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Redefining Business

Making the Switch: From Sports to Speeding up Solar

By: Kyle Rudzinski, Berkeley-Haas MBA 2014

In 2008, a distinct career path lay before me: I would one day become a college athletics director. I earned a master’s degree focusing on higher education, played five years of college soccer, and worked in many facets of athletics from media relations to fundraising and development. My future seemed set.

Then, to my surprise, after cycling 4,000 miles across America raising money and awareness for affordable housing, I realized my career would no longer focus on athletics.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a national park and remain enamored with the natural world. Maybe the heavy block of crushed cans destined for recycling I brought for show-and-tell in second grade left a deep-rooted, subconscious desire to pursue sustainability. Or perhaps the threat of a man-madeenvironmental collapse like the one on Easter Islandstartled me to action. Whatever the reason, I knew one thing: on that bike trip the economic and environmental deterioration I witnessed throughout the U.S. required solutions. Slowly, a solution came into focus – clean energy.

Ever since, I’ve devoted myself to accelerating and expanding the adoption of clean energy because of the promise it holds for people and our planet. Add the massive profit potential and clean energy becomes a model for responsible, sustainable business. That promise and potential are the reasons I’m attending Haas. Business school is my transition point from civil service to the private sector.

Back in 2008, I would not have considered a business career. Massive financial sector failings and company-generated pollution created perceptions of rapacious corporate greed and an indifference to society and the environment. Pursuing dollars alone without regard to societal interests could not draw me into the business world.

Yet, after seeing the value of public-private investment over nearly four years at the U.S. Department of Energy, including a year co-managing the SunShot Incubator Program, I’ve entirely rethought business’ potential. When channeled responsibly, business holds the opportunity to serve humanity, uplift society, and restore the environment.

Lawmakers can enable commerce through strategic, stable policies that support the general well-being while advancing technology and effectively utilizing natural resources. However, as partisanship and political dysfunction pervade Washington, an end to policy gridlock is nowhere in sight. Therefore, when faced with Congressional inaction, business must rise to the challenge and become the fast-paced, scalable change agent that positively impacts the world.

Business at large can do better than it did leading up the Great Recession. The years ahead hold the potential to redefine the way America does business – shifting to more economically competitive, sustainable models – while dramatically expanding the clean energy market.

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