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ACES Family Focus: Meet Ian Harten

Each month, we will spotlight a member of the ACES family to learn about their passions, how they are connected to the Center and how their work with ACES has helped them create a bigger impact through our collaboration.

  • What led you to become involved with ACES?

The Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability is what brought me to the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School in the first place. Plenty of business schools have a class or two about sustainability, but UNC is one of the few that have made an institutional investment in building a sustainability center. I knew that if I wanted to pivot my career to sustainability, I would need a place where like-minded students would gather, and ACES has been just such a place. My sustainability-minded classmates have more than enough tenacity and dedication, but without the backing of a center like ACES this energy would not be translated into action. Sustainability is a growing segment of the economy with many niches yet to be explored, and new roles are emerging every day. I knew that if I was going to make a big splash at UNC, someone needed to have already built the pool.

  • How has ACES empowered you to accelerate positive social and environmental impact?

Although sustainability is the central path for my MBA, I know that many of my other classmates are exploring other trails. For this reason, I have taken every opportunity to bring consideration for the environment into endeavors that appeal to our entire class. For me, the Launching Investment in Future Transformation (LIFT) Challenge that is run by ACES was the best opportunity to make those connections. My team combined our collective knowledge of environmental, social, health and financial policies to craft a blended finance proposal of which I am very proud. It also gave us the opportunity to explore other models of company ownership that went beyond what we had learned in the classroom. Thanks to ACES, I had one of the most challenging, and rewarding, experiences of my MBA journey.

  • What are your top take-aways, both personally and professionally from working with ACES?

Working with ACES, I am constantly reminded about how my success is dependent on the success of my classmates, UNC alumni and the greater community of sustainability professionals. We are fortunate to be able to lay another layer of bricks in building the sustainability sector, just as we are fortunate to be standing on the foundation at UNC that had been laid by ACES alumni. A sense of community, rather than a sense of competition, exists under ACES, and from this community my classmates and I can combine strengths to pursue our common goals of making the world more clean, beautiful and just.

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