During the 2020 Summer Olympics (in 2021, of course), I saw a commercial that featured the quote, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” While the commercial referred to greatness in athletics, the quote reminded me of my Erb Institute journey. I now know I did not have to be a great environmentalist to join Erb, and the experience and resources at Michigan and Erb are helping me start my career in environmental sustainability strategy.

A few years ago, amid the worsening climate crisis, I felt compelled to contribute to environmental sustainability, but I had no credentials or experience. At the same time, I was researching business schools. I worked in human resources for a large financial services firm, and I wanted to shift into a different function. I narrowed my school search to programs that would allow me to pivot out of HR and into roles or industries like environmental sustainability and climate tech.

The Erb Institute’s dual-degree program quickly rose to the top of my list for three reasons. First, the MS from the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) would help build my subject-matter expertise to complement the MBA. Second, the Erb students and alumni represent a huge variety of industries, interests and backgrounds, and they make up a fun and supportive community. Last, Ross, SEAS and Erb all offer opportunities for experiential learning, which are important for me as I build a resume that goes beyond HR at a bank.

Something I have come to appreciate about the Erb experience is that you are part of the three Ross, SEAS and Erb communities the entire time. Even though I spent my first year taking classes at SEAS, I was part of a Ross FACT (Functional Accountability Career Team) group to help with my internship search, I was on a consulting team for a Michigan utility through the Energy Club at Ross, and I befriended Ross and SEAS students through various classes and activities.

I have learned so much inside and outside of the classroom. Some highlights from this past year for me included learning about food waste through my SEAS master’s project, learning about energy through two case competitions and in two classes, and learning about anti-racism through the Erb Institute Book Club and SEAS & Ross programming. I also learn via everyday conversations with Erbers, because of the similar yet diverse interests and values we share as a community.

I have done and learned more in the last year related to environmental sustainability than I could have hoped. I feel like walking proof that the support and resources that the Erb dual-degree experience provides can transform anyone into a sustainability-minded leader. And these leaders are necessary for the transformation our world is going through. As I approach my second year, I hope to share my story and help more people get started on their sustainability paths.