A summer fellowship is meant to be accompanied by lessons and self-reflection, and Lindsay CeCe’s experience is no exception.
“I didn’t realize I was going to be so excited about packaging, but I love it,” she said.
CeCe is an Impact MBA student at Colorado State University’s College of Business, and she spent 400 hours this summer working on sustainability programs for Spruce Confections, a Boulder-based bakery that distributes pastries to numerous places along the Front Range.
Needless to say, part of her work involved packaging. More specifically, she helped brainstorm ways to make Spruce’s packaging more sustainable. Other projects included a rooftop solar project, more sustainable distribution vehicles and replacing the company’s freezers with ones that are more energy efficient.
Impact MBA student Lindsay CeCe delivers a presentation on her summer fellowship at Spruce Confections in Boulder.
How can a nonprofit monetize waste?
This was the first year that Impact MBA students in the corporate sustainability track have participated in these paid fellowships. While these were supposed to just last for the summer, many of the companies extended the students’ employment into fall.
The students ranked the businesses they wanted to work for from a spreadsheet that contained everything from corporate behemoths like the Ball Corp. to a local distiller and nonprofits.
Vidha Dixit chose the latter, and spent her summer working with the Food Bank of the Rockies, where she looked at the waste produced by its four facilities and researched opportunities to turn that into revenue. This involved reselling cardboard as well as wooden pallets.
“I was able to come in as this almost lower-cost resource just to give them a baseline understanding of where we are, where we want to go and how to get there,” she said. “A lot of companies, especially if they’re smaller or nonprofit, don’t have the resources to explore those areas even if they want to pursue environmental responsibility and socially conscious efforts.”
Vidha Dixit spent her summer participating in a fellowship at the Food Bank of the Rockies and helping the organization become more sustainable.
Working in the outdoor and electric vehicle industries
Meta Bergwall chose her fellowship at Durango-based Tailwind Nutrition because of her passion for the outdoors. She has an engineering background and decided to join the Impact MBA program after she got on a chairlift with her now-husband and wondered about the sustainability efforts of ski resorts.
This summer, she helped the company look at how to reduce its carbon footprint, which was driven in part by supplier requirements from REI.
“Their requirements are a part of a broader trend of sustainability reporting requirements by companies and retailers,” she said. “This experience and skillset will be valuable for me in the future, and will likely be a requirement for Tailwind going forward.”
Impact MBA student Jack Thompson worked with Lightning eMotors in Loveland. This company manufactures electric vehicles, including delivery vans and larger paygrade vehicles.
Meta Bergwall completed her Impact MBA fellowship at Tailwind Nutrition in Durango.
Part of his fellowship involved watching the company go public and enter an $800 million with the larger shuttle bus manufacturer in North America. He was also there for a visit by former Colorado governor and current Sen. John Hickenlooper.
“I think both of us came on with a lot of new ideas and really a drive to make a difference,” he said. “I think that the Impact MBA really sets us up well to go into the workplace to change what’s being done and think critically about how to make an impact moving forward.”
Jack Thompson worked with Lightning eMotors in Loveland during his summer Impact MBA fellowship.
Summer fellowships could extend into jobs
CeCe, Dixit, Bergwall, Thompson and multiple other Impact MBA students who participated in these fellowships have been asked to stay on and continue their work even after the summer ended.
“It’s a really exciting outcome,” said Gracie Wright, an instructor in the Impact MBA program. “It’s something we were hoping for, and it’s been far more successful than we could have dreamed.”
“From fellowship placements, to company impact, to student outcomes, I couldn’t be more delighted.”
The students gave presentations on their fellowships earlier this month. The hope now is for more companies to employ these students to assist in their sustainability efforts.
For more information about supporting a fellowship, visit https://col.st/nlRrP.