Creative Sustainability – Aalto University School of Business

It is widely thought that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in order to teach sustainability effectively. Aalto University School of Business has used this idea to create an innovative master’s degree that brings together three different schools, and the students, faculty and courses from the three different disciplines, to enable students to think about, explore and develop innovative solutions to business, environmental and societal problems. I had the chance recently to speak with Minna Halme and Armi Temmes about this unique programme.

What is the Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme?

Our Master’s Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability is a joint programme with the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the School of Business and the School of Engineering. It is a multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of architecture, business, design, landscape planning, real estate and urban planning. The programme is also offered as a minor for master-level students at Aalto University.

The programme is unique because it brings together students from different fields to study in multidisciplinary teams to create new sustainable solutions for human, urban, industry and business environments. The pedagogical approach is based on integrating teaching and research, problem-based learning, blended learning and a strong connection to practical outcomes.

The programme began in 2007 before Aalto University was even in operation. At the time, key individuals from the different departments came together to create this programme as a minor study programme. When Aalto University was formed in 2010, the programme became a master’s level programme.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

Students have access to a wide range of elective courses from across the different schools involved in the programme. We have several critical academic reading seminars but also courses like “How to Change the World: Innovation toward Sustainability,” where sustainability challenges are taken as starting points for innovation of new forms of individual action, economic activity, business models, and organisational forms. There are also project courses that offer the opportunity to work with real-life sustainability questions of companies, NGOs or public organisations.

Why have a Master’s in Creative Sustainability? Why make it interdisciplinary with science, art, technology and business?

The interdisciplinary Master’s Programme follows directly the aims of Aalto University itself – to combine technology, business and design. We believe this is knowledge any business needs to have.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Cooperation is an investment; it takes time and patience to develop a common Masters’ Programme with other schools. The programme takes place across different schools that all have their own study structures. In order to make this work a lot of time was needed to circumvent the existing bureaucracy and lobby for special rules for interdisciplinary studies. The rewards, however, are great.


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