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Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs traditionally churn out bottom-line-oriented management types who go on to careers in consulting, private equity, and the like. But in the last decade or so, some business and management schools have shifted gears to create curricula with a focus on triple-bottom-line principles. The best of these programs give graduates a huge boost in finding and creating careers that emphasize social impact.

But what program should an aspiring social entrepreneur choose? We love the “Business as UNusual” report on conscious graduate business programs that Net Impact has compiled every year from 2006 to 2014 (explore it for yourself at netimpact.org). Yet with nearly 100 schools, it’s still a daunting list — and the latest edition is two years old. Plus, as you just read on pages 76-77, we believe a business degree shouldn’t require you to mortgage your future to exorbitant student loans.

So we’re inaugurating our own list of the best business school programs. Using Net Impact’s report as a baseline, we added our own filters to compile the top 15 impact-focused business programs in the U.S. today. Each of these options has a strong focus on social and environmental responsibility, and — just as important — each costs less than $110,000 for two years. Browse the list, get inspired, and find the right program for you. Because the future needs MBAs who care more about changing the world than about owning it.

KEY

 Social Impact Program Ranking

 Environmental Sustainability Program Ranking

 Social Entrepreneur Program Ranking

 Full-Program Tuition

 Website

1 BEST VALUE PINCHOT UNIVERSITY

 // MBA in Sustainable Systems

Bainbridge Island, WA

The original sustainable MBA program is still one of the best. We love that the whole school is devoted to sustainable business; that commitment shines through with Pinchot’s top ranks on all aspects of the curriculum, with a special emphasis on leadership and personal development. Tuition is relatively affordable, thanks in part to its low-residency option aimed at working adults.

 Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet nine times each year for four-day intensives

2 PRESIDIO GRADUATE SCHOOL

// MBA in Sustainable Management

San Francisco, CA

Another impact MBA pioneer fully devoted to graduate-level sustainability degrees, Presidio offers students experiential learning opportunities and a systems-focused approach in every course. With a close-knit alumni network in the heart of the tech sector, you don’t just get a degree — you join a community.

Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet 10 times each year for four-day intensives

3 COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

// Global Social & Sustainable Enterprise MBA

Fort Collins, CO

As the name suggests, this 16-month program housed in a large university features a strong focus on international business. The program includes a team-based, 8- to 12-week summer field intensive, often in developing countries (like Guatemala, pictured).

 Program structure Full-time for 16 months

4 HULT INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS SCHOOL

// MBA*

Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai

This truly global school offers its hands-on program at 5 different campuses worldwide (Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai). Students can complete the one-year intensive all at one campus, or choose to rotate to one or two others for twelve weeks toward the end of the program. Sustainability is one of six possible specializations MBA students can choose.

 Program structure Full-time for 12 months

5 MARLBORO COLLEGE

// MBA in Managing for Sustainability

Brattleboro, VT

This intimate program is all about sustainability. Housed in a small liberal arts college (300 undergraduates, 150 total graduate students), it offers a deep dive into sustainable ideas and practices via a two-year low-residency approach.

 Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet 11 times each year for three-day intensives

6 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA

// Bren School of Environmental Science and Management Master of Environmental Science and Management

Santa Barbara, CA

This is the only program on our list that doesn’t confer an MBA; instead, the interdisciplinary MESM is a good option for students interested in more scientific and technical grounding. The core curriculum, including a year-long group capstone project, focuses on developing solutions to real-world problems.

 Program structure Full-time for 2 years

7 MILLS COLLEGE

// Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business MBA

Oakland, CA

The whole business school at this former women’s college is devoted to diversity, sustainability, and social responsibility, with a big nod toward social justice. Bonus: all required business courses are offered in late afternoon or evening time slots at least once during each academic year to accommodate working professionals.

 Program structure Full-time for 2 years

8 CALIFORNIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS

// MBA in Design Strategy

San Francisco

An MBA from an art school? It makes sense when you think about the innovations required to rethink business as usual. But you don’t need an art background to thrive in this program; just an interest in using design techniques (such as user-centered research, prototyping, critique, and iteration) to make a business impact.

 Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet 10 times each year for four-day intensives

9 BARD COLLEGE

// Bard MBA in Sustainability

New York City and Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

This liberal arts school’s New York-based MBA program has only been around since 2012, but already boasts an impressive faculty roster. The program integrates social and environmental themes in all classes, and students work in teams to complete an 8-month professional consultancy with local organizations.

 Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet 10 times each year for four-day intensives

10 UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

// Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA

Chapel Hill, NC

If you’re looking for the large community and deep pockets of a major research university, this long-established program is for you. The enrichment concentration in Sustainable Enterprise includes 22 electives related to sustainability.

 Program structure Full-time for 2 years

11 ANTIOCH UNIVERSITY NEW ENGLAND

// MBA in Sustainability

Keene, NH

This small, intimate program is also the most affordable on our list. The interdisciplinary curriculum weaves impact and social responsibility throughout the hands-on work that includes case studies, field trips, research, and consulting projects.

Program structure In-person and online hybrid; students and faculty meet 10 times each year for two-day intensives

 12 MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AT MONTEREY

// Graduate School of International Policy and Management Fisher MBA in Global Impact Management

Monterey, CA

This program takes the “international” part of its name seriously: it’s the only MBA program we know that requires competency in a foreign language, and it attracts students from all over the world. Each student completes a real-world capstone project, and can choose from three tracks to focus on, including Social Enterprise and Finance.

 Program structure Full-time for 20 months (one-year option for those with relevant previous coursework or experience)

13 UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO

// School of Business MBA

San Diego, CA

All MBA students in this 40-year-old program at a Catholic university are required to take Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) coursework and engage in community service as part of their studies. Students average 15 days studying internationally during their time in the program.

Program structure Full-time for 22 months

14 PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY

// School of Business Administration MBA

Portland, OR

The vibrant city of Portland itself is part of the draw to this regionally renowned program. The school’s Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability and optional Social Innovation certificate combine with a program-wide core value of sustainability to offer a thorough immersion in forward-thinking business.

 Program structure Full-time for 21 months

 15 UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER

// Leeds School of Business MBA

Boulder, CO

Boulder is a hub for impact entrepreneurs, especially in the energy and natural foods sectors. The Leeds program draws strength from that community in its optional sustainability focus, and adds a world-class ethics in business component via the university’s Center for Education on Social Responsibility.

 Program structure Full-time or evenings-only for 2 years

*Net Impact rankings are for the now-defunct Master of Social Entrepreneurship degree

 

OUR METHODOLOGY

We prioritized schools that were holistic in their educational approach, affordable, and topnotch (as rated by students in Net Impact’s latest surveys). To cull our final list of 15, we looked for schools with ALL of the following:

• A top-50 rank for all three programs (see below)

• Total tuition of $110,000 or less (2016 numbers)

 OUR FINAL RANKING IS BASED ON:

 AFFORDABILITY RANK

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 SOCIAL IMPACT PROGRAM RANK

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 ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM RANK

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 SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM RANK

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WHY BUSINESS SCHOOL?

Our founders weigh in

“The most important thing I learned wasn’t about spreadsheets or finance; it was leadership. The constructive feedback I received from my peers taught me humility, how to work on a team, and where my strengths and blind spots are. I couldn’t be where I am today without that community.”

— Meghan French Dunbar, CONSCIOUS COMPANY co-founder and editor-in-chieftess; Presidio MBA ’12 “I knew I wanted to change the world, and I saw business as the best pathway to make those changes. Of course there’s no substitute for life and on-the-job experience, but a big part of getting a degree is being able to tell the world you’re credentialled. Not everyone you meet in life will look at your resume to see that other experience.”

— Maren Keeley, CONSCIOUS COMPANY co-founder and COO; Pinchot MBA ’15

 “My MBA has given me not only a personal level of understanding about business and financial decisions, but confidence when presenting and making persuasive arguments to other companies and leaders. Speaking the language of business lends credibility when you’re explaining the value of doing things differently.”

— Kate Herrmann, CONSCIOUS COMPANY Business

Development Manager; Pinchot MBA ’15

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