Why CU? – A Glimpse at a Student’s (My) Life

2013-10-11_07-02-06_348Ding! Ding! Ding! Round two! First week of spring semester is underway, and I’m coming out of my corner with both arms swinging and one leg kicking. The next four months are filled to the brim with coursework, student organization activity, career info interviews, internship searching, and of course the occasional turn in the Rockies. With the momentum from a successful first semester behind me, I’m ready to roll.

I want to get some word out on all the great endeavors here at Leeds. However, right now I am in the midst of getting more students involved and am reaching out to professors, faculty, and alum. So, for the meantime, I’ll write about one of my favorite topics…me. Besides getting to write about stuff that I find interesting, I can share a bit about the life of a CU MBA candidate from a pretty credible source. While I am only one student out of my cohort of 77, my experiences represent what one could expect to encounter if enrolled in this esteemed program.

Coming into Boulder in August, I donned the typical suit and tie and introduced myself to faculty and fellow students. I was excited to be starting this journey through academia. Orientation included the typical administrative rundown and brief on what to expect while in school. By day two, we all ditched the monkey suits and everyone’s personalities began to show. Originating from many different US states as well as Kuwait, China, Monterrey, Bangkok, Japan, and Taiwan, the student population is very ethnically diverse. On top of that, we are just as professionally diverse. This multi-faceted community is one of the greatest parts of the school. So much is learned outside of the lectures and the brick and mortar. Most of which is a contribution from the different perspectives in the group. Opposite the “buttoned-down” top tier schools, a free flowing, no-ego/no-agenda, fluid sharing of ideas and experiences is pervasive. Less stuffiness and more casual cooperation.

Class work started about a month before we stepped foot on campus. The accelerated schedule of taking typically semester long courses in half a semester proved a good challenge. I’d like to say that it’s all fun and games in this beautiful setting thought of by many as a vacation destination. The reality is that I entered an MBA program. MBA programs are tough. Long nights meticulously analyzing Harvard Business School and INSEAD case studies as a team, creating countless financial models in excel, and burning through the pages of overpriced industry leading text books is still the norm.

Considering extra-curricular endeavors, I found myself torn between what organizations I wanted to get involved. Eventually, I discerned that I would learn my business fundamentals through study, network through the Graduate Real Estate Association (GREA), make positive changes in the community through the Net Impact chapter and Net Impact Case Competition, and finally rejuvenate the Leeds MBA blog!

Graduate Real Estate Association:GREA has brought in guest speakers from Prologis, UDR, W.W. Reynolds, and several other industry leaders. We’ve toured several news headlining projects and are scheduled for a trip out west to visit some resort developments.

Net Impact Graduate Chapter:The Net Impact chapter has always had a high standing among chapters. This year, we’re refocusing the mission to give the students applicable skills to impart positive social, environmental, and economic impact in any line of business. So far several speaker panels have opened up this discussion. B-Corporation Certified businesses, lawyers, B-Lab Colorado, micro-lending institutions, and other impact focused organizations have all added to this dialogue. Over the next year we expect to bring in impact analysis workshops for the students and local professionals. For more information on the Net Impact chapter, click the following links: http://leeds.colorado.edu/club/netimpact#overview, https://www.facebook.com/groups/CULeedsNetImpact/

Net Impact – Case CompetitionThe Net Impact Case Competition is a spin off from the Net Impact chapter. The competition challenges participants to use business skills to develop positive social, environmental, and economic impact while maintaining an attractive profit. This event attracts around 50-60 MBA teams from all over the US and always includes several international teams. I partnered with a fellow MBA candidate to perform the market research, develop case strategy, and write the virtual round and final round cases. Doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Chief Sustainability Officer and the Chief of R&D for a multi-billion dollar company, Johns Manville. This has been an intense process but very rewarding. Click the links below for more information on the Competition: http://leeds.colorado.edu/event/nicomp#overview, https://www.facebook.com/NicCompetition

Leeds School of Business – MBA BlogFinally, I’ve begun to breathe a little bit of life into the Leeds School of Business blog. I wanted to give something back to the program itself and provide prospective students detail on the life of a Leeds MBA. Currently, I am the only one adding fresh content. Behind the scenes, I have been working with the Production/Product Manager, Erik Jeffries, and Director of Marketing and Outreach, Helen Zucchini, to recruit more writers. Our vision is more content from multiple perspectives. Events and experiences will be shared from our evening MBA’s, part-time MBA’s, and first and second year MBA’s. Long-term we may be able to tie in some brief posts from faculty, professors, and alumni. We look forward to sharing all the ground-breaking work, unbelievable quality of life, and intricacies of our fabulous community.

With the meager amount of spare time left in the day, I’ve enjoyed the typical social life of a student with access to one of the greatest outdoor playgrounds in the country. Happy hours were sponsored through some of the MBA organizations at the beginning of the semester. Boulder has an amazing choice of bars and restaurants to choose from. Later on in the semester, after big exams, happy hours were in high demand and coordinated by the test takers. The plethora of breweries in the area has made it difficult to choose a location to de-stress. The football tailgates during fall semester had really good turnout from both students and alumni. Home basketball games have been a thrill this season, as the Buffs have faced several ranked opponents. Long weekends (and some day trips) have allowed us to get into the mountains. With 53 mountains toping the coveted 14,000 ft elevation, hiking/mountaineering has been a favorite activity of mine. 01.18.2014 (2)In the winter, I’ve taken advantage of the Vail Resorts Epic Local Pass to get out to Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge. I’m looking forward to a couple of days in Vail and Keystone in the coming months as well. I may even hop in a ride with some other students and suit up at Winter Park or Eldora even though I don’t have a season pass to those resorts. Although I haven’t taken advantage of how close Denver is (only 30 miles on a direct bus line), the city-boy in me is constantly wanting to return to the urban jungle for some sushi, a Colorado Avalanche hockey game, and to check out some of the city watering holes. All in all, it’s pretty easy to find something fun to fill up the rest of my time that is not spent in the business school.

While I’d like to simply relax the rest of the day typing away and tooting the Leeds horn, as you can see I’ve got quite a lot to attend to. With the rest of our candidates, faculty, and community partners, it’s time for me to tape down my gloves, strap up my boots, and knock out another exhilarating year. Watch out 2014, here we come!

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Why CU?

As I sit in my snowy Midwestern hometown at the end of the year, I reflect on all my personal events from the previous year. Practicing this transcendent activity, as most of the world does at this time, I think of my search for the perfect MBA program. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of 2013-10-04_17-03-34_222Business (AACSB) currently lists 676 institutions that are accredited business schools. 559 offer general Master of Business degrees while 449 offer specialized Masters Degrees in business related fields. So, how do you pick one?

Stumble down the street and you’ll be sure to find a Brown Mackie College or University of Phoenix. Possibly, you could just post the latest Businessweek college rankings on the wall and throw a dart. In the words of a great philosopher, “Education is paramount in development.” All education that is. So, does it even matter if you actually take the time out to pick a particular school?

One of my favorite spokesmen of all time, Yogi Berra, puts a good spin on the topic of searching. “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” These words of wisdom represent the search for the right MBA program very well. If you don’t take the search seriously, your perception of the school you find yourself enrolled in may not align with reality. Like Yogi Berra said, you might wind up someplace else.

“Why the University of Colorado?” – This is a question I found myself confronted with on a weekly if not daily basis after I had enrolled. Growing up in Indiana (home of two top 25 programs according to Bloomberg Businessweek rankings), graduating in Civil Engineering from Purdue University (a top engineering school and in the top 50 MBA programs), and working in Chicago (home of two top 5 MBA programs), I had to ask myself that question as well.

Over a year ago, I had many reasons why I thought the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado was among the top candidates in my list of MBA programs. However, I didn’t have an actual student or alumni contact from the school that I could rely on to get a deeper insight to what the program was actually all about. I didn’t know the daily life of the student. I had no idea what kind of work load I was taking on or culture I was going to be exposing myself to.

This morning, with my dog on my lap and the Christmas tree lighting the room, I have a full semester under my belt. Luckily, I had taken my search very seriously and could not be more delighted with my experiences. I still wish I would have had a beacon guiding me to a well-rounded understanding of the University. With this thought in mind, I hope to open the door for everyone else following my steps in search of new opportunities. My CU blog postings will be dedicated to enlightening all who are faced with or asking the question of “Why the University of Colorado?”

I thought about discussing all the wonderful reasons in brevity in this post, however, the list is quite extensive. Future highlights will include information on the program itself, spotlights on community members (faculty, professors, students, active civic leaders), trip recaps for the outdoors, breweries, & events, career and internship possibilities, national and international competitions and conventions we get involved in, and many more exciting attributes that contribute to the fulfilling life of the Leeds MBA candidate. Until then, stay warm and have fun. Journey forth knowing that you may soon get to where you are going.2013-12-19_11-10-33_10

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CU-Boulder Team Wins Regional VCIC at USC

March 1, 2013

CU Boulder’s VCIC Team won the 16th Annual West Regional Venture Capital Investment Competition at University of Southern California on Friday, March 1, 2013. 

CU has built a strong legacy in this competitive event, having won 9 out of the past 10 regional competitions.  In the VC competition, teams acts as venture capitalists as they get pitched by real entrepreneurs, perform due diligence on each company, negotiate a term sheet with a company of their choice and get judged by real VCs, angel investors and lawyers. This year’s team was made up of four 2nd year MBA students, Robert Foss, Alex Newmann, Denelle Numis, and Nick Steele as well as a 3rd year law student, Kimberley Byer. 

Denelle Numis reflects on her experience being part of the team. 

We have worked extremely hard to achieve this accomplishment.  Throughout the fall and spring semesters, we met at least once a week to practice due diligence sessions with local entrepreneurs.  In addition, we brought in past VCIC competitors, alumni, and local mentors to watch us practice and perform.  We received lots of critical feedback on our performance and learned a lot from the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists in Boulder.

In February, CU hosted the Mountain Regional Competition with six different schools from across the country.  As a team, we sourced the entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas and local VCs, angels and lawyers to judge the competing teams.  Because of the support we received from the Boulder community and our experience hosting our own regional competition, we felt extremely confident moving on to the competition out west.

vcic2Unlike previous years, the all-day event at USC was held at Amplify La (http://www.amplify.la) Amplify is a start up accelerator and co-working space in downtown Venice Beach.  It was a fun and unique location because we got to see  what the LA entrepreneurial community was really like.  Plus, we were fortunate enough to be right near the Venice boardwalk, hit the beach for break time and enjoy the vibrant and funky community surrounding Venice.


vcic1The team at USC put on a great event.  We met a lot of influential people in the LA investment community and enjoyed networking with the judges, entrepreneurs and other competing teams.  We chose to make an investment in Artkive (http://www.artkiveapp.com), a mobile application where parents can store and share photos of their children’s artwork.  We loved the concept, which made it easy to develop great rapport and negotiate a fair term sheet with the entrepreneurs.

vcic3Because we won 1st place in the West Regional Competition, we move on to the VCIC International Finals at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on April 11th.  Last year, CU Boulder’s team took 1st place at VCIC Finals so we know we’ve got big shoes to fill.  Even though we’ve experienced some pressure to repeat last year’s success, we intend to work hard and do our best.  Regardless of the outcome, we are so excited to have this opportunity and can’t wait to compete.  Wish us luck!!!

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2nd year student Peter Swank reflects on the final semester.

It’s 2013, which means graduation happens in May! Fall semester finished up in a world-wind of projects, exams, and work. While it was a big push to get everything done, I can report that it went successfully and was rewarding. The ending weeks included finishing two large semester-long projects (micro-hydro policy report for local landowner and an IT strategy analysis for local tech company), a large paper, and two finals. With the semester complete, I turned to finishing a joint project at NREL with Argonne National Laboratory investigating the cross-portfolio bundling opportunities for collective intellectual property (IP). After that it was time for a well-needed break from the computer and life indoors. I thoroughly enjoyed two weeks of rock and mixed climbing in Buena Vista, CO and Cochise, AZ.

The onset of my last semester brings a sense of gratitude and urgency to where I stand. I’ve appreciated the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained, and feel that I am ultimately better prepared to enter my desired career field. As the class work draws closer to an end, my focus on the job search moves to the forefront of my thought. The close-knit energy community of Boulder has helped me network, and the overflowing community events provide great industry contacts. My goal is to do the major “leg-lifting” over the next couple of months, and hopefully have a few offers in by the end of the semester.

Classes for this semester are thankfully more manageable. I’m looking forward to the assignments and projects within each class, with most projects self-selected. This semester should be the right mix of work, job-hunting, and general outdoor enjoyment. Here some quick notes on the classes that I’ve selected for my final semester.

Commercialization of Renewable Energy—This class focuses on the execution and deployment of sustainable energy projects; including planning, technical feasibility, permitting, policy incentives and constraints, community relations, financing methods, and financial analysis. Along with case specific studies, this class will include a feasibility analysis project.

Topics in Sustainable Business—The goal of this class is to provide a comprehensive overview of the core concepts, strategies and practices of sustainable business. The classes are outlined with each one approaching the topic of sustainability from the unique perspectives of nine core disciplines of business administration: economics, strategy, ethics, organizational behavior, operations, finance, accounting, quantitative analysis and marketing. In addition to the readings and lectures, guest speakers and a semester-long project fill in the remaining slots.

Projects of Entrepreneurial Companies—This course is designed to provide first-hand experience working alongside executives in an entrepreneurial setting.  The goal of this experience is to expose students to the multiple facets of entrepreneurship at an executive level and to integrate the MBA coursework with this experience. I will be working with a local non-profit startup in Boulder called Drive SunShine Institute, which works to increase the adoption of electric vehicles.

Entrepreneurship—The course is all about feasibility; understanding how to recognize and evaluate new venture opportunities. The main goal will be to understand the issues faced by entrepreneurs when starting a venture and provide the fundamental skills and tools required for starting and growing a new business. This class is sure to be the most interactive, with each class period involving time for each team to share/pitch their newest findings for their venture.

Other major highlights for this semester include heading to Washington DC for the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit at the end of February and Vail Global Energy Forum in March. I will also be helping get the Energy Frontiers Conference underway for the CU Energy Club in April. Even though it’s only the end of January, I know May will be here sooner than expected.

Until the next post,


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Net Impact Conference – Baltimore 2012


This past weekend twelve Leeds MBA Candidates traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for the 2012 Net Impact Conference.  Included in the bunch were the 2012 Leeds Net Impact Case Competition (NICC) Co-Directors, as well as the Leeds MBA Net Impact Chapter President.




To preface our trip to Baltimore, a little backgrounder: Going into its 12th year, the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition is the premiere case format competition built around businesses facing sustainability challenges, while succeeding financially.  NICC attracts top rated business schools and future industry leaders to Boulder, Colorado for the two-day event. The competition is an opportunity to bring together students, executives and businesses that share a common commitment to sustainable business practices and financial returns. This year’s sponsor is Newmont Mining Corporation, and the winning team will walk away with a check for $10,000.


Realizing that many MBA’s would attend the Net Impact Conference, the NICC team thought it would be a great place to gain exposure for this year’s competition.  This year’s Net Impact Conference brought together more than 2,800 change makers from all over the globe, and 300 speakers from a myriad of industries, from Fortune 500 companies to emerging nonprofits.


We kicked off the conference Wednesday evening with the West Coast Happy Hour, sponsored by the San Francisco Net Impact Chapter, followed by a Leadership Conference on Thursday, and manned the NICC booth at the Expo on Friday.  At every event the NICC team was overwhelmed by the positive response and interest regarding this year’s competition.  Additionally, the booth gave us a great opportunity to speak with potential attendees regarding the format of the competition and paint a picture of what they could expect throughout the process.


Overall, we had a wonderful weekend in Baltimore–despite the impending Hurricane Sandy threatening our flights home–and even snuck in a Halloween party before heading back West.

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Second Year Goes Quickly

MBA student Peter Swank talks about elective classes and the importance of being involved in clubs and internships for networking and career opportunities.

First semester is just past the halfway mark, with projects, classes, activities, and clubs cranking on all cylinders. My busy schedule has kept the semester moving fast and I know that December will be here in a flash. Compared to first year, it has been quite a change. Being in all elective classes is one reason, but it is mostly because you get plugged in everything right away and the countdown to May is already happening.

Classes are going really well and definitely not lacking in projects and reading. Energy Law and Regulation is a perfect class to get a deep understanding of the US utility structure, specifically our gas and electrical grid, along with all federal, state, and local regulation. Most of the second half will be focused on the integration of renewables, which is key for me as I pursue jobs within renewable energy management. My Renewable Energy Policy class ties into the Energy Law class nicely, and focuses on different regulatory policies throughout the world and how to integrate more renewable energy sources into our electrical grid. I am working with two other MBA students on a project with a local Vail Valley landowner to install a micro-hydro plant on his property. We have been working with all levels of government and have begun to write a roadmap for how he can streamline the project. Management of Organizational Change focuses on the various structures of companies and being able to properly read dynamics happening throughout the whole organization. This class has required the greatest paradigm shift for me, but I know that it is an important skill to be able to enter into an organization and efficiently see what is needed to create positive change. Project Management breaks down the formal processes of full project management, from the project charter to project closure. This class incorporates the most terminology, which will be helpful when working with companies on structured projects. The class is a mix between textbook reading and quizzes, and case studies with the integration of project management software. My final class, IT and Business Strategy, builds on the core strategy class from the spring of last year. It has been great to dig in deeper and understand more about the dynamic nature of strategy, specifically at the intersection with technology. The case based class also includes a main project for the semester. I am working with three other MBA students and a local Boulder company to developing a strategy analysis for their newly positioned IT based service. It’s great to work with these local companies and be involved directly with the community.

While classes have been busy and engaging, it seems that they are only half of my work. My clubs, CU Energy Club, Leeds Outdoor Industry Club (LOIC) and Graduate Entrepreneurship Association (GEA), have been busy this semester. For LOIC, we have lined up our main speaker series for the year, with most of them coming in November. We also hosted Jeremy Jones for lunch and talked about his company, Jones Boards, along with the organization he started, Protect Our Winters (POW). It was great to hear more about what he has been doing for the last four years and always cool to have a more intimate conversation with a pro athlete.

Switch Event at the Fox Theater in Boulder

The CU Energy Club has also been busy putting on our weekly talks, monthly meetings, tours and community events. I started a subcommittee for getting more members involved with reaching out to the corporate connections in town and tap these professionals for mentors, speakers, panelists and internships or jobs. It’s great to have a bigger team to engage our club with the larger energy community. We also co-sponsored a great event last week, Switch, which is a TEDx style night focused on sustainability and energy. It was a wonderful event and a great to way for the club to branch out into the local community.


Berkeley Energy Conference, Berkeley, CA

I also got to travel to Berkeley for an energy conference in October and connect with over 20 other university energy club leadership students. This provided a great way to get connected, share ideas on our own club experiences, and enjoy a well run two-day energy conference. We will be headed to the ARPA-E Summit this February in DC to strengthen our club with the energy industry and other universities. My plug here is, take a leadership position and make the most of it. There are many great opportunities available, and a club for every interest, so get involved!


NREL Industry Growth Forum

Work at NREL has been going well and keeping me busy at the end of the week. While putting the full 16 hours/week has been a bit lengthy, it is needed to really stay involved with the ever-changing work of licensing. It has been great to be involved with world-class scientists, a driven team, and licensing deals with all types of organizations. I also got to attend the NREL Industry Growth Forum, which brings together energy entrepreneurs with VC firms, accelerators, industry professionals and consultants. It was a great two-day conference focused on new and innovative energy technology. It has been helpful that my boss is very understanding of school and happy for me to head to the Berkeley conference and take time off when school gets kicked into high gear. I’ll likely take off the last two weeks of the semester to finish up projects and prepare for finals. I’ve also begun the all important job search, narrowing down my “parameters” and honing in on companies. I’ve already interviewed for some positions and worked to perfect my “pitch”. Winter break will provide a respite to focus and I plan to be in full swing at the beginning of next semester.

The Boulder fall has been marching right along with cooler temperatures and snow collecting. Getting out to enjoy the weather has been harder this semester with all my work, but I have managed to carve out time to stay in shape and prepare for longer trips happening over winter break. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving week to relax before the final two-week push to the end of the semester. Spring semester class sign-up is already happening this week. Crazy! Two years goes by quickly.


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Value of Professional Mentorship

Second year student Allie Olson reflects on how the Professional Mentorship Program has impacted her MBA experience… 

I’ve found life to be a series of serendipitous events over the past twelve months. Things, for the most part, have dropped right into place and my chance encounters have evolved into my most fruitful professional relationships. Life is good. 

Overall, things have worked out well. But last fall, I was less than enthused about wearing a suit in public, much less “networking”. I was a cynic, mostly because it all sounded so intimidating. It sounded formal, stuffy, and sweaty-palm-inducing. It sounded miserable. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t, it still isn’t, and in fact, it’s pretty awesome.

Enter the Professional Mentorship Program. Last winter, when networking still sounded terrifying, I decided to apply for the program knowing that unless I was held accountable, I would probably never step foot out of my house to meet like-minded business people. 

After completing the application process, I was matched with my mentor Deb Kolaras, who owns a local marketing consulting firm called Marketing Java (www.marketingjava.com). We met once in person, and have been having bi-weekly meetings via Skype ever since. It was immediately apparent that our personalities were a dead-on match, and over time we found that we shared some key, similar interests.

Since meeting Deb just nine short months ago, I have found myself more motivated to pursue my passions, namely blogging. In her, I’ve found an amazingly supportive, honest, and knowledgeable mentor. And she follows up to make sure I’ve completed the tasks I’ve committed to. For me, that’s important.

Most of all, she has centered my expectations. Last September, I was floundering; trying to decide what to be involved in, and managing a packed school, club, and social calendar. Deb has helped me put my extracurricular activities in perspective, and helped me focus on exactly what I want to do today, tomorrow, and post-graduation.

Above all, Deb and the PMP have supplemented my MBA curriculum in the most useful way I can imagine. Acquiring the knowledge is valuable, but having a sounding board for how you plan to apply that knowledge is invaluable.

Check out Allie’s other adventures on her blog – www.meadow-rue.com

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Back to School! (part 2)

September is here and B-School is back in session now, almost a month later then last year–which is a benefit of being a second year student now. I actually started a couple classes at the end of August, Energy Law and Renewable Energy Policy, both outside Leeds.

As a kick-off to the school year I teamed up with a couple other MBA friends and raced in a half-ironman relay this past weekend. Our team, appropriately named, “Leeds the Way” proved to hold true our name as we put the hurt on the field through each event and grabbed the win by a large margin.

The start of school also means the switch to part time for my internship and NREL. The summer work there has been very fulfilling and engaging. My work has been diverse but always involved with great renewable technologies. Over the summer I completed a number of marketing summaries of new technologies developed at NREL for the licensing team, worked with licensing executives on patent portfolios, terms sheets, company evaluations and general background research. Some of the best parts have been talking directly with researchers about their inventions and the next steps to get them to the market via licensing contracts. It’s been quite a learning experience and I’m grateful to carry it through the upcoming school year. The skills and knowledge gained will be invaluable as I begin my search for a full career position during school year.

As my other classes start this week I’m keenly aware of the necessity to manage my time appropriately. I’m enthusiastic for all of my classes and my job, but know that some hard choices will have to be make this fall in regards to how I spend my time. My classes are split between individual and team work–Energy Law and Management of Organizational Change just have individual assignments while Renewable Energy Policy, Project Management and Business and IT Strategy are a combination of team and individual work. I foresee some late nights/early mornings to squeeze everything in with my work schedule, but I’m excited for the all the work.

The beginning of the year also brings renewed focus with on campus clubs. The CU Energy Club board met a couple of times over the summer to discuss our direction for the upcoming year, new changes happening and, of course, to delegate responsibilities for the all of our events. It’s been wonderful to work with the full board and plan out the year in a structured and efficient manner. We launched our updated website, www.cuenergy.org, and have some great events coming up this fall. As part of the board on the Leeds Outdoor Industry Club (LOIC), we have been planning out the year to bring some great speakers to campus, tour local outdoor industry companies, hold information sessions with industry professionals and plan community social events to engage with the vast outdoor industry network in the Boulder area. We have out kick-off meeting next week and I’m excited to work with the new MBA students and hear about their passion for the industry and insights for LOIC.

Other things going on for me this semester include being involved with some local events and joining the boards of some previous employers. For me, being involved with the community is important because it signifies that you’re willing to invest time and energy into a group or organization that you value. I’m helping with the regional New Venture Challenge (NVC) cleantech program again this year. It’s a great program that brings regional competition to Boulder and works to spur innovation and investment into cleantech companies—nvc.cucleantech.org—check it out! I also joined the board on a couple non-profit organizations that I worked for previously in Buena Vista Colorado. I am grateful for the opportunity to stay involved with both and eager to help be a part of the forward planning and progress. I will be traveling down a few times throughout the year and then working on various committees between board meetings. I know that this opportunity will not only be a great way to give back, but also a rewarding experience that will be helpful in future endeavors.

Another goal for this semester is to try to stay balanced with academic/work responsibilities and plain old outdoor fun. It was great to spend most of my summer evening and weekends in the outdoor playground of Boulder and while this fall will be packed I still should be able to find time to escape and get out to Eldorado Canyon or Lumpy Ridge for some climbing and take advantage of the cooler months and get in some mountain biking before the snow falls. Below is a picture from an alpine climbing trip this summer to the Cloud Peak Wilderness in northern Wyoming. Simply an amazing place!


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First Year Complete! (part 1)

It’s pretty interesting looking back on the school year and thinking about how everything started. Classes, teammates, clubs, cases and a never ending schedule. They all seem to be a distant past now. Time is an interesting concept, and I’m sure the second year will go by even faster.

My last month wasn’t too crazy, but did entail a large ticklist. I had three finals, one big paper and three presentations. For the most part everything went smoothly and there wasn’t too much “stacking” of deadlines. I elected to do a project for Decision Modeling, which entailed a 15-page report and a 15-minute presentation. We worked as a group of four to analyze and assess the scheduling of classes at a yoga studio in Jackson Hole, WY that is run by a classmate’s friend. It was a great way to bring in our learning to a situational project. The Strategy final was straight forward, as well as the Applied Finance and Energy Science and Technology finals. 

I’ve picked out my classes for next semester already, but glad to have a summer of normal work first. Right now my classes for next semester are Energy Policy, Project Management, Energy Law and Regulation, Management of Organization Change and either IT and Business Strategy or Supply Chain Analytics. I’m still working on the RASEI graduate certificate, which will require taking on a bit of an extra load for both semesters but it will be worth it. I am also taking a one-credit field course for a week in the middle of May. We’re going to tour a number of energy facilities (pumped hydro, longwell coal mine, natural gas facility, and a coal-fired power plant) on the western slope of Colorado. It should be a great course and I’m looking forward to learning more about each facility.

On the club side of things, we wrapped up LOIC with a great tour of a small local snowboard maker called OZ Snowboards. I met the owner, Adam, at the Snowsports Industry Association trade show in the winter and we connected up for a tour. One of our members is actually working closely with him on the business and manufacturing side of things, and will likely build a few boards for himself next season! We also presented a yearly wrap-up of what LOIC has done to the Deming Center Advisors, which was a great way to build more recognition for the club. With CU Energy, we had a big cookout and began planning for next year. We’ve got lots of amazing events coming down the tube, which will be great to be involved in. The World Renewable Energy Forum is in Denver this May, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it because of my field course.

On the internship front, I’ve already begun to work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). I’m working in the Commercialization and Technology Transfer (CTT) division, specifically within the licensing arena. It’s full time over the summer, which will actually feel nice after a busy semester, and then part time during the school year. I know that I am going to get exposed all different aspects of the technology and commercialization of renewable energy, and I am ready to soak it all up!

I’m looking forward to another great summer in Boulder, with some extended weekends and trips planned. I’ll also be doing a good amount of networking and hopefully getting out to some conferences. By the end of next year I hope to have the start to a great career lined up, but I know that it will take diligence and tenacity. If any soon-to-be first year students have any questions let me know, always willing to chat. I’ll work to give a mid-summer post with an update on how everything is going. Until then, enjoy life!





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The Impact MBA

As I am writing this, the Mega Millions jackpot is at $540 Million and set to go even higher. While many out there may be thinking of the luxury life that the lottery winnings must surely bring, the first thoughts on winnings in my head were not “Bentley v. Lamborghini” or “Malibu v. Aspen” or “Gucci v. Prada” (or all of the above) they were of something else entirely.

But, allow me to digress.

This is likely my last post as a Leeds MBA blogger. I have thought heavily about what it should be about. After some pondering, I concluded that above everything else, my MBA class of 2012 is full of bright talented individuals. We have our share of consultants to be, financial analysts and the like. But more and more students arrive at our MBA program every year interested in sustainability. Those individuals are looking to study the challenges of providing urban farming, market new products with environmental or social benefits, revolutionize the world of impact investing, or commercialize the next renewable energy technology. This is why I am glad I chose CU and why I plan to continually be involved even after I graduate. As I leave this stage in my life I want to encourage future MBAs to place a premium on an education that emphasizes core values in social and corporate responsibility, environmental stewardship, and full system economics. Problems exist worldwide that governments are too slow and ill-prepared to respond to and grassroots organizations are by their very nature under-funded. For some time now academia has been catching on.

If the words of one blogger aren’t enough, maybe a recap of some selected events would prove more meaningful. Recently, an individual left Goldman Sachs and with one opinion piece posted on the New York Times briefly caught the financial world’s attention and highlighted the delusion with many of the people at the top of the economic pyramid. Hillary Clinton not too long ago called Net Impact in San Francisco to talk about the rising movement of the “Impact MBA”. While here at CU-Boulder we have been running a sustainability-focused case competition for over a decade, schools like Schulich, BYU, and others are just starting theirs, focusing topics such as social innovation and international development.  Net Impact’s “Business as UNusual” guide (http://netimpact.org/careers/resources/looking-for-more-from-your-mba) receives more hits year after year. The Leeds School of Business here at CU has had a focus on Social Responsibility unofficially now for decades, and officially since the early 2000s with our “Leeds” naming. Other schools are jumping on board with similar commitments and centers of excellence. All of this has come full circle as Andy Fastow, former CFO of Enron, chose one school to contact immediately after he was released from prison late last year in order to share his experiences. He chose the Leeds School of Business. He chose us because he heard of the reputation of Leeds and CU, through Dean Ikenberry and Donna Sockell the Director of our Center for Education on Social Responsibility discussing our schools commitment to ethical business. In light of this, I hope soon if we haven’t already, that the business world will receive a critical mass of conscious business minded MBAs –who realize the single minded pursuit of profit for the individual or a shareholder is not economically sustainable. It leaves out the long term, and it forgets that there are externalities to business that can cause financial, ecological, and cultural systems to come crashing down if nobody is responsible or paying attention.

As I think back to what I would do with a potential lottery windfall, what was in my head was not luxury goods or lavish vacations, it was more along the lines of; who out there specializes in social impact bonds, how can I invest in real estate that preserves the environment, or what type of fund would promote sustainable business concepts to the students at my alma maters most? I guess that leaves me with a final message for those considering an MBA, if your first thoughts sound more like my first paragraph, then you might be disappointed in our MBA program at CU. If however your inclinations are more like what you see here in this last paragraph, I hope you have what it takes and you get in to the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Steven Ross

Please feel free to contact me:
Linked-In Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ross539
E-Mail: steven.m.ross@colorado.edu

Leeds Sustainability Resources:
Net Impact at CU: leeds.colorado.edu/club/netimpact
The Center for Education on Social Responsibility: http://leeds.colorado.edu/cesr

PS. I didn’t win the lottery, but you will never win unless you play, right?

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