From India to Eugene

Greetings everybody, I’m Harkanwal Sra and I’m a first-year in Center for Sustainable Business Practices. I’m from Punjab, India and I studied Electronics & Communications Engineering in my undergrad.

After graduating, I worked for Ericsson India Global Services Pvt. Ltd. for four years where I was responsible for operation and maintenance of the telecom network for Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest telecom services provider. During this time, I acquired good technical knowledge and also identified that I need to develop business skills in order to take my career to the next level. That is when I decided to do my MBA and shore up my business skills to complement my tech skills.

So, what prompted me to leave my family, friends, job, country and travel halfway across the world to US to pursue a green MBA?

Ever since my college days, I would read various reports and articles about pollution, climate change, ozone layer depletion etc. Sitting in my cozy home and later in my office in a city, I always wondered, “Is all of this really real?” As I started becoming worldly wise, I began to see the ill effects of these things back in my ancestral village and its nearby areas. Pollution, rapid industrialization, depleting water resources, deficient monsoon had started affecting the lives of people. The once prosperous region has become a pale shadow of itself. So, the issues of pollution, climate change, etc., cannot be ignored anymore. Somewhere something has to be done to get the things back on track.


So, when I decided to do my MBA, I wanted to do it in a field that would help me play a role in rebuilding what has been destroyed. So when I started researching MBA programs, I found the UO’s Sustainable Business Practices MBA program. I researched in-depth about the program and applied. The program offered me a chance to gain practical knowledge in the field of sustainability with its focus on experiential learning from the professors who have seen it all and done it all. Finally, I had found a program that would help me do something worthwhile with the knowledge and skills that I would gain through it.

It has now been eight weeks since the program started and I haven’t been disappointed. The program has taken me on exposure trips to Portland and the Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis. While there, I was exposed to what various organizations are doing to make a positive change in the life of people and what they’re doing to make the world a safer, cleaner and better place for the next generation to live in.

The journey so far has not only been about learning sustainable business skills but also about self-discovery. Everyday I discover some sort of skill that I never knew existed in me before. I have learnt how to cook, survive in the cold & wet conditions in Eugene. Over the course of the next two years, I hope to continue to learn more and more not only about sustainable business but also about myself and hope to make a positive change in the life of people.

Written by Harkanwal Sra

Harkanwal Sra is a first year student in Center of Sustainable Business Practices (Class of 2016). Prior to joining the program here, he worked as First level Assurance Engineer for Ericsson India Global Services in India. After graduating, he hopes to pursue a career helping organizations develop business practices that achieve a sustainable competitive advantage while making a positive impact on both society and the environment.

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The Environmentalist’s Dilemma

One of the best things about being a runner is that I get to be (have to be) outside everyday. Rain or shine; in my hometown or halfway across the world. I have gone to the tops of mountains, seen beautiful sunsets, traversed muddy trails, and viewed pristine lakes. Because of this, nature has always held extreme value in my mind and it kills me to think that someday this beauty will look very different.

This is what moved me toward sustainable business and ultimately led me to the Net Impact conference. It was immediately clear that most people there were brought there by passion like mine, motivated by a deep love for something they wanted to protect or improve. It was incredibly inspiring for me to see all the positive things people have done. There is a certain adrenaline rush that comes from being surrounded by people who share similar passions like this. It’s a very similar feeling to the one I get after doing well in a race at a big track meet. In both situations, there is a process to learning how to contain and properly channel these emotions. You want to keep the buzz of energy going to ‘go forth and produce good’, but if you come on too strong, you will burn yourself out and/or just turn people away from your cause rather than draw them to it.

As someone fairly new to the specifics behind sustainable business concepts, I learned many things at the conference that shocked me and changed my views on everything from what I ate and how I traveled to how I felt about modern conveniences. I wanted to stop drinking milk, stop eating beef and chicken, stop driving my car, stop taking showers and tell the rest of America that they should too….but before I did all that, I had to get home to Oregon…..3.5 hr plane ride (.19 metric tons CO2), 2.5 hr van ride (.04 metric tons C02), 4 plastic plane cups, packaged airport sandwiches, half dozen paper hand towels, etc…..

What place do I have to talk about how America should be more sustainable?!

This has to be something that every new cause advocate goes through. How do you jump into a conversation this big without seeming like a hypocrite for living normally in this society? Sure, you could just go and have a carbon negative life as a hermit in the woods but how would that help educate others or change how the world operated as a whole? It wouldn’t.

Throughout the conference, I tried to take note of how the most effective individuals approached these issues. What I learned was that these people chose the topic that they felt strongest about and pushed hard for it while at the same time chipping away little by little at everything else.  Being persistent and consistent but generally flying under the radar a little bit on the peripheral items. Like other concepts in business, sometimes you have to give before you receive. Spend a little carbon in order to meet people in the society of today to gain their trust and attention before sharing what you know and how you feel about the changes that can be made. At Net Impact, I learned that you don’t have to always be a radical or a hypocrite or the best person in the world or the worst but if you truly care about something you can make a difference.

Written by bfranek@uoregon.edu

Bridget was a 2012 Olympian in track and field and will be graduating from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center this December. She originally returned to get her MBA in hopes of better understanding the business side of sports and maximize her experience as a professional athlete. While at Oregon, she learned about the opportunities in sustainable business and has been inspired to figure out a way to use her background in sports as a platform for environmental improvement and social good.


6 Ways to Stay Sane Abroad

Moving to Oregon, from Toronto, to pursue my MBA in Sustainable Business practices from the University of Oregon has brought so many changes upon my life that they’re hard to count.  I’m clearly still me, but in such a bizzarro-world setting that you realize you’re kind of a bizzaro-world you.  So am I my own bizzaro-world self? That would contradict everything Seinfeld has taught us!
Sometimes I’ll be doing my own thing, then suddenly clue into where I am and what I’m doing and I’m like “Wow, I’m in the United States, this is my life”.  I think we tend to default back to what’s comfortable, so sometimes I think I’m at home in Toronto living my normal life, then boom I’m
biking(!) in a full rain suit through a heavy downpour in Eugene, Oregon.  Going to a movie here was interesting because you lose all sense of reality in a movie theater for 2 hours. When you come to after the credit’s role you’re all like “Oh wait I’m in the state of Oregon”.  Common theme here is that your life goes on wherever you end up, so you’d better keep up with it or it will keep hitting you in the face.

Eight weeks of being here doesn’t make me an expert whatsoever but here’s how I’ve been trying to keep on top of it:

  1. Eat well
  2. Force solo time
  3. Do something you love
  4. Make new friends
  5. Keep old habits, start new ones
  6. Chase waterfalls
    1. Eat well. Now, I don’t necessarily mean eat only 1500 calories a day (ladies, you know what I’m talking about), but I mean eat to stay energized.  I think that when you’re someone in a new place there is extra energy on top of your normal amount of energy required to exist.  So eat up and stay energized, it will benefit you on many levels!! During our two-week orientation I also learned that as an introvert, I direct my energy and attention inward and receive energy from reflecting on my own thoughts, memories, and feelings. So recognizing how you personally generate energy is also important to your overall well-being.
    2. Force solo time.  If, as the introverted ways go, I do require alone time to reflect and reenergize on my thoughts and feelings of the day, then it follows that one must make time for oneself.  If I’m spending all my time socializing, working, sleeping, and the aforementioned eating, without making any time for me, I’m not going to help myself.  You don’t necessarily have to choose solo time over socializing, just make sure you fit it in any way you can. For example, writing this entry today was a good way for me to slow down and have some solo time whilst also doing…
    3. Do something you love. Writing is a suppressed love of mine.  I feel like we spend so much time typing other stuff (emails, essays, texts, Instagram captions) that I figure why bother typing more? However, it’s nice to talk about whatever you want sometimes.  No guidelines, rubrics, or etiquettes to follow. Sigh. So write, knit, whittle, collect buttons; do what you must to keep yourself sane.
    4. And when you go insane? Make new friends, they’ll help keep you sane (hopefully), or at least keep you grounded in reality.  Making new friends allows you to tie yourself into your experience; they’re real people doing the same thing you’re doing.  Your family and friends are still at home, which is the sad reality, but your life is still kind of happening here.  But when things get too real….call someone at home. There’s nothing better than talking to someone familiar.
    5. Keep old habits, but start new ones.  These habits will force routine, which is a good thing to have when trying to manage a busy schedule. For me this was a two-for-one because my old habit was being active, but my new habit is to be more active.  So I’m really just turbo-boosting being active which is pretty easy with a free gym membership offered through the university, and some epic land features out here.
    6. Chase Waterfalls. As far as epic land features go, Oregon has some good ones: coastlines & oceans, mountains, deserts, ancient trees, valleys, painted hills, and waterfalls. Last weekend I woke up Saturday morning, got in the car and went on a #solotrip an hour and a half outside of Eugene, eastward into the interior of the state.  Let me tell you, I passed some GREAT land-before-time-scenic-stuff, but all that will be saved for another time. I drove just outside of Oakridge, Oregon where there is a waterfall called Salt Creek Falls.  It has a 286 ft drop, pitches 90 degrees, and has a 84.35% rating on waterfallsnorthwest.com.  Now exclaiming: “I will go to a waterfall today” and getting excited about it, and then actually going to a waterfall will have a totally different effect on you.  I was pumped I was going to a waterfall, but when I got there I didn’t even know what to do with myself.  Luckily I had brought something to sit on (it’s quite damp at the base of a waterfall), a few letters that deserved responses, and something to snack on. Then I just sat in the dwindling fall sunlight and took that crazy waterfall in.  I drove there burnt out, came back feeling invigorated.  So I guess this was me doing a little bit of 1,2&5 and ultimately helped keep me sane during these turbulent times.
    7. Oh and a surprise bonus #7: Music. Listen to music, it’s a powerful thing that can get you through the toughest of times.

So while we may develop coping mechanisms for our weaker moments, ultimately we must remember why we chose to undertake this journey. This will help you to focus on the person you want to become and allow you to hone in what you want to take away from living in this bizzaro-world. Everything we do/say/absorb while here will shape our personas for the future.  So when you’re in one of your low moments, remind yourself of the reason why you are in Eugene, it will bring you back that joy of the day you received your acceptance letter.

So thanks for staying sane with me…

Written by Andrea Teslia

Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Andrea came to the University of Oregon to complete an MBA in Sustainable Business Practices. Graduating in 2016, Andrea plans to spend the next two years immersing herself in the progressively sustainable culture that has manifested itself on the West Coast of North America.

Flickr | tkamenick

Why Studying Math is a Sexy Choice for Your Future

Howdy, Oregon MBA blog. My name is Jacob Rosen and I’m a first-year in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center program. While many of my new classmates here in Eugene know me as a loudly proud Ohioan and non-stop sports blogger, many recognize me most as the MBA class of 2016’s token math guy.

I majored in applied mathematical economics with minors in Spanish and business administration during my undergrad at the University of Dayton. I selected Dayton similarly to how I picked Oregon – both schools had attractive existing programs in niche subjects and the schools’ warmhearted communities won me over on my first visits. No one in my family had ever attended a Catholic university or moved out to the Pacific Northwest. But both schools felt like home immediately.

In regards to math, I was always data friendly as a kid. When I was 15 years old, I created my own mock-up of college football’s Bowl Championship Series ranking. I created similar rankings for baseball and basketball and began blogging regularly by the time I was 17. Regardless of my major, I probably still would’ve ended up involved in the sports analytics blogging community and I always thought an MBA was a good fit.

But majoring in mathematics opened doors to me in ways most traditional majors might not. From a young age, I always had wanted to work in sports, whether in sports business, player personnel or sports journalism. But the advice I had gotten – prove your competitive advantage in whatever way possible and stay away from a sports journalism-centric approach – fit right in line with going the math route. A math degree is very, very sexy in this field. Just think of Moneyball.

And that sex appeal is certainly not just true in sports. It’s very, very true in all realms of business. Look at any relevant study – PayScale, Inc. and Georgetown University have two good data sets – and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors always are at the top of the career earnings list. And that’s with over 70 percent of STEM majors working in non-STEM fields.

Again, I wasn’t the best at math in my undergrad. Econ and business courses came much easier for me. Some of those math classes, such as linear algebra and discrete mathematics, were harder than anything I’ve had in my life. I struggled for the first time in my academic career. The subjects pushed me further and further. They made me more comfortable with challenging problems and critical thinking. They are making the first term of my MBA much easier for me.

The point of studying math is that employers in every field are looking for young people who can analyze data and think on their feet. There’s a reason why the Wall Street Journal recently said a master’s in data analytics might be as hot as an MBA. Big Data is the future of business. A math major – or at least several courses in math – can be the differentiation point to lift your resume to the top of the pile.

Written by Jacob Rosen

Jacob Rosen is a first-year MBA student in the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. His goal is to work in business insights and community relations for a professional sports team. An Ohio native, Jacob has worked in various roles for the Akron RubberDucks minor league baseball team. He writes online at WaitingForNextYear.com, NylonCalculus.com and SportsAnalyticsBlog.com. He can be followed on Twitter @WFNYJacob.


Exactly Where I’m Supposed to Be

Why am I here? Can I handle this? Was this the right decision? Admittedly, those questions have popped into my head several times over these first six weeks of my first term at the University of Oregon.

Am I in over my head?

A little bit about me: I was born and raised in south Florida and attended Florida State University for my undergraduate business degree, majoring in Finance and Marketing. I am truly a Florida girl! I have never wrestled an alligator, but I love the outdoors, the beach, and the sun.

Graduating in 2005, I was lucky to find a good job and spent almost ten years working for several state agencies in Florida. I know I was lucky to have job security and I know my parents thought I had it “made” with my state job, but something was missing. I felt this disconnect with what my mind and my heart wanted. I tried filling that void outside of work and became an avid runner, a yoga instructor, and volunteer for local animal charities.

This worked for a while…you know…the whole “living for the weekend” thing. But as time went on it became harder and harder to get out of bed. For me, the position was not rewarding and the working environment was not healthy. Just working for a paycheck was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I was met with answers like “that’s life” and “no one really likes their job” when I expressed my concerns about work. Really? Was this how life was supposed to be?

I am not the type of person to settle and I set out to fix the disconnect between my mind and heart, figuring there had to be more out there. I looked into outdoorsy jobs that didn’t pay anything, I thought about teaching yoga full-time, and I considered going back to school to be a zoologist. All of those things sounded fun, but were they practical and were they me?

Then one day I was researching degree programs and I stumbled upon the University of Oregon’s Sustainable Business Practices MBA. What? I didn’t know that was an option! I immediately had an overwhelming sense of “this is right”. I researched the program and talked to friends about it and everyone raved about the program. I had finally found the program for me. I had finally found my next step in achieving the life I wanted. The MBA appealed to my business-oriented mind and the Sustainable Business Practices concentration spoke to my hippie heart.

So I put things in place and drove 3,000 miles from Florida to Oregon in September. I have those moments of doubt, described above, but even more so I have moments where I pause and think how great it is to be living in Eugene and how I cannot believe I took the risk of leaving the known for the unknown. I felt beat down by my last job and it is taking some time to rebuild my confidence, but I am getting there. This first-term has been challenging, but I know it is worth it.

The first-term classes are reacquainting me with core business functions like Finance and Management while the Sustainability seminar is teaching me more about the triple bottom line and sustainability careers. I am actually writing this post on a flight back from the Net Impact conference in Minneapolis. I got to see the CEO of Unilever and Temple Grandin speak … amazing!

I may have my moments of doubt when things get rough, but I know I am on the right path. Stealing some words of wisdom from my yoga practice: I am exactly where I am supposed to be; letting go of the past, focusing on being present in the moment.

Written by Kelly Kilker

Kelly is a first year UO MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices (Class of 2016). She is a running and yoga enthusiast looking to combine her love of the outdoors/an active lifestyle with her Lean Six Sigma experience. Kelly did her undergraduate work at Florida State University and is from Boca Raton, Florida.