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Developing a New Program: Regenerative Finance and Economics

By Ken Sagendorf –

On the heels of a newly formed business school focused on stewardship, we attracted a large and diverse set of stakeholders including founders and public figures in the sustainability space, bankers, foundation executives, volunteer faculty and scholars from other universities, and practitioners to create and propose a Master’s degree in Regenerative Finance and Economics. It was ultimately unsuccessful and the university turned it down.

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A few highlights:

  • We sought to answer the question, “what would a finance MS degree look like where students were being prepared to be leaders and push for systems-level changes” look like?

  • Ecological (sustainability) economics and systems science needed to be present so that both dominant and alternative economic and financial frameworks could be evaluated and compared.

  • Regeneration and sustainability are related but not the same; the curriculum needed to make that clear.

  • In addition, we were simultaneously setting out to build a hugely experiential program. The opportunity for MRFE students to apply their learning was foundational to the program design. Students would have been introduced to and intersect with the Regenerative Communities Network in Denver during their courses but also have access to the work being done in the other 15+ regenerative communities across the country and world.

  • Faculty must be prepared to continually research and revise their material as the world around us changes exponentially. The good news is that there is quite a bit of material available to build on.

  • The excitement and passion of our college-level vision didn’t match the boots-on-the-ground of even our own faculty in our finance and economics programs. There was such excitement about this potential from folks outside of our college that was unknown by our own faculty. The faculty didn’t participate fully in the 6 months of excited and passionate exploration and perhaps even understand the philosophy of regeneration in their own fields. Acceptance of what we were trying to do meant they needed to identify/own the shortcomings of their own disciplines.

  • Creating a structure that connects faculty, chairs, and deans as like-minded cohorts to share not only the specific work around programming, but the leadership and support is necessary for implementing these programs. It must be more than a passionate individual carrying this work forward and we need an infrastructure to support progress here.

  • Academic Centers are able to connect to the community and the practitioners in the field while faculty drive curricular changes. These differences need attention.

  • More details about our design processes, expansive collaborators, lessons learned, and reflector on the process will be in the book chapter, Regenerative Finance and Economics from start to finished (for now) in Routledge’s forthcoming book, Transforming Business Education for a Sustainable Future: Stories of Pioneers, M. Fritz, L. Irwin, and I. Rimanoczy (Eds.).

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Developing a New Program Regenerative Finance and Economics Sagendorf
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