The Center for Sustainable Enterprise is pleased to welcome five new CSE Leadership Fellows: Corey Barnes (MBA ’14), Matt Crook (MBA ’14), Nidhi Sharma (MBA ’14), Tyler Bench (BSBA ’13) and Meredith Magjuka (BSBA ’14). These five exceptional MBA and undergraduate leaders will work collaboratively with the CSE team and the current CSE Leadership Fellows, Blakely Blackford (MBA ’13), Maura Farver (MBA ’13), and Sid Padgaonkar (MBA ’13), to advance the Center’s strategic priorities, strengthen the critical bonds between CSE and UNC Kenan-Flagler students, and incorporate student interests into CSE programs and activities.
Learn more about the new CSE Leadership Fellows below in their own words.
Corey Barnes (MBA ’14)
After graduation from the University of Virginia, with a double major in Architecture and Psychology, I practiced architecture for a mid-sized East-coast firm for four years. While there, I got involved with the movement toward more sustainable building practices: joining the local chapter of the US Green Building council and becoming a local knowledge resource for the building community. Having developed a deep understanding of green buildings and the effect of buildings on our environment, I realized that buildings are just one aspect of creating a sustainable society. Moreover, I realized that the front line of sustainability was the people demanding buildings and creating products: businesses. At that point I decided that if I wanted to change the way that we, as a society, interact with the environment, I needed to be creating change in the current business paradigm.
Enrolling in a dual degree program between UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University has given me an in-depth understanding of the fundamental environmental systems and how our businesses interact with those systems. At the Nicholas School I have focused on the production, distribution, and consumption of energy as well as the identification and quantification of environmental concerns resulting from business operations. Kenan-Flagler has been a perfect complement to this knowledge, giving me the fundamental tools and vocabulary to dissect business problems and provide knowledgeable solutions.
With this skill set I hope to consult with businesses on how to better understand and mitigate their impact on the environment. Further, by analyzing problems using a whole-system approach I will help businesses understand how they can increase value to their customers, shareholders, and society by directly confronting environmental issues.
Matt Crook (MBA ’14)
My experience since graduating from college has provided me opportunities to meet and work with various entrepreneurs and business leaders, and has developed my interest in becoming an entrepreneur within the realm of sustainable enterprise. I was born and raised in North Carolina and completed my undergraduate degree here at UNC where I studied Political Science and minored in City and Regional Planning. During college, I enjoyed learning about sustainable initiatives, seeking solutions-oriented projects, and leading organizations in any way I could. After graduation, I moved to Washington, DC to work for a few consulting and business services firms, including Corporate Executive Board, CapTech Consulting, and Navigant Consulting.
I learned even more about organizations and the daily challenges that executives face in these roles, but I attribute my interest and goal of becoming an entrepreneur to my experience outside of my normal ‘nine-to-five’ jobs. As a leader of pro-bono consulting engagements for the Ashoka Foundation, I spoke with many social entrepreneurs and helped them with their business challenges. One of the most memorable entrepreneurs I worked with is a creator of a telecommunications network in the Himalayas, who through his use of technology and sustainable energy is bringing education and health care to remote villages in Nepal. While on a mission trip with my church, I met and worked with the founder of the Spirit of Youth Foundation. His organization is educating some of the poorest children outside of Cairo, Egypt though entrepreneurial activities, collecting and repurposing plastics and other discarded materials. I got to see first hand what a difference this man makes not only for these children, but also the economy in his community.
Working with entrepreneurs in these capacities led me to business school and to plan for a career working with start-ups to build organizations that focus on solutions in the green technology and renewable energy space. Seeking innovative solutions to sustainability challenges is a dream of mine, and I look forward to expanding my passion through my work at the Center for Sustainable Enterprise.
Nidhi Sharma (MBA ’14)
My interest in sustainability first began while I was studying environmental systems and agriculture abroad in Nagoya, Japan. There I was able to learn about several efforts to help suppress the world’s greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable agricultural solutions. I also learned about new technological advances that could relieve malnourished populations through implementation of nutrition enrichment in their food supply. This impressionable experience gave me the opportunity to view other perspectives and encouraged me to rethink my future aspirations.
Once I returned to the US, I realigned my scientific career to compliment the interest I acquired abroad. I wanted to utilize my scientific strengths in the efforts to make an impact on our future world. I began my undergraduate research in Bioremediation, focusing on cleaning up oil/gasoline pollution with natural bacteria that exists around us in our daily lives. After completing my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at North Carolina State University, I joined Novozymes as a chemical analyst. I helped facilitate the production of solutions that would help industries reduce the energy and resources put into their products and simultaneously minimize their waste yield. I transitioned to David H. Murdock Research Institute to expand upon my scientific skill set so that I could better contribute to the design of sustainable solutions. However, I realized that I needed a business skill set to truly make the impact that I desired to make.
I chose to come to UNC Kenan-Flagler specifically for its fantastic leadership development, but more particularly for its Center for Sustainable Enterprise. Without disregarding my passion for sustainability, Kenan-Flagler gives me the opportunity to pair my scientific discipline with excellent leadership opportunities so that I can pursue my aspirations in sustainable solutions and become a better leader of tomorrow.
Tyler Bench (BSBA ’13)
As a senior in high school, I attended a lecture by Muhammad Yunus on the power of social business. Since then, I have been enthralled by the idea of applying business skills and frameworks to the world’s most pressing problems. During the first two years of my undergraduate career, I applied my passion by leading HOPE Gardens, a community garden in Chapel Hill that serves at risk populations through sustainable agriculture. Last summer, I interned with The Redwoods Group, a for-profit social enterprise. Through my internship, I had the opportunity to help design training to increase employee engagement around the company’s social mission. As President of the Net Impact Club, I have also been working to build a recruiting pipeline for undergraduate students at UNC interested in careers in sustainable enterprise.
I believe in the power of sustainable enterprise because systemic problems require systemic solutions. We are in a race to adapt to our own development as a species. Population growth and rising standards of living have created both problems and opportunities of unprecedented scale. The question is how to separate economic growth from the destruction of human and natural resources. Innovative organizations within both the for-profit and non-profit sectors are moving towards models of environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability that have the potential to create without destroying.
From Dr. Carol Seagle’s course in Sustainable Business and Social Entrepreneurship, to becoming President of the Net Impact Club, the Center for Sustainable Enterprise has been an invaluable part of my experience at UNC Kenan-Flagler. I’m honored to have the opportunity to advance CSE’s work this academic year.
Meredith Magjuka (BSBA ’14)
As a business major, minor in sustainability, and minor in social and economic justice, I have dedicated my studies to learning how business can be used as a catalyst for social and environmental justice. I believe that business and social responsibility have significant overlap that is underutilized and often under-represented in businesses. I have experienced the mutually beneficial relationship between sustainability and business first hand through internships. Last year, I performed a sustainability audit of the UNC dining halls, culminating in a plan to increase sustainability and local purchases. This was an opportunity to connect a huge purchaser with local businesses in the community. This past summer, I worked at Nourish International, a non-profit that empowers students to start social enterprises which fund international poverty projects. These experiences, along with others, have given me an opportunity to see how the power of business can be used to solve social problems.
Since I began my studies in the environmental studies department, I have seen the way these issues span across fields of studies, demographics, and interests. I have spent significant time on main campus and in the community, learning firsthand the commitment to sustainability and social responsibility represented within this institution. I am excited to be a fellow to help unite these like-minded individuals, both across campus and in the community. The Center for Sustainable Enterprise is the hub for sustainability and social justice on UNC campus, and I look forward to dedicating my passions to help the center continue to grow and facilitate positive change.