Pursuing Business Careers with a Sustainability Twist


Two Bowdoin alumnae are pursuing careers in business, but are approaching their future livelihoods with sustainability as their focus.

Katie Grote ’02 and Ayaka Emoto ’05

Friends Ayaka Emoto ’05 and Katie Grote ’02 met as MBA students at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, which offers both MBA and MPA degrees. Grote graduated in May, and Emoto finishes next spring.

“[Presidio has] a traditional MBA program and the traditional courses you would take with a regular MBA program, but they weave sustainability into all the classes,” Emoto explained.

Emoto, who studied Spanish and gender and women’s studies at Bowdoin, this summer is interning at a start-up company in San Francisco, Fenix International, which is developing renewable energy products, including “an intelligent battery” that can be charged with solar panels or a bicycle generator.

Fenix is marketing its ReadySet battery to entrepreneurs in Africa, who can build micro-utilities in their communities to charge up to 10 mobile phones at once. “There are approximately 1.5 billion people who don’t have access to energy, but of those, 600 million have mobile phones. People have mobile phones but no way to charge the phones,” Emoto said.

The company is also targeting the U.S. market, Emoto said, for people with low-carbon lifestyles, outdoorsy types who want to charge their e-readers or cellphones while camping, or for those who keep emergency-preparedness kits. “The fascinating thing is that [Fenix] is not a nonprofit, it’s not charity or philanthropy, it’s a sustainable business,” Emoto said.

Grote, meanwhile, has a twelve week Climate Corps fellowship from the Environmental Defense Fund to search for energy efficiency opportunities at the America’s Cup World Series this August. With this fellowship, EDF places MBA and MPA students inside a company, city or university to help the organizations achieve savings by becoming more energy efficient.

Although Grote is devising guidelines for America’s Cup’s World Series event, Grote’s work is also applicable for other city events, and San Francisco will likely phase in her recommendations into policy, she said.

Grote, who majored in German and music at Bowdoin, says that after her fellowship ends, she will look for work in the energy or built environment in California. “With California’s cap-and-trade program starting up under AB32, there’s a lot of interesting work going on in the energy space,” she said. “Cities are working on climate action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and lots of big companies are starting to do carbon accounting as well.”

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