From Business at Leeds 2022 | Full issue
Emma Pearson is part entrepreneur, part marine scientist, and wholly determined to protect our oceans.
Growing up in landlocked Colorado, Emma Pearson (Fin, EBio’22) first dove into the sea through TV. She became addicted to National Geographic documentaries about the ocean, then became passionate about saving it.
By high school, she had started a nonprofit, Sea the Change, to educate and inspire elementary school students in Colorado about ocean conservation.
Since then, Sea the Change has continued to evolve, thanks to the business principles Pearson learned at Leeds. She recently graduated from CU with a dual degree in finance and ecology and evolutionary biology, but originally had no intention of majoring in business. It was a last-minute decision based on gut instinct.
She soon realized her hunch had been right: A business skill set could help her save the ocean. “I think that the true solution to protecting the ocean lives at the intersection of business and science and policy. My goal is to catalyze that intersection,” Pearson said.
At Leeds, she became both a Leeds Scholar and a Leeds Honors student, taking advantage of the experiential opportunities that came with those distinctions. She went to South Africa through the First-Year Global Experience program—a trip she called “life-changing.” There, she did a consulting project, drawing upon her nonprofit experience to give advice to a local organization.
“Them taking me seriously as an 18-year-old was just really mind blowing,” she said. “It didn’t just help me develop as a leader, but it helped me define where I wanted my career to go.”
With newfound excitement about the field of consulting, she joined Leeds Consulting Group and developed her leadership skills, later winning CU’s Student Leader of the Year Award.
While working her way through business classes, she simultaneously pursued her science degree. For two years she interned at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, helping to develop an artificial intelligence-driven detector for blue whale sound production. Her honors thesis, comparing temporal and seasonal patterns of the whales’ noise levels, will be published this December in CU’s Honors Journal.
It was during her internship search that her interests converged. When she stumbled across Boston Consulting Group, she was impressed by their relationship with the World Wildlife Foundation and their conservation work. As an intern there, she networked with global managing partners in London, then boldly reached out to the CEO to chat about sustainability.
“I gained some confidence from my experiences at Leeds—and the biggest thing I’ve learned when it comes to pursuing your career is make them say no, don’t say no to yourself,” Pearson said.
In July, she started full time at BCG as an associate. "BCG is really focusing on their climate practice and their sustainability measures and initiatives, so I'm really excited to get involved in that, specifically in the conservation sector," she said. "It's just so cool to work for a company whose values I really align with."
Although she's currently based in Denver, she still makes regular visits to the ocean. Last year, she went to the Florida Keys to earn her advanced diver certification and to hang out with green moray eels and nurse sharks; a move to the coast is definitely in her future plans.
"I've spent so much time talking about the ocean, reading about the ocean and even teaching about the ocean, so finally getting to live there will be incredibly rewarding and climactic," she said. "But, in the meantime, I will keep watching my Nat Geo documentaries, visiting the aquarium and sharing my love for the ocean with others. I think that in and of itself is a privilege and an experience I've been incredibly grateful to have."