It’s very rewarding when things go my way, but no matter what, I'm always learning.”
One specific and timely way Ergon supports sustainability is by producing products that help reduce food waste.
In addition to its many products, the company manufactures process oils and waxes, which can coat produce to keep it fresh. This allows suppliers to ship produce long distances without spoiling, helping reduce costs for its customers—and ensuring people have access to the sustenance they need.
“I was able to paint the picture for them and say, “This is meaningful sustainable work,” says Rush as he spoke about Ergon's legacy of Doing Right. “This helps reduce food waste and saves energy and resources.”
But for Rush, the most meaningful Ergon initiative has nothing to do with manufacturing. Its Summer Bridge Program, a professional development initiative to mentor young Black engineers at Mississippi State University (MSU), is social sustainability-driven and especially close to his heart.
Rush works with young Black engineers, a historically underrepresented population in the field, to support them through a hands-on engineering project. At the end of the summer, a panel of experts evaluates student presentations and offers critical feedback that students can apply to their ongoing training.
As an outgrowth of the program, Rush also hosts an in-person book club focused on personal and professional growth. This allows him to build relationships with students during the year and provide a continued tool for growth.
I want to be someone that can affect change. It’s about contributing in a way that is helping the greater good.”
Rush says his experiences at Kogod directly influenced this perspective.
As part of the MS in Sustainability Management international practicum, Rush had the opportunity to work with Stockholm-based tech company Hexicon to help shape its sustainability strategy. This allowed him to apply lessons learned at Kogod to a real-life project—and practice influencing a company’s sustainability strategy.
“It showed me I have the capability to talk to leadership at companies and let my voice be heard,” he says.
His professors were also instrumental in inspiring him to pursue this path.
“They showed me how to become an agent of change from the inside out by challenging people to think about things sustainably,” he says.
Moving forward, Rush wants to continue advocating for sustainable change at Ergon and beyond. He encourages others to adopt this same strategic mindset so that sustainability evolves into more than just an outcome—a business philosophy.
“Push for things, but also think about everything from 10,000 feet,” he says. “Don’t be closed off to new information; always be open and aware. If you’re going to do this, be an agent of change.”
Learn more about Kogod’s Master in Sustainability Management program at kogod.american.edu/programs-admissions/masters/sustainability-management-stem