Todd Johnson was changed by his children. Sharon Mackerras found a career that led her to new thinking. Courtland Weisleder found inspiration from a real estate lecture. Michael Catanzaro accepted a challenging new role based on passion.
Three University of San Diego alumni and Johnson, the parent of a USD student, were asked what drove them to careers connected to sustainability during a Knowledge Transfer panel event Friday in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre.
“Your generation changed me,” Johnson said to an audience with current USD students. “I was looking at what I needed to do different and I looked at what my daughters were doing — they were trying to heal the world.
“I call it the Justice Generation. You have access to so much more information, you see the brokenness and you understand. You’re not going to settle for the same old story that got us here.” Johnson, a partner at Jones Day law firm in Northern California, began working exclusively with sustainability-focused clients pursuing renewable energy solutions and more.
Mackerras ’07 took classes and got encouragement from Marine Science and Environmental Studies professors Michael Boudrias, Sarah Gray and Ron Kaufmann. She landed an internship at PBS&J, a nationwide engineering and environmental consulting firm, while still a student. She was hired after graduation and now works preparing environmental documentation in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, including Environmental Impacts Reports.
“I’m three years in and I’m still beginning my career path,” she said. “It’s a chance to learn more about San Diego and learning a little bit about everything.”
Weisleder ’09 founded Greener Dawn Inc., Greener Dawn Investment Group and Greener Dawn Financial Corp. in March 2009. His passion for alternative and renewable energy and clean technology is traced to a lecture by then USD professor Norm Miller in the master’s of science in Real Estate program.
“You mean we can have a commercial building that reduces operating costs, reduces carbon, runs more efficiently and does the right thing?” Weisleder said rhetorically. “I was instantly intrigued. I wanted to learn more.”
He opened his businesses with 13 employees and is committed to the work going forward. “There are green-type events every day in San Diego.”
Catanzaro ’01, ’07 (MA) is the first director of sustainability at USD. An experienced project manager, he has immersed himself in sustainability projects, constantly researching ideas and working with Boudrias on the Sustainability Task Force. As a first result of his leadership, USD has selected a solar energy vendor, AMSOLAR, to provide the technology which will make USD the eighth-largest solar energy facility on a U.S. college campus. The agreement is expected to generate up to 15 percent of USD’s power needs. The university has also entered an energy-related partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric.
The recent hiring of retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Len Hering as vice president of business services and administration gives Catanzaro another key expert on campus. A nationally-recognized leader in developing sustainable practices for the Navy, Hering served as the panel’s moderator on Friday.
The move toward sustainability going forward certainly creates the potential for new “green” or clean technology jobs. “Sustainability touches everything we do,” Hering said.
— Ryan T. Blystone
USD is celebrating Earth Week April 18-23. The university was a sponsor at Sunday’s Earth Fair at Balboa Park. It is hosting a movie about transportation, “Pedal Power,” on Monday, the Sustainable Living Expo and Internship Fair on Tuesday, a Farmers’ Market and Sustainable Food Expo and a sunset dinner with food from USD’s sustainable garden behind Mission Crossroads on Wednesday. Thursday is Alternative Transportation Day, encouraging students to ride their bicycles to school and work, and there will be a waste awareness and E-recycling opportunity during the day. Friday is “Green Day in the Valley” at Missions Crossroads and Valley Field and it will be followed by a film, “Tapped,” on the business of bottled water. For more Earth Week details, click here.