Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) is now Pinchot University

Jamie Forsyth
Jamie Forsyth, MBA Cohort 4

Changing Business For Good

Starting in 2002, Bainbridge Graduate Institute offered the nation’s first MBA in Sustainable Business. Since then, more than 700 change agents have created a networked community like no other, with an 82% job placement within three months of graduation.

In 2015, BGI changed its name to Pinchot University to be better positioned for future growth. Our name may be new, but our core values are stronger than ever and our integrated programs still lead the industry in sustainability. We are a fully accredited graduate school committed to the common good.

Starting A New Kind of Business School

Pinchot University is built upon more than a decade of hard work, determination and belief in changing the world through business.

In 2001, Gifford Pinchot III was in New York preparing for a meeting at the World Trade Center on September 12. Instead, with the rest of the world, he watched the towers fall. His wife, Libba Pinchot, was studying in India, also watching the events unfold, not knowing where her family was or if they were safe.

Things had to change.

That week, a group of change makers, including Bob Willard and Amory Lovins, huddled around a hotel room. They knew the best mechanism for driving change on a massive scale would be the one with the most power: business. It was apparent we’d need new ways of making things, new ways of communicating, and new ways of conducting business. We needed to educate a new generation of strong business leaders who would operate business in a sustainable way that cared for the welfare of people and planet to ensure that future generations could thrive.

In 2002, with a mission to “Change Business for Good,” they started the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and offered the country’s first MBA in Sustainable Business. The early years attracted a diverse range of faculty, students and followers; people from a wide range of backgrounds, from artists to CEOs, who felt discouraged by traditional models of business and wanted something new and positive.

A Winning Formula

Since 2002, Bainbridge Graduate Institute has come to be a thriving institution, offering MBAs in sustainable business and industry-specific certificates, creating a network of more than 700 alumni. We were accredited in 2009 from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACIS), in addition to our authorization by the State of Washington’s Student Achievement Council. With an expansionary mindset, Bainbridge Graduate Institute moved its headquarters to Seattle in 2012 and changed its name to Pinchot University in 2013.

Pinchot University is a university for the common good, offering two MBAs in sustainable business, certificate programs, professional development courses, and the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE), a program that provides entrepreneurship and enterprise support to under-served communities.

Our name may be different than it was when we started, but our core values are stronger than ever and our integrated programs still lead the industry in sustainability.

Gifford Pinchot: The Man Behind Our Name

In late 1890, amidst the roaring boom of business in urban America, Gifford Pinchot had freshly returned from his year of study at L’Ecole Nationale Forestiere in Nancy, France. Far from completion, Pinchot actually dropped out of the program for a lack of hands-on learning opportunities. As he recalled to his father, James Pinchot, at Grey Towers National Historic Site, “…the nation was obsessed by a fury of development. The American Colossus was fiercely intent on approaching and exploiting the riches of the richest of all continents.” Pinchot found business as usual contradictory to the values he was taught in his graduate studies of forestry and conservation, and somehow understood how these two forces could coexist.

Leadership in Action

He developed an appropriate response. He called it: “Leadership in action”.
Pinchot turned to his network for help. After two years of forest surveying, caretaking and rubbing elbows with industry leaders such as Frederick Law, Olmsted, George Vanderbilt and John Muir, his mission became clear. Pinchot set out to prove that forestry, when applied correctly, could continue to provide its financial fruits and ensure the preservation of forests for the benefit of future generations.

Unfortunately, Pinchot’s perspective was not shared among timber companies nor by leading forestry professionals. Despite these hurdles, Pinchot’s passion and persistence continued to drive progress. His methodology included the incorporation of market rhetoric to reiterate the profitability of both conservation and logging practices. Where economics were concerned, the scientific management of forest land was a profitable endeavor and nobody was finding the common ground to see past the short term: logging companies had too short a horizon, and preservationists were too opposed to commercializing nature.

A Voice for Conservation

By 1908, Pinchot earned significant social and political recognition for his forest management theory. That year, he organized (and personally funded) the Governors’ Conference on Conservation, which was the first politically recognized and attended meeting to address the management and protection of natural resources.

The fruits of Gifford Pinchot’s legacy are many in number. His work at the crossroads of forest conservation and the betterment of business resulted in the founding of the National Forest Service, the National Conservation Committee and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington State.

For his passion and perspective, Gifford Pinchot (the grandfather of our school’s co-founder, Gifford Pinchot III) is an ideal namesake for an MBA program focused on sustainability.

I was taught business by people who sought to change how business is done."

Dawn Danby
MBA Cohort 4
Sustainable Designer at Autodesk. Co-author: Worldchanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century

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