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Congratulations to Lin, winner of the 2023 Corporate Partners Teaching Award

​​​​​​Lin Lerpold was awarded the 2023 SSE Corporate Partners ​​Pedagogical Award for her long-term commitment to establishing sustainability in the SSE curricula across both degree and executive education programs.

SSE met with Lin for a short interview on the award and about teaching sustainability.​

How did you learn that you had received the award and how did you feel?

When I arrived at the Corporate Partners' annual dinner, Lars Strannegård took me aside and said very formally, “I need to talk to you…" I immediately became a bit nervous and then he informed me... I was very happy of course, but also joyfully surprised!

The award means a lot to me, it feels like a validation for many years' engagement in a subject that has not traditionally been core to a business school curriculum. The award was not for a single course, instead in recognition for decades of advancing sustainability teaching into our programs, sometimes against resistance to change. ​​

You have been teaching and researching about sustainability for more than 20 years. Have you noticed a change in the way the topic has been perceived through time?

I was given relatively free hands by Lars, at the time Associate Dean for MBA programs, to develop a mandatory course on CSR and sustainability in the MBA program from 2011 – a fairly new subject in core business curriculums at the time and there was some resistance from both faculty and students. 'Here comes this “fluffy" topic', a course that focused on responsibility and the interaction between business and society, as well as was embedded in stakeholder perspectives. I remember going to class always anticipating the challenge to get students to recognize the legitimacy and importance of the subject to their future careers. This has really changed today, students expect sustainability to be a core part of their studies.

Yet, there are still challenges today. We avail a very Global North perspective in our teaching and understanding of sustainability. The focus is mostly on climate change and carbon emissions. More recently there is some focus on the connection to the environment and biodiversity. From a global sustainable development perspective, business sustainability is much broader and includes dimensions of social sustainability such as corporate respect for human rights and good governance. Furthermore, we need to prepare students to work in multinational companies where markets and people have different values and contextualized perspectives on the most salient sustainability challenges in time and place.

To connect scientific knowledge and understanding to contextualized empathy and feeling, I often use cases where students must put themselves in the shoes of different stakeholders. Roleplays highlight the complexity of a situation and allow students to see things from diverse angles. In the context of executive education, where time is more limited, I work a lot with Socratic methods type pedagogy where learning through constructive questioning and dialogue is more important than lecturing. ​

You teach the course Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Business in the SSE MBA. The course proposes to integrate sustainability knowledge throughout the MBA and into all courses as relevant. How did you build the course to be able to achieve this goal?

When I was responsible for the SSE MBA programs, our intention was to have an outer context connecting sustainability to Economics and Business Law. I still believe that sustainability should be introduced at the beginning of every program. Doing so supports maintaining a sustainability lens as important and inter-connected to more traditional discipline-​based courses throughout a program. Sustainability should be an “umbrella" perspective connected to most subjects.

More recently, together with other course faculty, we created so-called “joint sessions" making the connections between courses more distinct. For instance, students were given a case on Northvolt and tasked to connect issues of sustainability, business law and economics together. Similarly, we discussed H&M's Sustainability Linked Bond in a joint session with the accounting and finance faculty, and AI challenges and opportunities with the marketing and innovation teachers. Our effort was on connecting different perspectives to encourage participants to see the bigger and more complex picture.​​​​

You use the Socratic method in class. Why did you choose this approach?

The most important impact that we can have as teachers is to support and develop students' analytical thinking. Especially in times of polarization and the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, critical thinking is essential. I believe we need to further develop students' abilities to evaluate and to think analytically, which is why I choose to use the Socratic method, to push students to question things. I want students to be curious, to consider different perspectives and to develop a critical but constructive mindset.

In one sentence, what do you like most about teaching?

When I realize that a student has gone from knowing to truly understanding or taken on and genuinely engaged with a new perspective, it is incredibly rewarding!​