrate the standard model of profit-maximizing behavior under different market, and thus firm-demand, structures, illuminating pressures to externalize costs.
Audience, communication, and negotiation
We discuss here how empathy is developed, our ability to teach it to others, and its role in communication.

The focus will be on developing the skills to communicate successfully with the world around you.
Internal control and risk assessment
We will build an understanding as to what impacts the quality of information being used to make decisions as well as what managers can do to ensure the information produced by the organization can be relied upon. The focus will be on identifying and managing strategic risk - including environmental, social, stakeholder, etc.
Frames for Decision Making November in NYC Topic deep-dives: water, carbon/energy, human rights, and the built environment
How can business engage in solving local and global sustainability challenges? We will see the importance of good science as a basis for solutions, explore the ways in which businesses have found opportunities to meet critical human needs with a radically reduced footprint, and consider how companies can alter the frame through which customers and other stakeholders relate to the business.
Neoclassical and ecological economics
This section of the course covers the economics of sustainability, focusing on how resource limits are understood by different economic models. We will also explore, and attempt to reconcile, economic and scientific perspectives on the prospects for business-as-usual growth across the 21st century.
Understanding boundaries; converting challenges into change
We will learn how to identify our own boundaries in life and at work, set boundaries for ourselves, identify the boundaries of others and respect them.

We will focus on how to convert negative feedback and failures into positive opportunities for change.
Cost behavior and decision making; budget creation and monitoring
Here we focus on understanding the nature of costs and the consequences of different cost structures on short and long-term risks and opportunities.

The examination of budgeting from a strategic, operational perspective, (planning and analysis). Also, we will consider the financial consequences of changing strategies, as well as how resource allocations impact various stakeholder groups.
The New Information Landscape December in NYC Sustainability information
Here the focus is on the explosion of new types of information being monitored in the sustainability space. We will look at CSR reporting, trade-offs in strategic decision making, and the development of metrics and standards.
Economics of imperfect information
Since the 1970's, much economic theory has focused on individual and firm behavior in the face of imperfect information. We will lay a foundation for future agency and governance discussions, looking at asymmetric information, moral hazard, contracting, and make-buy decisions.
Millennial leadership
We will focus on generational leadership. Has the internet changed everything?
Activity analysis
We will focus on inputs and their affect on outcomes, activity based costing, material flow cost accounting, GRI reporting, carbon accounting.
Term Two more/less Operations I Globalization and Emerging Markets Political Economy of Sustainability Finance for Sustainable Business NYCLab
Modules Systems Thinking January in NYC Business as a living system; The basics of operations
We will introduce the concept of systems thinking and its approach to problem solving. We compare it to our current operation's models to highlight gaps and inefficiencies.

We provide a foundational review of the value chain, capacity planning, forecasting demand, process design, inventory management (JIT, MRP, total quality management,) and more. We consider how statistical analysis supports planning and control.
Economic drivers of globalization
We begin with a history of globalization, and then focus on the proximal drivers of the recent wave: technology and transport costs. We also discuss the relevance of comparative advantage and more advanced trade theory, as well as traditional explanations for industry concentration and clusters.
Inequality rising & business at the bottom of the pyramid
We begin with a look at the defining socio-economic feature of the 21st century: the rise of income inequality in both developed and developing countries, often aggravating race, ethnic and gender disparities. Levy Institute expertise will illuminate these trends. The economic drivers will be discussed concurrently in the globalization class; here we focus on the limits of Keynesian macro-policy, the decline of the welfare state, and the limits of state power. We end with a look at bottom of the pyramid solutions.
Fundamentals of financial management; goal of the corporation
This section will review discounting, interest, time value of money, cash flow asset valuation techniques, etc.

We will emphasize the different objectives of the profit maximization and shareholder maximization models. We will look at trade-offs, long and short-term views of a firm, perfect market assumptions, ethical considerations and more.
Two-semester consultancy. Students work in mentored teams.
Firm Costs and Finance February in NYC Resources and costs
This section will focus on cost control, reviewing concepts of resource productivity. We will explore ecological design and radical resource efficiency as key strategic elements for sustainable business. One focus will be energy: what are the advantages of energy efficiency and renewable technologies?
Money and banking
Here we review the basics of money and the banking system at the national level, and the traditional role of the central bank. We update our understanding of this role by examining the non-traditional strategies employed by the Fed in the wake of the recent crisis, and the new international nature of the financial system.
Business history; corporate goals
In this section, we examine the rise of the global corporation, beginning with the industrial revolution. We explore how issues of scale, finance, risk, and politics have shaped corporate forms, and business goals, leading now to the emergence of sustainable business.
Capital structure and payout policy
We focus on the impact that capital structure can have on firm value and managers' ability to pursue value-maximizing policies. We will also provide a basic understanding of the irrelevance of dividends under perfect market assumptions and how the relaxation of those assumptions leads to potential importance of payout policy.
System Dynamics March in NYC Measurement and statistics
We will focus on statistical analysis for operations such as process control. We review basics such as sampling, the relationship of probability to statistics, bi-variate significance testing. We will explore new areas of measurement in sustainability including traceability and total cost of ownership.
Financial systems and fragility
Bard's Levy Economics Institute is an international center for the study of financial fragility. We bring Levy's expertise to bear to understand the underlying nature of financial systems, continuous "financial innovation", potential policy responses, and the implications for business management in the coming decades.
Politics and policy
Sustainable business strategy is often entertwined with policy: subsidies, taxes, and regulations. Here we will explore the post-WWII evolution of American politics, and evolving policy frameworks at the state, national and international level that have been at various times, supportive or hostile to business sustainability. What are the trends for the coming decade?
Valuation
Introduction to the underlying assumptions of traditional NPV analysis and the insights offered by APV analysis. We wil discuss estimating cost of capital, focus on simple valuation exercises, and the challenges of internalizing externalities. We will also explore project valuation and finance, with special focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Global Regulation and Structures April at Cary Institute Trends in supply chain management
The focus will be on current trends in supply chain strategy including reverse logistics, responsible sourcing, outsourcing, design for environment, closed loop manufacturing and more. We will include trends in manufacturing and environmental law (such as REACH and WEEE) and the potential for new regulation.
Global structures
Here we focus on the national and global structures regulating trade and finance. How do these structures touch the day-to-day operations and HR requirements of businesses? We will also consider the ethics surrounding "payment for access" in different cultural contexts.
Business and society
In the absence of strong national or global governance, critical partnerships among NGO's, governments, and businesses are emerging. This section considers the different organizational structures, cultures and goals of these entities, to explore the basis for successful partnerships.
Markets for ecosystem services
We will begin by identifying ecosystem service providers such as forests, climate, wetlands, etc. and characterize their roles and relationships. We will look at emerging markets in these areas, and the role of policy. More applications of regression analysis here.
Distance and Ethics May in NYC Tools for sustainable operations
We look here at new frameworks and tools in "greening" the supply chain including green sigma, lifecycle analysis, LEED, etc. We include a statistics segment on multiple regression.
Localization
Is local business more sustainable? We will focus on this question, and strategies to develop successful local businesses in the face of continuing globalization pressures. Comparative policy frameworks of different countries and communities will be explored.
Ethics and voicing values
Here we work through Gentile's approach to ethics training, with a special focus on the ethical challenges of operating in global markets.
Agency theory and governance
Here we focus on compensation policy, internal and external monitoring, the difficulty of monitoring managers with the single objective function of value maximization, M&A, and the rationale for acquisitions and diversification.
Term Three more/less Operations II Customers and Marketing Leadership II Employees and Organizations Capstone Proposal
Modules Setting Goals August at Cary Institute Facilitated retreat weekend to develop career goals / Classes meet for an introductory session
3-credit proposal
The Sustainability Advantage September in NYC Reinventing industries
Sustainable business leaders know how to adapting industry models — from products to services, from consumption to co-ownership, etc. We will identify social and environmental gaps addressable by industry and how real-time data and advanced analytics within supply chains can turn these gaps into opportunities. More statistical applications.
Sustainable marketing
One cornerstone of the business case for sustainability is customer engagement in business mission. Another is to meet human needs, not manipulate them. We will focus throughout this course on traditional marketing strategy, and how it does, or does not, relate to sustainable business. Here we review marketing foundations including the 4Ps, segmenting and positioning, and strategy.
Leadership for sustainability
We will address the unique aspects of inspiring and leading sustainable change: how to play the role of change agent powerfully; how to unlock the power of values-driven leadership; and how an organization can define and develop these values together.
Eyes on the prize
Sustainable businesses have a natural advantage in their social mission: people work for money, they also work to change the world. Both are important in attracting and retaining talent. We focus here on building effective organizations that can achieve both goals, by giving the most to, and getting the most from, employees.
Communication and System Design October in NYC Industrial ecology
How can we learn from nature? We will focus on biomimicry and look at how natural systems can aid in understanding how to design sustainable industrial systems. We consider here material and energy flow, dematerialization, life-cycle planning, product stewardship, and more.
Effective communication
Given the vast menu of outreach opportunities, how do marketing managers make effective choices? This includes choice of vision, message, artistry, media. How is data used to drive successful decisions? More statistical applications.
Managing change; conflict resolution and negotiation
We will focus here on identifying causes of resistance including motivational factors, misinterpretations, fear, etc., and then managing this resistance to change.

Tools, tactics, processes and strategies.
Human resources systems
How do small and large companies develop systems to maximize employee productivity? We will focus here on constraints imposed by external labor markets, as well as the design of internal management processes.
Human Rights and Empowerment November in NYC Outsourcing and globally integrated operations
We look here at the evolving strategies and perspectives on outsourcing and the global operations of transnational corporations. We consider benefits and costs from financial, human rights, environmental impact, quality, and efficiency perspectives. We look again at geographically local production models.
The 21st century consumer
We focus on the consumers as omnivores of new types of information about brand and products. We'll look at growing segments including the ethical consumer market, secondary markets, underserved markets, and more.
Delegation
We will examine the different skills necessary to transition from individual performer to change agent, to manager and leader. We'll focus on identifying the personal challenges inherent in this transition and the gap in preparation from a business infrastructure perspective.
Employee engagement strategies for sustainability; building organizational congruence
We will focus on case studies of successful employee engagement including do-one-thing, 3P, 'jams, green building and more. We will examine both intrinsic reward models based on values, as well as traditional incentive models. How are team and individual reward systems structured?

We analyze the fit between strategy and organization, congruence frameworks, managing the process of strategic and organizational change, including ethical considerations.
Social Media December in NYC Social media and product design
We focus on crowd sourcing and co-creation with customers on product design and execution. What are the trends that support social media as an element of operations?
Social media marketing
Here we will focus on how to effectively communicate through social media: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and emerging trends.
Managing millennials; ethics, productivity and social media
With millennials making up 50% of the workforce worldwide beginning in 2015, we will focus on the defining characteristics of their work and leadership styles, how best to manage and mentor them and strategies for working in virtual teams.

We end with a focus on leadership ethics in an age of social media — Googling interviewee's, blogging, Facebook posting - how they both enhance productivity and create new forms of risk.
Creating global networks through technology
We will examine how employees create and grow their professional networks of business support - inside and outside the organization - through social media networks. We will focus on understanding the importance of "nodes" or connectors within these networks and their importance to the organizational communication, however informal.
Term Four more/less Innovation Capstone Strategy for Sustainability Business Pragmatics  
Modules Intrapreneurship & Entrepreneurship January in NYC Intrapreneurship
How can you be a successful intrapreneur—an internal change agent for sustainability? We will focus on the accumulation of soft power, the processes and communication requirements for success, and the willingness to fail.
3-credit project
Students pursue a start-up, an intraprenuerial project in their workplace, a consultancy, a research project, or a deeply developed business plan.
Competition and cooperation
One foundation of the sustainable business case is to exploit the opportunities that arise from cooperation around the shared vision. This means partnerships and networks. But what about competition? Here we introduce simple game theory to understand the dynamics of competition and cooperation, and also to learn how evolutionary psychology is providing new insights into the opportunities for and limits to cooperation. We will also examine normative theories for management's role in the firm.
Entrepreneurship: starting a SME
We focus here on the nuts and bolts of starting your own business: choice of business form; boards; tax and labor issues. We consider a final time the skills and capabilities that differentiate entrepreneurs from their corporate counterparts and the steps to get your new idea off the ground.
Decision Making: Instinct vs. Data February in NYC Analytics, complexity, and speed
We explore new capabilities for decision making based on today's data-driven tools, including "smart" meters and sensors, real-time analytics, and more. More statistical applications. We'll also look at advanced analytics and the future of computing for predictive analytics.
Strategic frameworks
We focus on strategic frameworks and analytical tools including strategy canvas, four actions framework, SWAT, competitive analysis, etc. We will also focus on the need for developing flexible, plans and scenarios in a business environment changing more rapidly than ever before.
M&A assessment
We look at the rationale for acquisitions and diversifications, common pitfalls, stakeholder perspectives on M&A, and how to manage acquisitions.
Getting to Scale March in NYC Innovation through sustainability
One of the business cases for sustainability is that the push for continuous innovation to reduce footprint induces innovation. Moreover, sustainability demands collaborations for innovation (new types of partnerships: with customers, competitors, supply chain partners, crowd-sourcing, etc.) How can this potential be translated into successful innovation and the growth of the sustainable business?
Networks and partnerships
We examine strategies for identifying new partners and networks for market growth, including NGOs, academia, etc. We'll also consider strategies and processes for stakeholder collaboration. We conclude with a discussion of the financing and management challenges faced by mission driven businesses as they seek to scale their impacts.
Accessing capital
We focus on understanding the different sources of capital and the roles of various institutions from banks to insurance to microfinance. We will look at the benefits and drawbacks of each of the models.
The Edge of Innovation April at Cary Institute Discovery, incubation, acceleration
We focus on the building blocks of corporate innovation - discovery, incubation and acceleration. We will look at structured entrepreneurial programs, and other approaches to designing a management system that supports these elements by encouraging failure to boost learning.
Reconstructing market boundaries
We focus on approaches to redefining traditional perceptions of industry and market opportunity and boundaries. We will examine new business models developed by new and existing players in multiple industries.
Managing intellectual property
The role of IP is evolving. In some parts of the world, such as China, IP is often at risk, while in certain areas of innovation and growth IP management can be a stumbling block to collaboration. We focus on how to manage your IP to promote collaboration but also protect your organization from theft.
Celebrating Success May in NYC Radical transparency
We discuss more collaborative governance and platforms for stakeholder engagement, enhanced traceability of ecosystem activities, data and analytics that extend transparency and mitigate risk, and how all this leads to an optimization of operations.
Keep finding the path
Strategy is a map to take people where they otherwise would not go. Here we focus on bootstrapping towards a vision, inspiring people to work with you as you travel to a high point, to a low point, to the next high point—on the journey to sustainability.
Continuous personal development
We consider how to foster a personal and professional network for continuous growth in your career and as an individual. We look at the topic of mentorship and how to identify and work with mentors and mentees.

The Course Structure

To understand the course structure, open the term one menu above. You can see that a student in the first semester will be taking courses in sustainability, economics, leadership, and accounting. At the same time, faculty for the different courses will collaborate throughout the semester around five themes: gaining orientation; foundational ideas; stakeholders and communication; frames for decisions; and the new information landscape.

The Bard Difference

Although the program is offered through the weekend-intensive model, contact hours and content are comparable to a traditional, residential two-year MBA. Students enroll in cohorts. All classes are taken with your cohort of fewer than 50 students, ensuring the development of a close community of graduates.

Integration and Flexibility

Given the integrated, sustainability-focused nature of the curriculum, all students take the same set of courses. Students achieve flexibility in their course of study through design of class-based research projects, participation in NYCLab, and development of their capstone project. This work allows students to tailor their MBA education to their interests and career goals.