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Mark Beasley, Jessica Thomas Recognized for Outstanding Outreach and Engagement

NC State Talley Student Union, Wolf sculpture
NC State Talley Student Union, Wolf sculpture

Directors of the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative (ERM) and the Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC) at the NC State University Poole College of Management were recognized recently for their commitment to teaching, research and public service by NC State’s Office of Outreach and Engagement.

ERM Director and Professor of Accounting Mark Beasley and BSC Director Jessica Thomas were among the 12 faculty and staff members honored at the 2019 Outstanding Extension and Outstanding Engagement Awards Celebration held on April 16. Beasley also was one of three university professors inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Faculty in Extension and Engagement this year.

These awards encourage and recognize outstanding extension, engagement, and economic development activities by faculty and EHRA employees of NC State University. They reflect the individual’s activities and achievements in the previous five years, and are directly parallel in intent to the University’s Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Both Beasley and Thomas have created initiatives that reflect the university’s land-grant mission. Through ERM and the BSC, they assess needs, develop appropriate programs to address those needs, and often work outside the traditional classroom to provide education and assistance that helps individuals in business and industry to make decisions and solve problems, engaging students and other faculty members in the process. Beasley and Thomas responded to email interviews with Poole College communications about their initiatives.

Mark Beasley | Enterprise Risk Management Initiative

Warwick Arden, NC State executive vice chancellor and provost, and Mark Beasley, Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management and ERM director at Poole College
Warwick Arden, NC State executive vice chancellor and provost, and Mark Beasley, Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management and ERM director at Poole College

The Enterprise Risk Management Initiative, established at Poole College in early 2004, evolved from work that Beasley had been doing as a member of COSO, a national think tank that worked to develop one of the world’s first principles-based frameworks on ERM. Its purpose was to provide guidance to boards of directors and senior executives to help them better understand and manage emerging risks affecting their entity’s strategic success.

“During that time, I learned that more and more organizations were seeking to implement ERM and we thought Poole College should incorporate ERM into our teaching and research for the next generation of business leaders,” Beasley said.

“The ERM initiative is a great example of the Think and Do mission of NC State,” Beasley said. “Hundreds of executives who have ERM leadership responsibilities in organizations all across the United States come to Raleigh regularly to share their insights and to learn from our research and the work we do with other entities to improve their risk governance processes,” Beasley said. “We also have over 250,000 visitors annually to our ERM website. That partnership with the ‘real world’ has been the key to our impact at a global level.”

Reflecting on ERM’s growth since its start, Beasley said: “It is awesome to see how the Poole College of Management is now the go-to place for ERM knowledge. We have established ourselves as global thought leaders on the topic of ERM. I’m fairly confident that if you ask ERM executives around the globe the question, ‘What business school is the best place for learning about ERM?’ NC State will be the winner, hands-down. We have that kind of impact.”

Looking ahead, Beasley said, “The global business world is not getting simpler or slower. Rather, the pace of change, disruptive innovation, geo-political shifts, cyber concerns, etc., only increase the volume and complexity of risks that may be on the horizon for most organizations. We hope to continue to be a thought leader on the topic of ERM, and are working now on developing online ERM certificate programs and hope to move towards a master’s in risk and analytics.”

As part of a the new VF Purpose Driven Business Speaker Series, these business leaders will share insights about the company’s transformation into a purpose-led organization. BSC hosts the series, which kicked off in October 2018 with Letitia Webster, the company’s vice president for sustainability and responsibility. The second speaker was Roian Atwood, the Director of Sustainability for Wrangler Jeans, in February 2019. Each speaker event is a conversation between a leader from VF and one of our NC State student leaders. More speakers are planned for the 2019 – 20 academic year.

Jessica Thomas | Business Sustainability Collaborative

Warwick Arden, NC State executive vice chancellor and provost, and Jessica Thomas, Business Sustainability Collaborative director at Poole College
Warwick Arden, NC State executive vice chancellor and provost, and Jessica Thomas, Business Sustainability Collaborative director at Poole College

Thomas joined Poole College in 2014 to establish what is now the Business Sustainability Collaborative. The vision of BSC since its beginning has been to solve businesses’ greatest social, environmental and economic challenges. BSC connects students, faculty, and the business community through experiential learning, career development, academic and applied research, and partnership opportunities.

“As founding director of BSC, I have worked to assess the needs of our NC State community as well as the local and global business community to develop programs inside and outside the classroom focused on using business as a force for good,” she said.

The Collaborative works with faculty to integrate environmental, social and financial responsibility into curricula throughout Poole College. It also engages industry to advance and share innovative sustainability practices that lead to positive business results, and engages students from area universities in its programs.

Most recently, Thomas’s work with the BSC has focused on B Corporations – businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. “B Corps like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s – and close to 3000 other companies around the world – form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good,” Thomas said.

NC State is now recognized as one of the academic leaders in studying and teaching about B Corps, she said. Thomas recently collaborated with the authors of The B Corp Handbook to develop an Instructor’s Guide – a roadmap for faculty to use the B Corp Handbook in the classroom. The second edition of The B Corp Handbook and the Instructor’s Guide will be published on April 23.

Students engaged with BSC gain hands-on consulting experience and the chance to learn about social and environmental impact assessment and sustainable business models. They have come from across NC State and participating academic institutions, including Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Elon University, Wake Tech Community College, NC Central University, North Carolina A&T University, and Appalachian State University. Over the last two semesters, 83% of the team leads for the B Corp Clinic project teams were women.

BSC’s B Corp Clinic, launched in 2014, connects students with local and global for profit businesses to help them improve their environmental and social impact. Companies are matched with a team of students from multiple schools and disciplines to go through an assessment process and identify strategies they can take to improve the company’s impact. The B Corp Clinic thus far has worked on 42 semester-long projects with companies that range from start-ups to multinationals, from a broad range of industries, local and as far away as California and Australia. “Students and companies can participate from anywhere in the world via an innovative virtual platform,” Thomas said.

The Clinic is currently being replicated at six academic institutions across the US and Canada, Thomas said.

“I’m excited to continue to grow the Global B Corp Academic Network (B Academics), which I helped to found in 2014,” Thomas said. “B Academics will soon be a network of over 1,500 educators and researchers from around the world who are committed to accelerating the sustainable business movement by studying the global movement of B Corporation certification and benefit corporations. They work with each other, the global B Lab network, and the B Corp community to share best practices and identify opportunities for collaboration with regard to research, teaching, and experiential learning. The networks host monthly video conference calls and an annual academic roundtable focused on sharing best practices and identifying opportunities for collaboration,” she said.

“The work of BSC would not be possible without the major gift from Lonnie Poole, administrative and faculty support from across campus, extensive student engagement as well as collaboration with the local business community, particularly our NC B Corp leaders,” Thomas said.