More Alumni Highlights

Ashley Conrad-Saydah: Fast-tracking Sustainability at the BLM

During the two years that ended this past July, Ashley Conrad-Saydah (MESM 2008) served two federal agencies as part of the Presidential Management Fellowship she won during her second year at Bren. Her fellowship is based in Sacramento, where she serves as the Renewable Energy Project Manager for the Renewable Energy Coordination Office at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) California State Office. She also worked for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program in Washington, D.C. NOTE: In 2013, Ashley was appointed Assistanty Secretary for Climate Policy at the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and currently holds the position of Deputy Secretary for Climate Policy. (more)

Britton Smith: A Greener, More Profitable Investment Strategy

When Britton Smith joined Santa Barbara Asset Management as a portfolio manager in 2001, his focus was the small but growing segment of the industry known as “socially responsible investing” (SRI). SRI fund managers look to invest in companies that can allow their clients to, in the credo of green capitalism, do well while doing good. “They are not interested only in favorable returns,” Smith says. But favorable returns matter, and Smith points out, “Less than ten percent of investors are willing to lose one percent on their return just to feel good.” Further, fund managers are legally bound to maximize returns for their clients. (more)

Bryan Henson: Building on Science for Better Living

Steering the white bio-diesel pickup truck around a curve on East Mountain Drive in the Tea Fire burn area, Bryan Henson (MESM 2003) points to a low-slung modern home standing intact and untouched amid an otherwise black and barren landscape. “That’s one of ours,” says Henson, an associate at Allen Associates, a local building firm that is a Bren Corporate Partner and one of the leading sustainable-building experts on the Central Coast. Standing in surreal contrast to the foundations of destroyed homes nearby, the undamaged residence underscores the importance of fire resistance as an aspect of sustainability. Note: Since this article appeared, Bryan has been promoted and is now president of Allen Associates. (more)

Douglas Varchol: "Shooting" for Sustainability

It can be tricky catching up with Douglas Varchol (MESM 2006), who says of his somewhat vagabond life, “Since I graduated from the Bren School I haven’t lived anywhere for longer than ten weeks.” That has everything to do with his work as a documentary filmmaker, which keeps him traveling constantly, with occasional stops at home bases in Los Angeles and Bangkok. Since graduating from Bren, Varchol has been around the world “a couple of times”  as part of what might be called his second career in film. (more)

Kim Matsoukas: In Pursuit of a Nice Green Carpet (Industry)

Before Kim Matsoukas (MESM 2006) applied for a position as a sustainability coordinator at Los Angeles—based carpet manufacturer Bentley Prince Street, she wasn’t seeking to work for a corporation. “I had looked at a couple of other corporate positions,” she recalls, “but they were mainly in environmental health and safety regulations compliance,” which didn’t particularly interest her. The word “sustainability” in the job title at Bentley Prince Street, however, did. Note: Since this article appeared, Kim has taken a new position as sustainability manager at Van's Shoes.

Josh Simmons: Greening the Chumash Nation

Josh Simmons (MESM 2008) might have become a broadcast football analyst. But a visit to ESPN studios during a high-school internship class led him on a path away from talking about impact players to becoming one himself as the manager of the environmental office for the Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians. On that tour of ESPN, Simmons realized what it would take — in terms of effort and luck — even to get a shot at the broadcast booth. He didn’t mind the effort, as evidenced by the fact that he would later hold down 20-hour-a-week jobs both in law school and as a Bren master’s student; it was knowing that effort and luck would have equal weight in the outcome. (more)

Helene Marsh: Platinum Modern by the Bay

In 2007, Helene Marsh (MESM 2004) moved to the San Francisco area and launched a search with her partner, Don Love – first for a house to buy in Marin County, and then for a lot on which to build. They finally settled on a small plot of land in the bayside town of Tiburon. “It was long and skinny and occupied by an old 1200-square-foot home that was described to me as ‘move-in ready’ but was actually smelly and vile,” she recalls. Two years later, that house is a memory, replaced by a gleaming, space-efficient LEED Platinum-certified home distinguished by clean modern lines and a series of green features that could make a sustainable-building wonk weep. (more)