A team of students from the Saturday MBA (SMBA) Program at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) has been invited to present its “Bouton Creek Bike Path Project” at this week’s 2013 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.
Running through Thursday, June 27, at UC Santa Barbara, the conference highlights cutting-edge sustainability research as well as case studies with proven successes in curriculum development, operational programs and community partnerships.
SMBA students Ishwar Bharbhari, Christopher Brunson, Briant Carcamo, Lucy Le and Tyson Siekiera developed the project over the last academic year (about nine months) as part of the their course on “Sustainability and the Business Organization.” Ingrid Martin, chair and professor of the Marketing Department, served as the students’ faculty advisor, and they worked on the project in partnership with CSULB’s Sustainable Transportation Program and its coordinator, Elissa Thomas.
However, what started out as a semester class assignment has turned into so much more, and part of that “more” takes place this week when they take advantage of the opportunity to give a 15- to 20-minute presentation on their project at the conference in a session titled “Learning to Solve Real World Sustainable Transportation Problems.”
Bouton Creek is part of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District channel that runs diagonally through the city of Long Beach and CSULB. The bike path project proposes to transform a barren service road into a safe, open, landscaped and well-lit bike path that would provide a direct link from the city’s planned bike path on Bellflower Boulevard to the local YMCA and a public park, and then to the center of the CSULB campus.
“The bike path project was one of five projects presented to class at the beginning of the fall semester. Each team had to pick a project that it was interested in working on,” explained Le, who served as the team’s leader. “My group had actually picked the bike trail project because of the fact that most of us love to bike. So, that’s how we made that connection. It was the one project that we could relate to the most.”
Le noted that she missed the team's first meeting on putting the project together, and when her team members came back and started talking about all of the things they wanted to do with it, she knew she could do a good job with the project and contribute significantly.
“I work as a corporate controller of an architectural engineering firm in Irvine, and when I found out what the project entailed, I knew there were a lot of things we could do with it,” said Le, who like most Saturday MBA students works full-time during the week. “I went back to my work and gathered some people who are big into sustainability, and I started asking them what was possible. They really got into the project and were very and helpful.”
Everything started falling into place at that point, she added.
Le said the initial assignment was to do a feasibility study to see how possible it would be to make the bike trail happen, but once the students started talking to all of the different stakeholders and putting everything together, they knew they had something more. Not only did they get a feasibility study done that first semester, the group also got a conceptual design and a conceptual estimate done for the project.
“At first, we thought this was a good idea but realized this was something that we could really pull off,” Le recalled. “By the end of the fall semester, we came to the conclusion this is probably something that would benefit our campus, and we should move forward on it. That’s why we were asked to stay on the project for the ensuing spring semester.”
It was Thomas who suggested that the group submit its bike path project to the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. The conference’s selection committee had 18 sustainability projects submitted from colleges and universities throughout the state, including Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA. After evaluating each one, CSULB’s “Bouton Creek Bike Path Project” was the second-highest scoring proposal of the bunch.
Le and her teammates were very excited when they found out their project finished second and that they would be invited to present at the conference, but the class project has had a much bigger effect on her than that.
“Working on this project, I really developed a new found passion for sustainability,” Le pointed out. “I went from driving a 2007 Toyota Tundra double cab that got 12 miles to the gallon to actually driving a Prius that gets 55 miles a gallon. It definitely helped me realize the importance of sustaining the environment for the future.
“I kid you not, I think about sustainability with every little thing,” she continued. “For example, when I go to buy gas, and you know how they ask you if you want a receipt at the end of your transaction. Before this project, I used to say yes. Now, I say no. But then I think to myself, ‘Why can’t they give me the option to put in my email account so they can email me my receipt?’ That’s how my thought process has changed.
“Going to the conference to me is just an opportunity to get the word out about how important it is to think about all of these sustainable efforts that people are making,” Le added. “Being able to research all of this really opened up my eyes. You know, if we put a little bit of thought into everything we did every day, we could actually make a difference for the future.”
Still, the project isn’t ending after the team’s conference presentation. In fact, what has added so much more excitement to the whole process is the fact that the “Bouton Creek Bike Path” is going to become a reality.
David Salazar, CSULB’s associate vice president of physical planning and facilities management, said the path will cost approximately $600,000 and should be completed within the next two years.
Not bad for a Saturday MBA project.
“I am always amazed by the depth and quality of the projects our MBA students complete in their classes, and our Saturday MBAs complete their projects while working full time during the week, which is even more amazing,” said Michael Solt, CSULB’s dean for the College of Business Administration. “But to apply their learning to a project that will be practical, applied and actually implemented is really powerful and rewarding for these students. To have a project that hits the passion about sustainability that this team has is an additional bonus.”
The California Higher Education Sustainability Conference is jointly organized by independent/private colleges, California Community Colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California creating the opportunity for dialogue across institutions.
For more information, visit the 2013 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference website.