Leaders in Energy GW Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza had Large Turnout

Kathleen O'Dell is with Deloitte and works with US Government on projects overseas. She advises on energy security.
Kathleen O’Dell is with Deloitte and works with the  US Government on projects overseas. She advises on energy security.

Over 120 university, government, nonprofit and business leaders, energy and sustainability professionals, and students attended the Leaders in Energy GW Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza on February 20, 2015 at The George Washington University (GW) School of Engineering and Applied Science.

One student commented that the event was great because it gave someone with a different background the opportunity to learn about potential career paths in renewable and sustainable energy.

Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) National Capital Chapter Women’s Energy and Environmental Leadership Panel

As a leader in science and engineering education, GW was a natural partner for the AAE women leadership panel. The panel discussed different ways to think about the green economy, from entry-level, mid-career, and end of career vantage points.

Janine Finnell, Clean Energy Ambassador and Founder of Leaders in Energy, moderated the panel. Finnell highlighted useful resources for students looking to size up the green economy and strategize on their careers, such as:

Mar Kelly, President and Founder of District Sun, highlighted that one must be willing to work three years and invest 10,000 hours to become a subject matter expert. The key is to find a niche and identify unmet needs. Kelly emphasized the importance of confidence in oneself. For women, Kelly said, it is all too common to be underestimated. Savvy women will be able to use that to their advantage, while also not letting people who are “walking pins” to pop their bubble. As a serial entrepreneur, she discussed the multiple times she has had to reinvent herself.

Kathleen Merrigan, Director of the GW Sustainability program, said the key is to remain flexible and emphasized the importance of social media as a part of the student’s toolkit. She spoke about the “Lean in” conversation and how it becomes easier to join when one climbs up the ladder.

Kathleen O’Dell, Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting, spoke about her personal experience with career change. By leveraging her international development background and her experience moving her family of three to Jordan, she moved into the energy space and is now helping developing countries create their own energy policies. O’Dell commented that Jordan is the third-poorest country in terms of water resources and that her projects were helping to implement energy efficiency in the regulatory system.

Sunita Satyapal, Director of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, recalled her first teaching experience, when the students assumed she was one of them. She talked about the investment that the DOE, 40 global car companies, universities, and other countries like Japan are making in the fuel cell space. Satyapal indicated that internships are available at the DOE and referred students to www.usajobs.gov.

Buster Barksdale from AEE spoke about upcoming events in the Northeast, including lighting and LEDs in April.

GW Showcase of Energy and Sustainability Educational Programs and Research Programs

Volker Sorger, Ph.D., talks about electric vehicles and how they will contribute to creating a healthier Washington, D.C. by 2070.
Volker Sorger, Ph.D., talks about electric vehicles and how they will contribute to creating a healthier Washington, D.C. by 2070.

During the showcase, attendees dug into the research, institutes, entrepreneurship program, and legal research available at the university.

Jonathan Deason, Lead Professor, Environmental and Energy Management, provided an overview of the program, including the substantial research work done by the undergraduate and graduate students. Topics covered stakeholder decision-making, water management and drinking water enforcement. He highlighted Leaders in Energy member Elvin Yuzugullu’s research on stakeholder decision-making.

Joe Cascio, Director of the emerging Environmental and Energy Management Institute, talked about alternative approaches to regulations that need to be explored for the energy industry.

Meghan Chapple, Director for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, highlighted the collaboration between GWU leadership, professors and students in developing the university’s sustainability program. She discussed how the university is developing best practices in sustainability and renewability through establishing a solar farm and identifying ways to optimize the energy efficiency of its buildings. She emphasized the interconnected and intersectoral nature of sustainability.

Scott Sklar, an Adjunct Professor who also runs The Stella Group, spoke about the failure of people in the energy to talk to each other, what is known as a “silo” mentality. He reminded students that in Washington, DC, students can attend a hearing, meet with energy experts, and get involved in community projects every day of the year.

Students Connor Roberts, President, and Josie Mascher, Vice President, AEE National Capital Chapter, spoke about the organization’s student events.

Volker Sorger, Director of the Smart Innovation Labs, discussed his research on electric cars. He talked about why the investment in electric cars will help improve the health of people and the environment as we transition away from fossil fuels.

Jim Chung, founding Executive Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Co-Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation I-Corps in Washington, DC, spoke about the challenges of operating in a lean start-up environment and discussed how engineering students are becoming entrepreneurs through the I-Corps program.

Justin Hyde, a university student and co-founder and COO of BitGrid Software Solutions talked about his experience going through the program and case competitions and the role that played in establishing his company.

Several had questions for Anthony Yezer, Director of the Center for Economic Research, about how economics could explain the behavior of city dwellers and whether they used more or less energy based on the size of the homes and transportation. He commented that height limits for buildings has the effect of raising energy use.

Others asked Donna Attanasio, Senior Advisor for Energy Law Programs, how regulations could be used to incentivize utilities to bring more renewable energy online and make it affordable. Attanasio spoke about the GW program in environmental law, highlighting its role as one of the oldest such programs in the country.

Information tables and Networking reception

Janine Finnell, Leaders in Energy, introduces Walid Norris of Green Drinks DC.
Janine Finnell, Leaders in Energy, introduces Walid Norris of Green Drinks DC.

After the showcase, participants were invited to join in the networking reception and peruse the information tables from various student organizations.

Participating organizations gave welcoming remarks including Janine Finnell (Leaders in Energy); Buster Barksdale (President of the Association of Energy Engineers National Capital Chapter); Jonathan Deason, (GW School of Engineering and Applied Science);  and Walid Norris (Green Drinks DC).

Networking Reception at Leaders in Energy Extravaganza.
Networking Reception at Leaders in Energy Extravaganza.
Networking Reception at Leaders in Energy Extravaganza.
Networking Reception at Leaders in Energy Extravaganza.

Amit Ronen, Director of the GW Solar Institute, spoke about his goal to make GWU the #1 university in the country for solar and how George Washington University, American University and the George Washington University Hospital announced a 20-year agreement with Duke Energy Renewables to reduce their carbon footprints by directly tapping solar energy.

Pamela Hess, Executive Director, Arcadia, gave a passionate presentation about how her organization brings sustainable food to low-income consumers in Washington, making little-known connections between current food policies and adverse impacts on public health.

Janine Finnell closed the event by thanking the attendees for their participation.

For more on the extravaganza, check out the live tweets on Twitter using #LEGWX. Also, check out our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages for the latest event photos, discussion, news, and upcoming events sponsored by Leaders in Energy.

Many thanks to our wonderful speakers and participants during our lunch panel, the Showcase sessions, Information Tables, and Reception.  Please see some of the photos below.   (Photo credits: Beril Cetinbas, Carla Fleming, and Karen Elliot.)

Thanks also to our co-sponsors including the Association of Energy Engineers National Capital Chapter; the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and the SEAS Office of Graduate Admissions and Student Services; the Alexandria Emerging Technology Center; and DC Green Drinks.

We believe that our group is playing an important role in building the capacity for action by convening this community of energy and sustainability professionals who are working to make a difference.   In addition, we help our members to network in finding jobs, locating better jobs (if they are already are employed), and partnering to develop new business and other related opportunities.  We appreciate your support and attendance at our professional networking events on key clean energy and sustainability topics.

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