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Navigating an Action-Packed Semester in DC

A Washington Semester student finds a community at the Kogod School of Business, gaining valuable experience through internships, coursework, and research on sustainable business practices.



A semester in DC with few friends, colleagues, or contacts can be a daunting prospect. But it’s safe to say Daniel Merritt left the capital with all of the above, thanks to an action-packed semester at the Kogod School of Business.

“I came into DC with zero network,” he acknowledged. “But I had ideas. I had goals.”

A rising junior undergraduate student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Merritt found a like-minded community at the Kogod School of Business: one that shared his interest in exploring the intersection of business and sustainability.

Merritt came to DC this past winter as part of the Washington Semester program. A 75-year staple of AU, the program boasts a gold-standard combination of DC internships, seminars, networking, and coursework on the AU campus.

Merritt interned at Creative Investment Research, a for-profit firm focused on public policy and holding private firms accountable to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles as part of his semester in Washington.

In addition to his coursework at AU, Merritt found a wealth of opportunities to collaborate with students and award-winning faculty members. He also embarked on research that may someday help major corporations operate more sustainably and profitably.

My mission this semester has been to de-mystify sustainability in finance. And not only to do that for shareholders, but for businesses."


Daniel Merritt

Washington Semester Student, Gonzaga University

“It’s one of my strong beliefs that those two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive," Merritt said.

Calculating the True Cost of Carbon

As part of the research conducted during his time in DC, Merritt developed three equations to help assign businesses a more holistic valuation—one that intertwines known financial assets with carbon emissions data.

Leveraging existing metrics already used by the US government, like the social cost of carbon, Merritt aims to help shareholders make better investment decisions and help companies offer more transparent sustainability reporting.

Merritt conducted case studies of dozens of companies in the S&P 500, and the outlook he discovered for those businesses was striking.

“If you have lower carbon emissions, if you have lower carbon cost,  your long-term projections definitely look better,” Merritt said of his findings. “And I think that’s something all businesses can benefit from.”

The work caught the attention of Kogod’s Department of Marketing assistant professor Jeffrey Lee, who taught Merritt this past spring in one course, Fundamentals of Marketing and Business for Communication.

Lee helped Merritt refine his “highly entrepreneurial” research, shaped by Kogod’s core values.

“We love it when students decide to take on custom research projects reflecting their passions and academic interests,” Lee said.

To have folks like Daniel come through Kogod and bring their interest that resonates with sustainability and other social equity topics is wonderful. We love having students who are passionate because our faculty are passionate about these topics, too.”

Jeff Lee AI

Jeffrey Lee

Professor of Marketing, Kogod School of Business

For Merritt, that focus was fitting at Kogod, which offers one of the more innovative course catalogs focused simultaneously on driving change and results.

The MS in Sustainability Management program teaches students to build a more sustainable world through business. Its curriculum focuses on critical future-minded skills like sustainability metrics and reporting.

As Merritt returns to the West Coast to continue his studies, the notion that profitability and sustainability can—and must—go hand in hand will surely be a lasting takeaway from his time in DC.

“I think it’s a really, really good outlook to bring into the country's future as we continue to develop and try to accomplish more sustainable business,” Merritt said.

To learn more about Kogod's MS in Sustainability Management program, click here.