Q&A: Recent Grad Rosalynn Dodd Talks Horses, Leadership and Sustainability Education

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Profile imageRosalynn Dodd of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has been busy. Since graduating from the Executive Master’s in Sustainability & Leadership (EMSL) program at ASU in January, she launched her own consultancy and has been named for several national awards, including Canada’s Clean50 Emerging Leader 2015.

TriplePundit talked with Dodd to find out more about her decision to pursue a sustainability education and how it impacted her career.

TriplePundit: Let’s start by talking about your experience at ASU. What was your focus of study, and when did you graduate?

Rosalynn Dodd: I was extremely excited to be a member of the very first cohort of the Executive Master’s in Sustainability & Leadership (EMSL) program at ASU. It was an action-packed 13 months with four incredible instructors in four major sustainability themes (strategy, global context, leadership and communications). We had three in-person “immersives” (two at the ASU campus in Tempe and one in the Netherlands), and the rest of the course was hosted online. I graduated in January 2015.

3p: What made you decide to pursue a sustainability degree?

RD: I have an undergraduate degree in business with a personal focus on sustainability and have worked for a couple of companies that put sustainability as a top priority. I strongly believe that business has the power to solve the world’s social and environmental problems when it is properly set up to do so. I also know that companies that are pursuing sustainability are out-competing their competitors in innovation, ability to attract and retain top talent, and their bottom line.

I knew that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree and wanted to learn as much as I possibly could with respect to sustainability in business. I didn’t want a certificate tacked on to another degree, and I didn’t want validation for what I already knew. I wanted a degree that would position me as a leading expert in sustainability, leadership and business because I know how many companies are looking for that kind of expertise. I looked at MBA programs, MSc programs and everything in between, but when I found the EMSL, I knew I found what I was looking for — it was the perfect combination of topics, with incredible instructors and from a school with deep sustainability knowledge already in place.

3p: What are you up to now? Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities and how long you’ve been on the job.

RD: I am a founding partner of a small sustainability consultancy firm. We work with small- to medium-sized businesses to incorporate sustainability into their business model and into their culture. My personal focus is on sustainability leadership and developing capacity among “up and coming” leaders. I am currently developing an adaptive leadership program that is an equine (horse) facilitated leadership and sustainability program. Horses communicate through leadership, even with people, so they are excellent teachers for leadership skills that transfer directly into the workplace.

I am also teaching a course at the University of Calgary Continuing Education in Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship where I get to share my passion and knowledge in sustainability with a new group of students every semester.

3p: Have you found that your sustainability education was a benefit in the field?

RD: Absolutely. In consulting and capacity-building work, potential clients are very interested in experience and credentials. Having a master’s degree in sustainability instantly elevates my credibility. My focus and background in business has also been extremely helpful as it allows me to speak in business terms. I always look for the business case and the value proposition of sustainability, which helps to get potential clients on board.

I also have much more confidence in my own skills and knowledge now, which helps me in tougher conversations; I have way more tools at my disposal that I can use to approach sustainability, and I have an incredible network of peers that I can call on if I have challenges that I can’t solve on my own.

I have been recognized with national awards and asked to keynote at conferences on sustainability and leadership, something I really enjoy doing.

3p: Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about a sustainability degree?

RD: Do it! My experience was incredible. I really enjoyed my program, my instructors and my cohort, so I have nothing but good things to say about the degree. I know that sustainability is only going to become more important in business, and the more people that are equipped with the skills they need to find opportunities through sustainability, the better off we will all be. There is a massive variety of sustainability programs out there, from social science, to environmental science, to business focus and more. I spent a lot of time looking for the right program for me, so I know that there are lots of options for people depending on what their specific area of interest is.

3p: What’s your biggest sustainability pet peeve and why? Disposable grocery bags? Trash in the compost? Cars double-parked in the bike lane? Share your thoughts!

RD: Just one? [Laughs] I would have to say that my biggest pet peeve is when people externalize the responsibility. So many people blame big business, government, their institution or their coworkers for why they aren’t more sustainable themselves. I think that every single person has a role to play and needs to make a personal effort. No one is perfect; no one can do everything; but everyone can (and should) do something. It means taking a second longer in making decisions — being a little bit more aware and deciding what you can do to make a more sustainable choice, every little decision can add up. Don’t blame corporations and say they need to change without first looking at yourself and knowing what opportunities exist for you to personally improve — corporations are just collections of individuals after all.

Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and social justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.