BARUCH ALUMNI FIGHTING FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
by Sally Fay
Faced with mounting evidence that our planet is in the throes of a climate crisis, increasing numbers of individuals, institutions, and government entities are sounding the alarm about the importance of mitigating climate warming and implementing green initiatives. Yet, despite growing acknowledgment that the danger is real, consensus on how to solve the problem most efficiently remains elusive.
Given Baruch College’s mission to provide its graduates with a strong foundation for lifelong learning and community impact, it’s no surprise Baruch alumni are at the forefront of the struggle to address the global threats posed by climate change. What is astounding, though, is the breadth and diversity of their contributions. Here, we profile five alumni who are making a difference in the fight to protect our planet’s beleaguered ecosystems.
ESPRIT DE CORPS
A five-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps early in his adult life made a lasting impression on Juan Gutierrez (MPA ’10). “That’s where I learned that lack of attention to detail can have deadly consequences,” says the former Marine sergeant, helicopter mechanic, and quality assurance representative.
Since then, Gutierrez has built a career within the detail-intensive world of the U.S. federal government. He spent several years working for the Social Security Administration, during which time he earned his Master of Public Administration from Baruch’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.
He joined the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) in 2011. As Region 2 ENERGY STAR coordinator at the EPA, Gutierrez spearheads the development and dissemination of tools and guidance on energy efficiency for his region, which comprises New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight Tribal Nations. “The objective of the ENERGY STAR program is to provide simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions,” he explains.
Gutierrez is also co-chair of his region’s Climate Change Workgroup, coordinating the work of topic experts to advise regional managers on opportunities to integrate energy conservation, greenhouse gas control, mitigation and adaptation, and awareness of potential climate change effects into specific EPA programs.
His Baruch education, says Gutierrez, “taught me about how communities, stakeholders, and government intersect to create policy and initiatives. All have a part in reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.” To that end, he is proud to have been at the forefront of efforts to draft and finalize the EPA’s Region 2 Climate Adaptation Implementation Plan, which was published in fall 2022.
A hiker, outdoorsman, and nature lover, Gutierrez is committed to the ongoing battle to increase awareness of climate change and the environmental challenges it brings. “I want to leave behind a place that is better for my kids,” he says, “and also, speaking as a former U.S. Marine, you never quit.”
SUSTAINABILITY TAKES CENTER STAGE
Among Patricia Yagüe’s (’16) memories of growing up in her native Spain is learning, at age 8 or 9, that paper could be recycled. There was no recycling program at the time, but “I remember separating paper from our household waste and stacking it together with a note for the waste collectors that said ‘for recycling.’ Without knowing it, I was already trying to make the world a more sustainable place.”
But sustainability wasn’t yet a career path, and Yagüe’s professional life took a different direction. She earned a diploma at IED Madrid and pursued a career in fashion design that ultimately brought her to New York City. A combination of growing awareness of the fashion industry’s environmental impacts and curiosity about the business world prompted new avenues of study and experience that led to her current role as head of sustainability for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) for Live Nation Entertainment, a global leader in live events, which she joined in 2019. “Since the launch of Live Nation’s environmental sustainability charter in 2019, important efforts have been made globally to reduce our environmental impact,” says Yagüe, who is responsible for defining and implementing market strategies to achieve Live Nation’s sustainability goals across EMEA countries. “The actions we take in producing events can have far-reaching ripple effects throughout the live music ecosystem, giving us an amazing opportunity to influence change in the industry,” she notes.
An economics major at Baruch, Yagüe credits Weissman School Professor Chester Zarnoch’s Introduction to Environmental Science course with rekindling her interest in environmental sustainability and inspiring her to earn a Master of Science in environmental economics and climate change from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
The Paris-based Yagüe acknowledges that dealing with varied regulations and cultures can pose a challenge to achieving Live Nation’s goals. But she’s focused on the upside: “Working with such diverse approaches to sustainability enriches my take on the topic.”
DEVELOPING TOOLS… AND TOOLMAKERS
Youth outreach and environment are recurring themes in the professional life of Gabriel Foreman (MBA ’16). Before coming east to pursue a BA in political science at SUNY Purchase, the San Francisco native worked at that city’s Botanical Garden, a popular school field trip destination, “so I’ve been interacting with students in an environmental context since high school,” he says. A post-college job helping students build their professional brands, along with a growing interest in entrepreneurship, led to a venture that encompasses both topics. In 2015 Foreman and a co-worker founded Duro UAS (short for Unmanned Autonomous Systems) and, the following year, its synergetic offshoot, Duro Workforce.
The Bronx-based Duro UAS, which develops affordable underwater systems for applications ranging from environmental research and monitoring to aquaculture to water treatment, exemplifies the vital role social entrepreneurship plays in solving global challenges. Explains Foreman, the company’s vice president, he and his co-founder viewed underwater as a rich business niche with big potential impact: “Global health risk due to lack of water quality analysis is substantial, and the expense of existing data collection solutions impedes acquisition of crucial information. We’re looking to expand access to environmental intelligence.”
As president of company spinoff, Duro Workforce, Foreman collaborates with the NYC Department of Education and other partners to provide workshops to increase students’ interest in STEM careers. Duro Workforce also is working within the CUNY system to implement pathways to prepare both traditional and nontraditional students for upcoming opportunities in New York–area offshore wind projects.
“We want to develop the next generation of operators and entrepreneurs in the field of climate change, among other fields,” Foreman says. Foreman applies lessons from the Zicklin MBA program in entrepreneurship/small business management to guide his young enterprises. “In business, when you can intertwine revenue with impacts—particularly when the revenue can be brought back into the community—you can create a scalable and sustainable model in which everybody benefits.”
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT GLOBALLY
A multicultural upbringing underpins the worldview of Fatma Ben Fadhl (EMS ’08), founder and principal of GeoAdvisory Services, whose focus is on climate finance and energy policy in emerging and developing markets. “I’m French Tunisian, and grew up between the U.S. and Mali and Burkina Faso, so I was exposed to climate, social, and economic disparities early on,” she says. “Even though I followed a business studies path, I always had in mind to work on the international scene, addressing development issues.”
Following her postsecondary education in Paris, Ben Fadhl worked for a global business lobbying group—an experience that “made me aware that sometimes one needs to choose sides,” she notes.
A subsequent position with the UN Environment Programme in Paris exposed her to the field of climate finance and prompted Ben Fadhl to add some financial credentials to her three master’s degrees in business disciplines. Earning her Executive Master of Science in finance, sustainable investment, and reporting—offered jointly by the Zicklin School and American University of Paris (AUP)—“helped build my confidence in understanding complex financial issues I was dealing with on a daily basis.”
After working in five countries on three continents managing climate finance projects within the UN and in EU bilateral agencies, Ben Fadhl returned to Paris and established her consulting firm in 2017. Among her projects are initiatives to implement climate investment plans and work with UN agencies on climate energy and sustainable trade. She also advised government ministers in the lead-up to the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference, helping equip them for multinational climate negotiations. She’s consulted on and developed green economy, energy, and climate policy and infrastructure projects for more than 40 countries worldwide. Ben Fadhl views the structural transformation of economies—fostering growth and investment while decoupling from fossil fuels and intensive resource use—as increasingly urgent: “In some countries, the situation is becoming a humanitarian issue; it’s no longer just the climate warming, it’s habitation disappearing.” As for how to remedy such dire situations, her outlook is holistic.
“Working within countries with varied cultural, political, and economic contexts requires an ability to view their issues with humanity and to identify solutions that can soothe the communities we’re serving,” says Ben Fadhl. “That’s the approach I try to bring into all my projects.”
TOWARD A GREENER FUTURE
In Salome Begeladze’s (’10) view, the world is in a constant state of change—but it’s within humanity’s power to shape how our future plays out. In terms of human well-being and the environment, she says, “Everything is connected. Individuals and societies always need to adapt—but how can we do so more effectively, equitably, and sustainably?”
Growing up in the Republic of Georgia, Begeladze lived the effects of both environmental and political upheavals, including the loss of her family home in a devastating earthquake and the political and economic instability surrounding her country’s secession from the former Soviet Union. These circumstances “led to an increased dependency on firewood for heat and cooking and to intensive agriculture production that devastated local ecosystems,” she notes.
Such formative experiences inspired Begeladze to pursue a career centered around social justice, sustainable development, and climate change mitigation, with the last 10-plus years in the conservation/environmental arena. Now with the U.S.-based nonprofit environmental organization Conservation International, she focuses on restoration of degraded and deforested areas to safeguard biodiversity, mitigate the climate crisis, and enhance the planet’s climate adaptation capacity. “Restoring these damaged landscapes is a scalable and effective natural tool to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Begeladze explains.
As director of restoration, she is involved in the design and implementation of projects around the world, teaming with stakeholders on a global, national, and local level. Her Baruch BS in public affairs “gave me experience and background in social issues, public policy, and political economy, which are pivotal to creating an enabling environment for sustainable development,” says Begeladze, who also holds an MS in international development and humanitarian assistance from New York University.
Begeladze says her two-year-old daughter is a constant reminder to act with urgency and “make peace with nature for the future generation. Nature has power to help us through our climate emergencies, but we must choose to work all together to protect what we have, sustainably manage what we use, and restore what we’ve lost.”
A PART OF THE SOLUTION
Like the ecosystem of the earth itself, the solutions to the climate crisis are interconnected and interdependent. While these and other Baruch alumni, as well as a wide range of faculty members, work to effect meaningful change, the next generation is already gearing up for the challenges ahead—and the College is committed to making sure they’re prepared.
In welcome remarks at a United Nations Development Programme–sponsored climate event hosted by the College in September, Baruch President S. David Wu emphasized Baruch’s “ever-expanding commitment” to furthering research on climate change “through our students—by launching them into climate-related leadership positions, and through our faculty—by their groundbreaking research [and] cross-discipline exhibitions. Their work helps us to understand what we stand to lose if we stay complacent, and what we stand to gain if we work together.”