Clackamas County awarded Marylhurst University the highest possible recognition in its Leaders in Sustainability program, Gold certification, on April 20, 2016.
Zach Henkin already has run a successful company. So he didn't enroll in Marylhurst University's MBA in Sustainable Business program to learn how to manage a business; he came because he's a true believer in doing business a different way.
"I've always loved business, and I'm an energy geek – efficiency, conservation, all that," Zach said. "I have a lot of faith that sustainability is big, that it's the future, that all businesses are going to integrate sustainability in some way."
It's the latest step on a journey that brought this southern California native to Oregon to earn an English degree at Marylhurst, start a family and launch a successful rental car business, only to ask, "What's next?" The push to return to graduate school came when he realized he was so busy running his company, he never saw his little boy. And he vowed to make college a different experience the second time around.
School: More than just classes
"I was that undergraduate student who came just to get the degree," Zach recalled. He was focused on his business and his young family, and didn't get involved in the campus community.
"When I came back (for my MBA), I didn't just want to get the degree this time. I was looking to see what I could do that would empower me more for my future beyond earning the degree," he explained.
And so Zach jumped in to the Marylhurst community full force. He became the first elected chair of the university's Student Leadership Council when it was founded in fall 2011 to give students stronger representation with university leadership; it's a position he will have held for two years by the time he graduates in 2013. He also has been active in the Marylhurst University Sustainability Advisory Council, which is the primary driver of green initiatives on campus.
In his "spare time," he is a volunteer with the energy stewards program in the Clackamas County Office of Sustainability, and is a member of the Oregon City Planning Commission.
"My service on the planning commission helped shape how I approached laying out the structure of the student leadership council," Zach said. "I really would like to see more students engaged. You're going to be exhibiting that leadership somewhere, so you might as well be doing it here. Half of being a good manager is empowering people."
Starting his "green" career
In at least one way, though, his graduate experience is imitating his undergraduate experience: He is fully employed before his degree is in hand.
Midway through his green MBA coursework, Zach was hired by Sunlight Solar to start up its Portland office. The company installs renewable energy systems in both residences and businesses in Oregon and the northeastern United States. With several Lake Oswego and Clackamas County solar projects now under his belt, Zach is looking to do more.
"I love seeing projects turn into reality," Zach said. For his renewable energy concentration capstone project, he is creating a sustainability plan for Sunlight Solar, a project with immediate practical applications.
He has loved being able to share his on-the-job experience with other students in his cohort and his professors, as well as their mutual commitment to thinking green.
"The university has taken steps to ensure faculty leadership roles are filled with amazing people, and it's wonderful to be a part of that," Zach said. They're all 'drinking the Kool-Aid,' doing their work for the right reasons, and that really propels you day to day."
He fondly remembers going to class early in his program when both of his sons were still in diapers, discussing the environmental impacts and tradeoffs of different diaper options with his classmates, and how wonderful it was to have that peer support and be understood.
"Sustainability is inherently fun," Zach commented. "We all share the same ideals. We all want sustainability to work."
His advice to others considering Marylhurst's MBA in Sustainable Business, either on-campus or online?
"Lay out a plan of where you want to go so you can set reasonable expectations for yourself," Zach advised. "There are so many directions you can go. People who will be successful will get involved in professional organizations, take advantage of networking opportunities, club resources, career services, mentor services. Even just a conversation with someone helps you build confidence. You need a framework of where you want to go to make a plan to get there."
Zach's framework? A moving target. But inherently green.