First in the Sustainable Built Environment

In our tenth year this past fall, BGI marked several firsts. Our first decade, first degree other than an MBA with the MA in Organizational Leadership, first permanent home in Seattle’s Pioneer Square within a community of allies, and the first offering of sector-specific, graduate business certificates, such as the one just launched on the Sustainable Built Environment.

I’ve always taken a liking to the practical, and knowing how things work. Not enough to enjoy the benefits of a bike, or motor vehicle, or music – in my youth, I had to tear them apart and build my own custom chopper, go-cart, and garage band amps and sound system. So too it was with structures. As I became a teenager, my father and I largely finished our family cabin on an Ozark lake. I learned first-hand about the importance of design, construction, materials, and taste.

Those skills have served me well through-out my life, and though no craftsman, they helped me build much of our farmstead in North Dakota as well as restore a home with my wife and children that she successfully placed on the National Register of historic places. We’ve come to love and appreciate when a real blend of art and science is found in our structures. And, we’ve experienced first hand the challenge of discerning what to keep, and when to build anew.

Upon first meeting Jason McLennan, our faculty leader for the certificate in the sustainable built environment, I recognized that blend of art and science, an unusual wisdom of discernment, and a vision for what our homes, our buildings, our cities could be. While firmly rooted in practical design, construction, and materials – as any architect should – he also seemed able to see beyond the horizon, to a place of ‘living buildings’ (which, in fact, is taking shape on Capitol Hill in Seattle).

Our Certificate in the Sustainable Built Environment is designed to challenge professionals in the field, as well as be an incubator for new sector entrants. Originally thinking it would attract architects, thus far it seems attractive to other actors in the sector I might not have guessed. Commercial real estate developers, for example, are a demographic where I field many inquires.

I’ve learned many of Jason’s peers consider him a bit outside the norm, a bit ahead of the curve – but that is exactly the kind of unique graduate educational experience we hope for at BGI. Our intent is to continue BGI’s pursuit of a next-generation graduate school, and our certificates in the built environment, energy, and food/agriculture are well on their way to earning their keep. Time to check on our new batch of firsts.

About the Author

John Gardener, Ph.D. has been an entrepreneur, an agricultural researcher, a passionate champion of sustainability, a teacher, a leader of community economic development and a senior academic administrator. He is now the Dean of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

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