A huge part of what the Fellows provided me was exposure to ideas and resources that changed how I was looking at my business education. - Liliana Busse
Leeds offers many opportunities for students to take on leadership roles, hone their communication skills, and build professional networks. Among these are clubs, such as the undergraduate club CESR Fellows, which are run by and for students. With a focus on sustainability, CESR Fellows student leaders develop speaker programs for their peers and host conversations about environmental and social impact in the business world. In the process, they gain valuable knowledge about impact oriented business, and how to build a business career centered on their values.
This year’s CESR Fellows leadership includes:
- Jack Vehrenkamp (‘21), runs member outreach and graduated in December with a degree in finance and operations management.
- Katherine (Kat) Grygiel (‘22), Director of Finance, with an emphasis in finance and real estate.
- Habin Lena Kim (‘22), Director of Committee Affairs, has a marketing emphasis with the Social Responsibility and Ethics (SRE) Certificate.
- Liliana Busse (‘22), Director of Operations, has an emphasis in operations management and the Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) management track, and a minor in political science.
- Maxime Brandt, (‘22), Director of Strategic Engagement is a dual degree environmental studies and business major, with an emphasis in accounting, with the SRE Certificate.
- Montse Cataldi (‘21), Marketing Director, graduated in December with an emphasis in marketing and the SRE Certificate.
Why join CESR Fellows
CESR Fellows leaders have, for the most part, been members of the club for a couple of years. They found the club easy to join by attending an event, and quickly discovered the Fellows were a welcoming community of like-minded peers, not just a series of educational programs. Not all CESR Fellows leaders knew about corporate social responsibility (CSR) when they first joined the club. For Montse, one of the ideas that captured her interest and convinced her to be more involved was learning how to “use my values through my business degree.”
As they became more familiar with sustainability and business, each recognized club leadership as an avenue to deeper understanding. Kat got involved with Ralphie’s Closet, a student-run free “shop” stocked with donated professional clothing for students who cannot afford to purchase business attire. She appreciated that “the opportunity for community engagement came with lots of opportunities for growth, and for meeting people both in the business school and outside of it.”
Maxime also found that CESR Fellows gave her the opportunity to develop a close connection with CESR staff and the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Division (SRS) faculty.
CESR Fellows enhances the college experience
Being part of CESR Fellows has had a significant impact on all of the club leaders’ academic and post-graduation trajectories. For Maxime, the Fellows were instrumental in helping her know it was possible to have a career in CSR.
Many of the Fellows leadership found internships through other club members, and in some cases even lined up a job offer through the club’s network. Maxime found her first internship, at a vegan natural foods brand, through a CESR Fellows member. She then spent two summers interning at Aurora Organic Dairy. While that internship did not come through the club, she was asked about CESR and the Fellows in all of her interviews. Lena also found that being part of the CESR Fellows allowed her to stand out in interviews when applying to her internship at RSM. Montse had a similar experience while interviewing for her first internship with marketing consultancy Egg Strategy where talking about her experience at the club and what she does there helped her stand out.
Liliana joined CESR Fellows her freshman year. Through the club she had an opportunity to work on a carbon accounting project. That exposed her to the energy consulting firm Guidehouse where she then did an internship in their infrastructure program. She is graduating with a full time offer to return to Guidehouse next fall.
For each of the club leaders, being part of CESR Fellows has been rewarding in a different way. Lena’s favorite experience in CESR Fellows was through a Carbon Neutrality Committee (CNC) project to produce a video on recycling and composting in the dorms. She was able to collaborate with senior management at CU and came away with a tangible product that she is proud of.
Montse mentioned a trek to EarthHero her first year in the Club. She saw first hand how a company doing business in a responsible manner can drive sales and consumer loyalty.
Jack was excited about a recent volunteer project picking up trash in partnership with the CU Colorado Ocean Coalition Club. They tallied the brands they saw represented among litter near campus, and then sent information to the relevant companies about their impact on the local community.
Maxime and Kat both spoke about the responsibility and opportunity of being part of the leadership team. They have appreciated being able to build community and grow engagement in CSR through club events, and to use what they have learned to give back to other students. "There are people who believe that business is simply not good for the environment," Maxime says. "It is great for students to know that business has a place in this conversation."
Advice for new students
All of the CESR Fellows leaders want to encourage other students to invest their time and energy into their passions, not just things that will build their resumes. Kat was moved by a talk the Fellows hosted in Fall 2021 by Mark Jackson. His central message, Kat said, was “we might not all end up in sustainability roles but it is great to show your passion because employers are looking for real people, not just meeting criteria on a job description.” Montse agreed that being a CESR Fellows “communicates something about yourself and what you want to do in your future.”
The Fellows leadership team all appreciated the advantages that came with club leadership. With so many unique opportunities available at Leeds it can be hard for students to choose a focus. But, Lena says “you get out what you put in, and it is more rewarding to be in the leadership than to just attend three meetings.”
Plans for spring 2022
Although they are graduating, and looking toward the future, the CESR Fellows leadership have big plans for this semester. Perhaps the most important effort is to identify juniors who are interested in taking over next year, and training them. They will also be sending out a poll to identify student priorities and interests for events. Jack emphasizes that “what we do is shaped by the executive team but also by the members. So join and play a part in shaping the direction of the club and what its future can be.”
To apply to be on the CESR Fellows Executive Board please fill out this application.