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Students speak on business, sustainability links at upcoming conference

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Kia Jordan, left, and Mehreen Khan.

Two Virginia Commonwealth University students will share with their peers their insights into the future of sustainable business at this weekend’s Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference at the University of Maryland, College Park. Kia Jordan, a senior studying fashion merchandising and marketing, and Mehreen Khan, a senior studying supply chain management and environmental studies, will present sessions during the conference’s student summit.

“It’s a great opportunity to speak in front of a group, and get their feet wet going out in the world and talking about what’s important to them,” said Parker Long, sustainability reporting and outreach coordinator for VCU’s Office of Sustainability.

Three other students, Dmitriy Voronin, Ruxandra Zait and Jorge Trejo, will attend the student summit, with assistance from VCU sustainability.

 

‘Sharks and minnows’

Jordan’s presentation, “Sharks and Minnows: Compromising Between Industries” will focus on the compromises and challenges of a sustainable future for industry, government and society.

Sustainability itself is about the capacity to endure.

“Sustainability itself is about the capacity to endure. It’s looking at things on a long-term spectrum,” she said. “A lot of things in corporations and the government, they work within a shorter span. What’s going to produce the immediate result?”

No one has that answer, and there are many points to consider, said Jordan. Her research has bridged fashion and her School of Business management courses. Jordan also serves on VCU’s Student Sustainability Advisory Council.

“In the research I’ve done this past year, the next question moving forward is: Is there such a thing as a sustainable economy? How do we take this human population that’s reaching a peak in our generation, and have the infrastructure that’s able to support that?” she said.

This is the second year Jordan has presented during the conference. Last year, she spoke on the importance of taking sustainability from a fad to permanent facet of business and industry.

“It was my first time presenting to that large of a crowd, and I wasn’t sure how the audience was going to react to certain things that I said. As I began to present it became a really interactive presentation, which is what I really enjoyed about it,” Jordan said.

 

‘Overconsumption in America’

Khan’s presentation, “The Culture of Overconsumption in America,” focuses on the intersection of business, agriculture and sustainability.

Khan enrolled at VCU and found a home studying supply chain management, which she visualizes as a grocery store aisle. The aisle is fully stocked with a variety of inexpensive products, every day of the year, with many moving parts syncing behind the scenes to make that happen.

As a child of immigrants from Bangladesh, she is perceptive of waste and inefficiency in Western culture. Efficient supply chains can root out some waste, but cultural values play a huge part.

“We’re wasting so many resources, while the rest of the world cannot. In Bangladesh, there is always scarcity for everything,” Khan said. “I believe that everyone should have the basics — food, clean water and medicine.”

She has invested six months of research in her presentation, including meeting with the sustainability director of a major agricultural business.

“I have 30 minutes by myself to talk about something I’m passionate about,” she said of the conference.

 

‘A good opportunity to network’

The conference is co-hosted by American University. The student summit will be held Sunday. Keynote speakers for the student summit are Preston Mitchum, policy research analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity; and Brenda Pulley, senior vice president for recycling at Keep America Beautiful.

VCU’s Sustainability Council, Student Sustainability Advisory Council, student housing Eco Reps and the Student Government Association helped promote the conference.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to network with other students,” Long said. “It’s just for students, so it’s all their peers. Hopefully they get attention for what they’ve done here.”

Jordan said student participants have plenty to consider — and plenty of leverage — as they enter the workforce.

“We as students have that obligation to make sure we’re taking everything we’re learning and really educate ourselves to make better decisions for our generation, moving forward, and the generations after,” she said.

 

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