The Leeds School of Business MBA program prepared me with necessary tools to accelerate my career in sustainability. - Jessica Pearson
Jessica Pearson (MBA ‘18), came to Leeds to explore how companies can communicate their sustainability strategies. She had a background in the natural products industry in marketing, and wanted to use her skill set to help companies do better by setting difficult goals and holding themselves accountable. While in school she realized that real estate offered an environment in which she could have a visible and measurable impact on her community. Today, she is a Sustainability Consultant with Stok, a B Corp which provides “sustainability consulting, energy and performance engineering, and real estate and workplace solutions.” They work with clients on finding financially sustainable ways to meet environmental goals.
Making the built environment more sustainable
After graduation Jess worked for Morgan Creek Ventures, a private developer, focused on energy management. She was attracted to the idea of net zero construction. The biggest projects Jess worked on were the Boulder Commons located near the new transit center in North Boulder, and 30Pearl with Boulder Housing Partners.These projects took a holistic approach to sustainability from the energy systems to the location to the construction techniques, and including the clientele which was lower income and underserved populations in the housing market.
Jess learned a lot from this work. One of her insights was that she wanted to focus on existing buildings, where the physical and environmental impacts had already happened, and do the hard work of making those structures more environmentally friendly.
After Morgan Creek Ventures, Jess took on the role of Energy and Sustainability Manager at the Saint Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD). With a portfolio of over 50 buildings, ranging in age from 2 - 50 years old, Jess was responsible for a wide range of building systems and needs with a mandate to improve the District’s energy use. She also managed programs including landfill diversion and waste contracts. Jess established ambitious targets for sustainability, analyzed building improvement plans, applied for available rebates, and conducted educational programming for students about what sustainability looks like in the classroom.
A large part of her job was operational energy management. Jess approached her work as a series of upgrades that plugged into existing construction timelines. For example, putting in low flow toilets when bathrooms were being renovated.
Resources at Leeds
While at Leeds, Jess had a mentor, and got connected with her job at Morgan Creek Ventures through that relationship. She also took advantage of Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility (CESR) networking opportunities and events, and ran the Net Impact club in her second year. Jess says that these extracurricular activities taught her hard skills, like how to do impact reporting, and gave her leadership opportunities that complemented her classes.
The CU Real Estate Center (CUREC) also offers a graduate level Sustainable Real Estate course which is available as one of their electives. In this class, students learn strategies, tools and techniques for managing growth and land use in a changing world.
Jess made a promise to herself that as soon as she felt settled she would give back to somebody else. She is looking forward to the day when she can serve as a mentor for the next CESR student.