IEEE to present sustainability panel, five corporations to be represented

| News Editor

More than a hint of sustainability is in the air at Washington University these days. In an effort to educate the University community about various energy issues, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) will be hosting a major energy sustainability panel titled, “Going Green: A Corporate Debate on Energy and Sustainability” on April 29.

Senior executives from Ameren, AT&T, Boeing, General Electric Energy and Monsanto were invited to participate in the panel. The executives will be asked pointed questions ranging from general inquiries about sustainability to questions regarding their individual companies’ policies in regard to sustainability.

According to senior Jeff Feiereisen, president of Wash. U.’s chapter of IEEE, the questions asked will be specific.

“Originally, I had a list of 120 questions I came up with after a lot of research,” Feiereisen said. “That list was shortened as we were trying to use questions that aren’t basic. It’s going to be specific questions that multiple people can respond to so that you have a conversation between the panelists.”

According to its website, “IEEE at Wash. U. provides every student with the resources to pursue their interests.” Overall, as stated on the national organization’s website, IEEE’s main purpose is to foster innovation in the technological realm and promote excellence for the benefit of humanity.

The panel will be preceded by a private dinner at Whittemore House as well as a private reception in the atrium of Whitaker Hall.

Dr. Pratim Biswas, Chair of the Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering Department (EECE) in the Engineering School will be moderating the event. Biswas is an energy researcher.

Speakers at the event will include William Barbieri, the Manager of Renewables Ameren, John McDonald, General Manager of Marketing for General Electric Energy T&D, Daniel Burns, Business Development Manager of Energy Solutions for Boeing, Jeffrey Klieve, Director of Environmental Affairs for Monsanto and Katie Dugan, Lead Associate for Fleet Operations for AT&T.

The event is designed to incorporate people and companies involved in energy production and distribution. In addition, three panelists will represent energy end-users.

IEEE expects about 250 students to attend and anticipates that the Wash. U. community will benefit from the presentation of this event. According to Feiereisen, the event is intended to give the University the opportunity to work with the companies represented.

“The purpose was to give the University an opportunity to build good relationships with companies that they don’t have the strength to build,” he said. “GE and AT&T are good examples for companies that the University doesn’t have strong relationships with. The whole idea is that with a stronger relationship, there will be [more] job opportunities for Wash. U. students.”

Additionally, Feiereisen sees the panel as an opportunity for students to express their opinions on energy issues.

“People are eager to have the open Q&A we’re going to have,” he said. “We want to provide the forum for people to speak up and voice their opinions.”

Junior David Pilla, the Vice-Chair of Wash. U’s IEEE group, also feels that this event will allow the Wash. U. community to connect with and learn about these companies.

“I think it’s going to be a great chance for Wash. U. students and faculty to interface with these corporate representatives and talk about what they’d like to see happen and how these issues are being worked on now and how they can be addressed in the future,” Pilla said. “[The purpose is] first of all to provide people with more insight [as] to what these companies and panelists are doing to improve sustainability on their end to give insight to others as to what they approach sustainability to be and to create more notoriety for Wash. U. in this initiative.”

Additionally, this event is another way that IEEE has worked toward sustainability.

“It’s been one of the core values of our group [IEEE] to increase the sustainability efforts at Wash. U.,” Pilla said. “This was a culmination of that push.”

The panel comes on the heels of Earth Month, which has consisted of numerous events put on through collaborations between many of the University’s groups dedicated to green initiatives.

“We put this event on in the spirit of Earth Month and because of the fact that sustainability is a hot topic on campus and in the world,” Feiereisen said.

As part of Earth Month, IEEE, in collaboration with Student Union (SU), Green Action and the Burning Kumquat, among others, presented activities as part of Earth Day, which included an activities fair, a Bon Appétit presentation on sustainability and food and a showing of the documentary “Food, Inc.”

Additionally, EECE will be holding a conference this week on April 23 with a keynote presentation by a National Science Foundation (NSF) representative on energy water nexus. Local energy officials will also give presentations.

On April 27, Green Action and SU are teaming up to present a debate in Graham Chapel between Fred Palmer, Peabody Energy’s Vice President of Public Relations and Bruce Nillis of the Sierra Club.

The event is sponsored not only by IEEE but also by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Olin Business School, the University’s Career Center, the Weston Career Center, Wash. U. Alumni and Development and Green Action.

One sponsor of the event was the Saint Louis section of the IEEE Power and Energy Society, a sub-society of IEEE. According to Leon White, a General Electric Sales Manager and Chair of Saint Louis IEEE Power and Energy, his organization was eager to help out in the event.

“We always try to be as helpful as we can whenever possible and the event sounded like a very worthy event,” he said. “We were able to sponsor a portion of the event using some Power and Energy Society funds and we were [able to] help in getting speakers.”

Overall, the event will display how different international organizations are responding to emerging energy issues. Feiereisen expects that students will be encouraged to take action regarding these issues on campus.

“I think this [event] gives all the opinions and people who want to be heard an opportunity to speak and listen to what the corporate people have to say,” he said. “It is the opportunity for everyone to voice their opinions. The students will have to take it from here on out.”

White shared similar sentiments. “People will come away with a better understanding of where large corporations are with helping out a green society,” he said.

Similarly, Feiereisen believes that the event will increase IEEE’s recognition on campus.

“This event alone will be great for us because it will show students, and people will recognize, the breadth of the projects and events we do,” he said.