Casting Seeds Part 1: Alumni Talk About Careers in Sustainability



In Part 1 of the “Casting Seeds” series we’ll meet Rudy Ruggles, President of Collaborative Innovation Services, a consultancy that helps organizations use the tools and principles of sustainability to create innovative solutions to strategic and organizational challenges. Rudy is based in Boston, MA, and graduated from MCAD’s Sustainable Design program with a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design. Read an article co-authored by Rudy, Disruptive Innovation and Social Change, published in Harvard Business Review (2006).

“MCAD’s Sustainable Design Program was exactly the right mix of content and application to give me a strong foundation in how to use the principles of sustainability in my consulting work. The fact that it was fully online, flexible, and taught by outstanding faculty makes it the perfect program for busy professionals.” — Rudy Ruggles, Massachusetts, alumn

Meet Rudy Ruggles

Sustainable Design (SD): Was learning about sustainable design something you wanted to do, or something your job asked of you?

Rudy Ruggles (RR): It was fully my decision to enroll in the Sustainable Design program at MCAD although the topic of sustainability was key to my professional activities so in that way it was something that my job asked of me. Since I essentially work for myself, it’s hard to separate the two.

SD: Why did you join the Sustainable Design program?

RR: I had been learning about various aspects and elements of sustainability on my own for several years, but felt that I would really benefit from a program structured to cover these topics in a coherent and thorough way. It was partly to help me make sense of, and put into context, what I already knew something about and partly to learn more from people who already knew much more than I did about sustainability. The online aspect of the program fit perfectly with my availability (juggling consulting projects with a home life that included two pre-teens).

SD: How has what you learned studying Sustainable Design at MCAD helped you in your field?

RR: In one specific example, I have been able to directly apply what I learned about life cycle assessment to two major projects. I have continuously drawn upon elements from collaborative product design and marketing, to biomimicry, to pattern languages and systems thinking in my work, even if just as a backdrop. In fact, I’ve revisited almost all of my work as I put together an online guide to sustainable product design for SolidWorks (a 3D CAD/CAM software company).

SD: How are you making a difference?

RR: Whether helping communities try to avoid and adapt to climate change, or assisting companies incorporate the principles of sustainability into their daily operations, I like to think that I’m making a difference in small ways that will create ripples that add to others, and others still, to create big waves. It is sometimes hard to tell whether a particular efforts matters, but I believe that the cost of inaction is too great a price to pay. I can’t do everything, but I feel like I can at least do something.

Image courtesy of Flickr CC @tibchris.

Rudy Ruggles

Rudy Ruggles is president of Future Fixers, an organization that empowers kids all over the world to use their creativity and knowledge to identify and solve problems. Rudy teaches the skills and the character traits that enables kids to create compelling futures for themselves and those around them, avoiding being victims of the many problems they may face. Previously, for 6 years, Rudy was president of Collaborative Innovation Services, a consultancy that helps organizations use the tools and principles of sustainability to create innovative solutions to strategic and organizational challenges. Rudy holds a MBA from Northwestern University and he co-authored an article Disruptive Innovation and Social Change that was published in Harvard Business Review in 2006. He completed a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design from MCAD in 2009. Rudy is based in Massachusetts.

Cindy Gilbert / Former Director

Cindy is founder and director of Alula Consulting which specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects for educational institutions, non-profits, and corporations. Recent clients include The Lemelson Foundation, VentureWell, Green Building Research Institute, University of Montana, PBS, Silverback Films, and more. Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry.

Cindy was the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program for 7.5 years which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fostered a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. Before MCAD, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the professional certification program, annual education summits, affiliate and fellows programs, and design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana. Please contact her through LinkedIn.