The Responsible Management Revolution

Bucknell’s Freeman College embodies United Nations’ principles for sustainable business leadership
by Brooke Thames
Professor Melissa Intindola, management & organizations, teaches students how to be drivers of corporate sustainability.
Photo: Emily Paine
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Professor Melissa Intindola, management & organizations, teaches students how to be drivers of corporate sustainability.
UPON ENTERING BUCKNELL, it doesn’t take students long to learn what differentiates the Freeman College of Management from traditional business schools. An emphasis on ethics, sustainability and equity permeates the entire curriculum — from the signature Management 101 course to classes on tax law.

Since its inception, the Freeman College has worked to integrate these ideals throughout its many majors, taking cues from a set of values and goals established by the United Nations. Founded in 2007, the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative seeks to transform the future of global enterprise by positively shaping the skills and mindsets of today’s business students.

“One of the noblest questions of our existence today is, ‘How do we balance self-interest and the common good?’ ” says Professor Neil Boyd, management & organizations, who helped introduce PRME to the College. “The answer lies in our ability to recognize that organizations don’t simply exist for the creation of wealth. Our students must expand their focus beyond financial prosperity to include economic justice, social development and environmental protection.”

Climate action, gender equality and the elimination of poverty are just some of the 17 PRME Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that guide pedagogy within the Freeman College. SDGs can be easily spotted in courses like Stakeholder Organization, where students assess the consequences of business decisions on various communities. Other SDGs have been creatively infused into the accounting and finance majors through lessons that highlight peace, justice and strong institutions — and what happens when institutional integrity fails.

By examining the history of corporate fraud, students in Professor Stacy Mastrolia’s accounting seminar “come to understand how human motivations influence financial management, for better or worse,” Mastrolia says. “We’ve seen that if we do not have strong institutions, it’s very hard for justice to prevail. Accounting provides the solid foundation that impactful businesses are built on.”

The Freeman College has produced two comprehensive reports detailing its successful efforts to integrate the PRME initiative — from identifying high-priority SDGs to creating a student-led ambassador program to promote peer-to-peer engagement.

“Our goal is to help provide avenues for students to learn about these topics outside the classroom,” says management & organizations major Brenna Yingling ’24. Each semester, the group hosts alumni speakers who model sustainable management and seeks out community partnership opportunities.

“It’s important to realize that sustainability is about so much more than the environment — it’s about supporting the long-term well-being of people,” Yingling says. “Having that knowledge is what will enable us to go out and make a real difference in the world.”

It’s a kind of knowledge that “isn’t commonly taught at the average business school,” says Professor Melissa Intindola, management & organizations, who oversees the incorporation of SDGs into the college’s evolving curriculum.

“At the Freeman College, we’re creating leaders who are equipped to think critically about the work they do. And they’re learning how to do it from day one.”