Sustainability Champion Tim Palmer

The Office for Sustainability celebrates our friends and colleagues who work tirelessly to advance sustainability on campus and in the community. We call such individuals Sustainability Champions, because they are champions helping us create a culture of sustainability while improving quality of life for all. 

Dr. TIm PalMER, Professor of Management and Director, Center for Sustainable Business Practices   

"This new generation is so prime to want to be part of the solution...there is potential for real change"

Dr. Tim Palmer, Professor of Management at the Haworth College of Business (HCOB), has a passion for sustainability. As Director of WMUs Center for Sustainable Business Practices, he guides and assists students, faculty, and local businesses both on campus and off to become sustainability champions; driving home a smart model of eco-conscious choices and inclusionary practices. Palmer is proud to work with an institution that stands out as the only public business school in Michigan to be a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a UN initiative that guides and promotes the future of sustainable practices in business and management. HCOB students are exposed to sustainability tenets in multitudes of ways; they are also required to take a sustainability course during their undergraduate term. These factors coincide to put the HCOB at the forefront of educating for sustainable business practices, all while offering students unique cross-disciplinary experiences that will provide a solid footing in the post-graduate job market.

Dr. Palmer has used the Center to promote and leverage sustainable business practices at WMU and in the Kalamazoo community. Palmer recently coordinated a case study competition for undergraduate business students, which was sponsored by Target. This competition allowed students to make real pitches to businesses regarding their ideas to combine sustainability and business in creative and innovative ways. At the end of the day, one lucky team of students walked away with $1500. One of Palmer’s biggest (and ongoing) accomplishments has been facilitating a WMU study abroad trip to India with a group of undergraduate students. These students learn about cross-culture collaboration and sustainable financial practices by working and learning with their Indian hosts. This journey is evolving – the upcoming trip in December of 2017 will be an interdisciplinary collaboration between the College of Health and Human Services and HCOB, allowing students from both programs to join and learn while experiencing another culture. This is the WMU’s first interdisciplinary study-abroad trip, and it is sure to be the catalyst behind many more inter-college programs.  

Dr. Palmer’s undergraduate work in Forestry means his history with sustainability is long and storied. While field work was a major passion of his, it lacked in career opportunities at the time. This lead him to complete a Ph.D. in Business, where he was lucky enough to fall into a world of sustainability and education, as he says, it “just happened.” His education did not end here though; as a professor he combined his passion for service-learning and his newly found interest in social justice into a student trip to Chicago, the “Urban Plunge,” during which a student group volunteers their time through programs that assist homeless, transient, and out-of-work peoples. Palmer sees the field of business as one that is rapidly changing and he is hoping to capitalize on his work through the Center to change the perception of business to be one of positivity, rather than the negative, ‘greedy’ stereotype with which it is often associated. Dr. Palmer believes that as businesses become more familiar with sustainability issues, they will come to understand that sustainability, social justice, and climate change will all impact the ultimate success of their enterprises.   

       “The benefit of service learning, which is required in all of my classes, means going out and serving others, but learning at the same time. It’s going in with open eyes and ears and taking in all that you can learn. I would encourage people to get out of their comfort zone, be open to what you can think and learn from this experience.”

We are in the midst of exciting times for sustainable practices throughout the community. The foundation of the Office for Sustainability has made ‘sustainability’ a buzzword around Kalamazoo. Community members are climbing aboard and brainstorming ideas about how they can incorporate sustainable practices into their studies and experiences.

Students in Palmer’s classes are passionate and excited about sustainability, and are looking to work for companies whose ethics and goals align with their own. Palmer is constantly inspired by the students that he works with, as well as by the many initiatives happening at domestic and international universities. He believes that the time is ripe for change, and professionals who value sustainability will be the drivers and incubators of real, lasting, sustainable change.

His advice to all individuals interested in sustainability: get out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and remember that these efforts do not stop with graduation. Congratulations to Dr. Tim Palmer, for being the first WMU Sustainability Champion! Learn more about Dr. Palmer and the Center of Sustainable Business Practices at their homepage.

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. Palmer