Meet Teresa: She’s blazing her own unique path to sustainability — and success

October 16, 2018

When Teresa met with executives at major corporations during her first year at Pitt, she didn’t have all the answers.

But she definitely saw an opportunity.

Now she’s a TEDx Talk veteran, and is running her own nonprofit — all while she’s still an undergraduate, studying a unique blend of business and engineering.   

“My technical background helps me be in this space in a different way," she said. “We live in a world where you ‘can't do that’ simply because we say we can't do it. But if you really look into it, your business can operate more efficiently on fewer resources at a lower cost. Who wouldn't want that?”

But discovering that was a journey:

A THINK Fellowship
sparked her interest in sustainability.

She reviewed a paper about sustainable t-shirt production in-depth. 

I realized, ‘Wow, businesses have really intensive environmental impact ... Why isn't there more place to alleviate that?’

A BE Fellowship
showed her today’s corporate challenges.

She got to talk to executives at major corporations like PPG, Alcoa, and Pitt Ohio about their sustanable practices.

I was ready to take on the world. Then you're hit in the head with the reality that you’ve got to start somewhere. That was my starting point. I needed to hear the truth about what the current state was.

An Honors course
inspired her to get a seat at the table.

In the joint Pitt-CMU course on science, society and communications, she realized there was a gap between business people like her, and the people with techinical training. So she added engineering onto her studies. 

I realized I needed to be able to understand what the engineers are saying. Because if I don't, I'm not going to be able to engage in the critical technical conversations.

An ACT Fellowship
strengthened her humanitarian drive.

She helped Sustainable Pittsburgh create benchmark sustainability projects. 

My humanitarian disposition informed my engineering and business background. It gave more depth to my academic interest in the environment. 

A conference grant
let her shine as the only undergrad, and only woman.

... and she won best paper at the conference! 

That was really awesome for me, not only being a supportive research environment, but also to stand up in front of people who knew how to ask the critical questions.

Study abroad
gave her a global perspective.

While in Denmark, she took a wind turbine engineering class.

The approach in Europe, and especially Scandinavia, is that we learn by understanding the philosophy of why we're doing something. What a concept! It's not common in this country to think about.

"Without the Honors College, I wouldn’t have challenged the status quo so much," Teresa said. "Pittsburgh has the people behind these ideas. We can do great things if we just come together. I think that’s my role in all this.”

Check out Teresa's nonprofit »