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“We need more people to fight this fight.”

Gabriela Vidad ‘23 reflects on the Kogod School of Business program, the intersection of sustainability and business, and the future.

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Kogod School of Business MS in sustainability management student Gabriela Vidad.


As Gabriela (“Gabi”) Vidad ‘23 prepares to walk across the stage at commencement next month, she feels prepared for whatever career opportunities might come her way thanks, in large part, to a well-rounded education in the MS in Sustainability Management program at the Kogod School of Business.

Currently an intern with Cities4Forests through the World Resources Institute and a market manager at FRESHFARM in DC, Vidad arrived on the AU campus with an already strong appreciation for the science of a planet-friendly approach to business. After all, she studied physics as an undergraduate student at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.

A year later, though, as she prepares to receive her Master’s degree, Vidad feels equally well versed in the business of sustainability thanks to experience gained in and out of the classroom through one of the few sustainability management programs in the country housed in a business school.

We spoke with Vidad about her upcoming graduation, her career experience, and her reflections on her time at Kogod.

Kogod: First of all, congratulations on your upcoming graduation, Gabi! Tell us…you majored in physics as an undergraduate student. How did you end up deciding to pursue a degree in sustainability management?

Gabriela Vidad: I’ve always had a passion for sustainability and the environment. While I had built a strong scientific background, I felt like I had a gap in business-related education.

I knew that I needed to fill out those skills, such as management, business, and even entrepreneurship—the entrepreneurial mindset and spirit—though.

Sustainability is super interdisciplinary and needs to be looked at from different perspectives when you’re trying to make change."

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Gabi Vidad

Sustainability Management Student, Kogod School of Business

Can you give us an example of how an education in sustainability management can help you enact change?

Let’s say you’re trying to make this business case that conserving a forest is beneficial to a company’s water impacts because you’re able to remove sediment from the water from restoring a forest. 

You know all of that from your scientific research. And it’s really important to have that scientific background. 

But how are you going to make that business case if you don’t know what businesses want, and then know how to communicate it to them in a way where they’ll actually listen?

You had offers to study sustainability management at some other pretty highly regarded universities. What led you to choose Kogod?

Those other programs I looked at offered strong science-based courses. However, I wanted to ensure that the “management” of sustainability management was not forgotten. 

Going to a business school like Kogod was the best way to build that expertise. 

Plus, I love DC—Rock Creek Park, the American University campus, it’s an arboretum! I knew there would be a good amount of networking and jobs available in DC too. 

What was the most surprising class you took?

I was floored by our Managing for Climate Change course. Stacy Swann is such a fantastic professor. I’ll never forget when she taught us about C-suite leadership and used ‘she’ pronouns for each seat member.

[Swann] changed one word and completely normalized women's leadership within her classroom; unsurprising, as she is an incredible leader and role model herself."

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Gabi Vidad

Sustainability Management Student, Kogod School of Business

The course material and her instruction are premiere examples of how sustainability management should be taught nationwide.

You and some classmates visited Sweden for your international capstone project, consulting on HVAC energy efficiency with ClimaCheck. What was the highlight of that work?

To be able to take whatever skills we already had, as a diverse background, but also developed through the program, and apply them to the consulting project. This hands-on initiative helped me gain a lot of confidence in myself and my peers. I saw the best of all of us shining through on that project.

It sounds like it was a great opportunity to network and grow closer with classmates and colleagues in the program, too.

I think of it very fondly. The people that I met through the program are some of my closest friends, and also like-minded people that I can talk about sustainability topics with every day. When we were in Sweden, we bonded over that.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to have an interdisciplinary role. I’ve proven myself with my research abilities, but I have a strong side in writing and communicating that I haven’t leveraged as much. 

I’d love to be someone who reputably communicates the importance of sustainability. 

Having gone through Kogod’s program, how do you view the field of sustainability management, now?

There used to be this belief that you have to give up money to work in sustainability.

That’s simply not the case anymore. 

As businesses start to view sustainability as part of their strategic plans, they are starting to compensate workers in accordance with that. I hope this motivates a future of workers within sustainability because we need more people to fight this fight.