by Jamie Shea, MBA/MS student at the Erb Institute, Class of 2012.
From October 28th – 30th 2600 students and professionals descended on the University of Michigan for the 18th Annual Net Impact Conference. It is the capstone event for the Net Impact organization, an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. The theme of this year’s event was 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade, and focused on the tangible steps that could be taken over the next ten years to make both business and society more sustainable.
As always, the conference delivered diverse speakers that covered an expansive range of topics. Bill McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle, and the CEO of Nestle Waters North America, Kim Jeffrey led off the day on Friday discussing the possibility of a nationwide recycling infrastructure funded by existing industry. Later that day as part of the Detroit Impact series, Ross students led a series of brainstorm sessions designed to help Detroit businesses and organizations overcome the critical challenges they are facing. Gary Hirshberg founder and CEO of Stonyfield Farms and David Blood, founder of Generation Investment, gave concurrent keynote speeches to open Saturday, and we closed out the conference by singing multiple versions of happy birthday to our final speaker, Majora Carter.
While all the speakers undoubtedly left an impression on conference participants, I believe that more than anything else this year’s conference will be remembered for the unique element that Michigan brought to the event. Due to its increasing popularity this was the last year that the conference was to be held on a university campus, and thus we wanted to make sure that we sent it off in style.
I was approached numerous times throughout the conference by Net Impact board members, conference veterans, and visitors from other schools saying how impressed they were with the facilities, the conference logistics and the quality of the breakout sessions put together by our students. But the one compliment that I heard most often and that was the most important to me was how welcomed everyone felt by all of the Michigan students and volunteers. Conference design team members, Ross Net Impact leadership, Ross staff members or “day-of” volunteers all took on the responsibility of being a host and made the event a success. However, over the ten months that we planned the event, their was no group that collectively contributed more to the conference than Erbers. The conference planning team asked a great deal of our fellow Erbers and each time, whether they were current students or alumni, they delivered.
Now that the conference is over I can go back to being a student again. In the last few days I have experienced a wide range of emotions: excitement, relief, exhaustion and a slight disbelief that it is all over. But the one feeling that has remained constant is a strong sense of pride. Watching everyone come together to put on an event that brought out the best in all the participants made me proud to be part of proud to be part of Ross Net Impact, proud to be an Erber, and proud to be a wolverine.