Advancing environmentally friendly business practices requires the involvement of the organizations that hold power over the transition. Jake Calzavara, a dual-degree student at SEAS and the U-M Ross School of Business, hopes to be a catalyst for environmental change within such business enterprises.
Calzavara, who previously worked in the oil and gas exploration industry, “was interested in environmentally supportive changes that could advance the industry into a more sustainable future.” He realized, however, that he had different goals than the industry, which inspired him to return to school for a master’s degree, specifically one that gave him the business and environmental skills needed to help dismantle the energy sector’s reliance on fossil fuels.
“At Ross, I learned about the models firms use to make strategic and financial decisions, and I was able to participate in case competitions that allowed me to explore what building an affordable, reliable, and less carbon-intensive utility might look like,” Calzavara said. “The case competitions taught me that many factors need to be considered when improving the sustainability of a system, such as accessibility, community education, and marketing, which can all improve the uptake of green infrastructure.”
Various SEAS classes also had a positive impact on Calzavara. “Industrial Ecology with Dr. Greg Keoleian and Renewables in the Grid with Dr. Michael Craig helped me develop tactical competency for decarbonizing energy and mobility systems,” Calzavara added. “Dr. Keoleian also was formative in supporting my work during my internship at Lime, which aims at displacing car emissions by placing rentable electric scooters in cities around the world. I reached out to Dr. Keoleian for advice on how to push for a more efficient product design. He gave me industry contacts, reference literature, and frameworks to help educate my work in creating sustainable, generative production plans.”
Beyond his classes, Calzavara stresses the importance of community that he has found within SEAS. “I have been impressed with the quality and scope of the SEAS program,” he said. “It really challenges individuals in a way I didn’t realize. I came away with infinitely more knowledge than I expected from conversations with other students, speakers, and professors in and out of the classroom. This all contributed to an enriched SEAS community and created a genuinely special place where I was able to grow as a person.”
In the future, Calzavara wants to advance systemic changes within the energy and mobility industries that might be hesitant to embrace sustainability. “I’m a strong proponent of moving our future toward sustainable solutions as fast as we can,” he said. “Climate change and the injustices it causes are intolerable. We have to move forward quickly, but we also need to know how these industries function in order to advocate for change.”