In December, four UB School of Management Undergraduate Honors students attended the inaugural Green Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, where they learned from experts in sustainable development and networked with like-minded peers from around the world.
Led by professor Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah, clinical associate professor of organization and human resources and faculty director of global programs, the students had the opportunity to broaden their horizons, become global citizens and commit to the advancement of a healthier planet.
As the flagship and one of the nation’s leading public research universities, the University at Buffalo is committed to addressing regional and global environmental challenges through innovative research, education and outreach programs.
In the School of Management, students learn why sustainability makes smart business sense, use their skills to help local nonprofits, and gain global perspective thanks to generous donors who support initiatives like the John Thomas Fund, which helped make the Thailand trip possible. Meanwhile, our faculty study climate change through the lens of business — from responsible investing to the market for recycled plastic, and beyond.
Robert Siegel, a junior studying business administration, says he was nervous about taking the trip because he’d never been that far from home, but the experience made a lasting impact.
“We were able to learn about climate change and its effects from a wide variety of perspectives,” he says. “Through these discussions and information sessions, we made friends with students from many different countries. Being immersed in Thailand’s culture is something I’ll never forget and I look forward to traveling more in the future.”
Throughout the four-day event, the students learned ways to take action against climate change, from what we eat to how we communicate. They also took part in an ongoing climate project where they planted mangroves — groups of trees and shrubs that provide the basis for rich biodiversity and water absorption.
Grace Conrad, a senior studying business administration and law, says sustainability is now one of her life’s passions, even though it wasn’t a personal focus before the trip.
“It was fascinating to learn all the facets of climate change and how the issues and problems we face in Buffalo are completely different from those in other parts of the world,” she says. “These problems will continue to impact us all at an exponential rate, and I’ve realized that this substantial change won’t happen overnight — it’s up to us as individuals to include climate change as part of the conversation when making decisions, both big and small.”
Business administration senior Jared Pawlak was inspired by the passion of those around the world who share a similar commitment to sustainability and the future of the planet.
“It put into perspective how big this fight is, and how many great minds we have working towards creating a better tomorrow,” he says. “I learned so much about ways to take action against climate change that I am eager to share with those around me. There are so many little things that can go a long way.”
For Colleen Chen, a senior studying accounting, the trip brought awareness to topics she didn’t even realize were related to sustainability, such as eating a cleaner diet, practicing eco-mindfulness, or even using humor to combat large corporations.
“One of the speakers said ‘there is no plan B’ and that took me a few moments to digest,” she says. “There was a theme throughout the conference that there is no perfect solution — if we wait around for the perfect solution, it’ll be too late. Instead, we just need to do our best.”
Now known as The Green Team, the four School of Management students have a full schedule of events this spring where they’ll share their Thailand experience with the rest of the UB community. Throughout the semester they’ll be meeting with a wide range of stakeholders, including School of Management faculty, staff and students, the school’s Global Advisory Council and Dean’s Advisory Council, and the UB Sustainability Team.
And during Sustainability Month in April, the team will visit the United Nations headquarters in New York City — and a UN representative will come to the School of Management for an in-person lunch and learn session.
Chen says their entire experience is best summed up through a Chinese idiom another student shared on the last day of the conference.
“It translated to ‘together we are a ball of fire, but apart we are a sky full of stars,’” she says. “We came together from around the world to discuss the importance of sustainability, but when we leave, we take all these critical ideas and knowledge back to our own countries.”