Chatham University Faculty Spotlight – Sandra Taylor, J.D., MBA

Sandra Taylor, J.D., MBA

Chatham University’s Business & Entrepreneurship Department is pleased to welcome Professor Sandra Taylor as a new faculty member! Her focus is on corporate social responsibility and sustainable business. This Fall, Professor Taylor taught Introduction to Corporate Social Responsibility at the undergraduate level and Leading Organizations and Projects in the MBA program during her first term here at Chatham.

After finishing law school at Boston University’s school of law, she started her career as a diplomat for the state department. She chose to pursue a career as a foreign service officer to avoid working in a law firm as she wanted to travel.  As a diplomat, she got to travel the world on assignments and spent every summer in Geneva. Through her travels, connections, and friendships, she spent much time in France and Italy and fell in love with wine and wine making.

Professor Taylor left her diplomatic position for a corporate career working for a petroleum company, Kodak, and eventually Starbucks. At Starbucks, she focused on sustainable agriculture and responsible sourcing of coffee, tea, and chocolate for the company. Looking into sustainable sourcing for coffee made her curious and critical of the wine industry and how they produced and sourced their products. So, when attending conferences for Starbucks, she would add on a few extra days to her trips to explore and learn about different growing and production practices revolving around wine.

When working in the corporate world, she realized that she didn’t have a strong business background and sitting in corporate meetings, she lacked the language of business, so she chose to go back to school for her Master of Business Administration. This led her to Bordeaux, France where she completed her MBA with an emphasis in Wine Management and Marketing where she focused on sustainable wine production.  While still a traditional MBA, all of their case studies focused on wine companies and wine production. She wrote her thesis on sustainability in wine supply chains and what motivates sustainability in wine supply chains. After doing research for her thesis and conducting hundreds of hours of interviews, she wrote her first book The Business of Sustainable Wine: How to Build Brand Equity in a 21st Century Wine Industry. She wrote the book mainly for grape growers, wine producers, distributors, and retailers to educate them on wine supply chains.

Professor Taylor has had a very long and full career and had been doing some teaching for Georgetown, The University of San Francisco, and University of Pittsburgh where she gave guest lectures on topics of corporate social responsibility, consulting, leadership, and sustainable wine. While she enjoyed her time lecturing, she really wanted to lean more into teaching, as well as have more time for writing. She started looking for faculty positions at universities with strong sustainability programs and found Chatham University to be a good fit for her. While teaching is her main priority here, she also plays a role in building business relationships for the university and is constantly attending conferences representing Chatham University and The Falk School of Sustainability. She is also designing a new Executive Master’s Degree in Sustainable Business Leadership. It will be an online program for professionals who are already working in business but do not have knowledge in sustainability and want to concentrate on that focus.

In Spring 2019, Professor Taylor will teach Sustainability and Assessment Reporting for the MBA program. This course focuses on how to monitor sustainability and sustainable goals within a business and their supply chain as well as set and achieve sustainability goals.  In her classes, Professor Taylor expects her students to come prepared and be vocal in the seminar. As a former manager, she may have slightly higher expectations of her students. If she puts the effort into designing a lesson plan, she expects her students to read, follow it, and participate in the discussions.

Professor Taylor says that her biggest challenge here at Chatham, and as a teacher in general, is finding that right balance between real-world application, history, and theory. She finds herself focusing too much on the real-world application as she comes from a corporate background and has to remind herself to apply the theory. Also, using Moodle has taken some getting used to.

Her advice for any young professionals is to not over plan. Look at your career options and choose the right path at the right time and take small steps to get there. Be willing to make small sacrifices in the short term for a long-term financial or strategic gain. Take advantage of opportunities that may not be in your specific path, but will offer you connections and knowledge that could help down the road. Choose mentors to give you advice and point you in the right direction. Pick a mentor who can open doors for you but not dictate your direction, and seek out mentors rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Professor Taylor still runs and owns her own consulting firm, writes a column for an online wine review journal, and of course occupies her role here Chatham. She has plans to write another book in either sustainable consumption or a sustainability guide for chefs.

Annalise Winter is a first-year member of the MBA/MA in Food Studies dual degree program. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Annalise began studying at Saint Louis University in 2012 where she earned her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with emphasis in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She came to Chatham University to continue her studies and further expand her passion for combining food and entrepreneurship.

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