Not Your Typical MBA Grad

How a Google search led to a Green MBA

Stereotypes can be hard to avoid; mention that someone holds an MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) and an image comes to mind; in a striped suit, briefcase, shiny oxfords. But Margie McClain, MBA ’09 shatters that image, much like other graduates of Antioch University New England’s MBA in Organizational and Environmental Sustainability.

As an undergrad, she majored in marketing and minored in art-oil painting, to be precise. Before coming to Antioch University New England (AUNE) she managed an uber-traditional women’s boutique and battled polluters on the Savannah River in Georgia. Like many Antioch alumni, diverse experience broadens her and passion drives her.

Born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, where she still lives, Margie became intimate with nature through her parents’ love for the outdoors. They also instilled in her a strong work ethic. Throughout high school and college she worked in retail and became a manager of a Lilly Pulitzer boutique in Augusta. She was fascinated with the role the store played in the community.

“Customers don’t just come in to shop, they come in to talk. And because we sold traditional clothing, it was family-oriented, so dads came in looking for something for their girls, that kind of thing.”

The Road-Trip Epiphany

Margie’s love of the outdoors took her to college in the north Georgia mountains, where she studied general business. “I love marketing and consumer behavior,” she said. Her interests-business, nature, and community were beginning to develop. Then came an epiphany.

“A friend had been kayaking in Alaska and asked me to join him for the long drive home. In the two weeks, it took to go from Seward to Boulder, Colorado, camping all along the way, I saw the vast beauty of nature and I thought: this is it! If anything speaks to me, it’s conservation. I had spent years helping people buy things and I like that culture, but I didn’t like feeding the need to buy and adorn. It felt kind of unimportant. I love the reality, the rawness, the beauty of being out there.”

Margie always thought she would work for a corporation, then get an MBA, but her plans took a turn. “I was looking online for work or an internship in an environmental company and Googled green. She laughs. “I really did.” Her online search of educational programs brought her to AUNE’s MBA in Organizational and Environmental Sustainability. “I remember staring at the screen, amazed by the flexibility of the MBA program and thinking ‘Wow, weekends. This is for me!’ I just believed it was meant to be.”

She found cheap flights and figured the expense into the cost of going to school. “Of course, I was a little nervous about going to graduate school in New England. I’m a southern girl and I’d be saying hi to everybody and I thought they might be wearing black and bored with everything I say. But Antioch wasn’t like that at all. I thought ‘these people should be southerners.’”

Margie also embraced the accountability of the program. “I couldn’t believe how interested the students and teachers were in everything everyone had to say, the questions they asked, the ideas they had. I’d never felt so at ease and encouraged. And the students-all nineteen of us were wildly diverse, from farmers to corporate folks. I learned a lot from them.”

Margie’s delighted she chose a non-traditional MBA. “In addition to finance, marketing, and those areas of knowledge, I learned the science behind environmental sustainability, ecological processes, and resource management.”

Now, as a field representative for Oceana Inc., an international marine conservation organization, her retail and marketing expertise helps her work with supermarket managers to post the FDA’s mercury advice for consumers as a part of Oceana’s Seafood Contamination Campaign. She also works as a sustainability intern for Hoffmann & Associates, a green building consulting firm in Atlanta, and is taking a leadership position with the Augusta chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Being Aware of the Wider World

As always, though, Margie McClain heads outdoors as much as possible running, hiking, kayaking, and volunteering on behalf of the Savannah River.
“Now when I’m outside, I know more about what I’m looking at,” she says. “Antioch made me aware of the wider world and gave me the science that I had been lacking! all of which has made me more valuable to the organizations I want to work for.”

Brimming with confidence, Margie encourages others to explore and seek out their true passions. “That’s what happened for me at AUNE.” Her AUNE teachers, explained Margie, helped her see what she needed to understand.

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