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MBA for Life program helped Andy Sloop MBA’00 develop a process management approach to sustainability

by Linda Lenhoff,

Andy Sloop MBA’00 has a lifelong interest in technology and sustainability, making him the perfect person to serve as Global Zero Waste & Circularity Director at Nike — a position he’s held for seven years.

Twenty years after earning his MBA through Willamette’s MBA for Life program, Sloop was able to take a Lean Six Sigma course with Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems Henry Bi. Bi’s course teaches a systematic, data-driven approach to continuously improve manufacturing and other processes, drive quality, and eliminate waste. The MBA for Life program enables MBA graduates to take select classes for free for life. Sloop passed the American Society for Quality’s Certified Six Sigma Green Belt exam at the end of that course, and highly values what he learned.

“I’d been wanting to do Lean Six Sigma for a while,” Sloop began. “It has very practical applications in my work.”

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) focuses on process excellence, Sloop explains. “Every process has variation in it, whether it’s ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks, making a pair of shoes, or a medical procedure.”

Sloop leads the development and implementation of global strategies for reducing and recycling waste from all of Nike’s contract factories. The valuable process management skills Sloop received from Willamette were a perfect fit for his current role. “It definitely gave me language, mental models, concepts, and tools that I didn’t have before,” he said, adding that the strategy felt intuitive to him. “Now when I talk to people who have gone through similar training, we have a shared approach and language for improving processes and systems.”

A lot of what Sloop and his coworkers do, especially in a large, complex organization like Nike, is identify strategic opportunities to improve sustainability performance at scale, and then identify who can catalyze that change. Many such opportunities entail driving more consistent manufacturing process excellence. Sloop added that he “focuses on long-term systems improvement, not narrow, short-term wins.” Sloop maintains that “you can’t do sustainability alone — it’s inherently a team sport. You have to cultivate allies and be able to find alignment across stakeholders.”

Sloop values Willamette’s dual accreditation in business and public administration and believes it is a good program for people who are interested in working at the intersection of the public and private sectors.

“The Willamette MBA teaches fundamentals that are transferable and applicable in a lot of different contexts,” Sloop said. “You need to be able to apply management principles to a lot of different contexts when you’re working in sustainability.”

Photo Caption: Andy Sloop sits atop bales of textile scrap from footwear manufacturing while visiting a recycling facility in Vietnam in 2023.

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