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EPIC strives to build future leaders in energy and climate change. Doing so requires providing students with critical real world experiences. That’s why EPIC is proud to partner with UChicago Career Advancement to sponsor delegations of UChicago students to attend international climate change conferences convened annually by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. By attending these conferences, students have the opportunity to learn from and network with leaders in government, industry and NGOs.

The first sponsored delegation traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022 to attend COP27. The conference offered sessions on a diverse range of topics, including green finance, transit decarbonization, climate-smart agriculture and water reclamation. Students had the opportunity to choose the sessions that best aligned with their career interests. Additionally, they met with notable representatives, including the Director for Private Sector Engagement from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Chief Executive of Sustainable Food Trust, and Founder and CEO of Insect Feed Technologies. They also met a delegation from the Congo working on rainforest conservancy, solar panel installation, and energy transitions in local villages, and have since discussed future collaborations. More on reflections from the COP27 delegates…

The second sponsored delegation traveled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December 2023 to attend COP28. The delegation, made up of 19 College, Booth, Harris and Law students, had the opportunity to learn from and network with leaders in government, industry and NGOs. Reflections from the COP28 delegates…

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Participants

  • Michelle David
    Law '24

    Michelle is a law student at UChicago Law (’24). Although originally from Atlanta, she’s been in Chicago since starting her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, where she studied political science and environmental policy. Between college and law school, she worked as a financial analyst at a large law firm. In her free time, she enjoys listening to audiobooks, playing board games, and learning how to sew.

    Ellen Ma
    College ‘25

    Ellen Ma is a third-year undergraduate majoring in Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies. She is interested in urban development and sustainable building design, and she is also looking into agrotech and sustainable food innovation. Ellen is currently co-president of the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative and has fulfilled service and leadership roles within the organization for the past three years. She is also a research assistant for UChicago’s Environmental Frontiers Campus program, working to improve energy efficiency measures in campus laboratories. Ellen is excited to attend COP28 and see the dynamics of dialogue between countries. Further, she is curious how the fossil fuel industry will be addressed at the delegation.

    “COP28 was a great opportunity to learn about global environmental initiatives. I got to talk with leaders in academia about climate research and improving campus sustainability through activism. COP28 also encouraged me to focus on how political and corporate representatives can improve conversations between public and private sectors such as standardizing environmental regulations.”

    Ethan Jiang
    College ‘25

    Ethan Jiang is a third-year at the University of Chicago, where he studies Economics and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. As the Policy Director of the Environmental Research Group, Ethan leads impactful student research on water quality and urban greenspace. He is also a research assistant at the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, where he studies air quality regulation. Previously, Ethan has worked on data projects for the Dallas Mavericks and the Government Accountability Office. Learn more at ethanjiang.net.

    “COP28 in Dubai was a wonderful chance to meet private, public, and nonprofit sector leaders working on climate change. I especially enjoyed witnessing U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry deliver a major policy announcement on fusion energy; it was an exciting step for the nation’s fusion future and my own policy career.”

    Haley Coleman
    College ‘26

    Haley Coleman is a second year Global Studies and Linguistics major pursuing a BA/MA in International Relations at the University of Chicago. In the past, she has debated and proposed international climate policy in Model United Nations, coordinated international volunteer programs centered around sustainable solutions with GlobeAware, and researched food waste reduction and distribution networks in Seattle as part of an internship at Pike Place Market. Now, she is researching sustainable transportation and food systems in Chicago as a part of a food recovery initiative using bicycles. She hopes that during the COP28 conference, she can develop a global perspective of sustainable systems and learn about prospective and existing global solutions.

    “I applied to fly to COP28 for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to expand my research about sustainable food systems into a global context. Another part of me wanted to affirm my faith in the UN and international diplomacy. COP28 brought over 70,000 people together to discuss climate change, which is the first step in cultivating social pressure to drive larger organizations to reduce emissions.”

    Natalie Larsen
    College ‘25

    Natalie Larsen is a third-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with a minor in Arabic Language. On-campus, Natalie enjoys discussing foreign affairs as President of the Society of International Relations, coordinating events as a Committee Member of the International Policy Program, and writing about global issues as World Section editor of the student publication The Gate. To further her interests in international law, the politics of the Arab World, and emerging technologies, Natalie looks forward to attending COP28 and learning about international diplomacy, considering innovative climate solutions, and connecting with global policy leaders.

    “Studying Global Studies and Arabic as a third-year undergraduate, COP28 immersed me in the intersections of my interests in climate change, international diplomacy, and the Middle East, as I learned more about the interconnectedness of climate and conflict, connected with global leaders, and felt empowered to contributing to solutions for these pressing global issues as a future diplomat.”

    Ramya Polavarapu
    Booth ‘24

    Born in Hyderabad, India, Ramya has been passionate about environmental conservation and sustainability since childhood. Her passion was ignited when, as a nine-year-old, she witnessed the impacts of an oil spill on local plant and animal life. Her short-term goal after attending Booth is to expand the environment consulting firm she currently runs across the EMEA region. Longer term, Ramya wants to champion the adoption of cleantech globally, helping to reduce carbon emissions while driving innovation. She is specifically interested in the carbon capture and green hydrangea space. 

    After several successful years in consulting, Ramya decided to make the entrepreneurial leap by acquiring and turning around an environmental consulting firm in Dubai. As a new CEO, she put her leadership skills to the test immediately, renegotiating with vendors, identifying new revenue streams, and putting internal structures and processes in place at the firm.

    In addition to her passion for sustainability, Ramya is an enthusiastic paraglider, scuba diver, and traveler who enjoys baking and glass painting in her free time.

    Shama Tirukkala
    College, ‘24

    Shama Tirukkala is an undergraduate student majoring in Computer Science and Classics at the University of Chicago. She is interested in the intersection of tech and climate advocacy as well as harnessing the power of computer science and policy to address pressing environmental challenges.

    “Through attending COP28, I was able to learn from major players in everything from the energy sector to the tech industry. As I hope to attend law school one day, it was helpful to go to COP28 and understand the many ways that policy plays a role in regulating our environmental impact, gaining a better understanding of the global impact of climate change. One day I would like to come back to COP28 as someone who plays a role in the negotiations; having the opportunity to attend this year for what will hopefully be the first time of many is something I will always be extremely grateful to UChicago for.”

    Annie Yang
    College ‘26

    Annie H Yang is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Physics & Environment, Geography, Urbanization Studies with a minor in Architectural Studies. 

    She strives to use her lived experiences and skills in languages, the visual arts, and the physical sciences to collaboratively work with communities in designing infrastructures for climate resilience.

    She is currently researching historical energy infrastructure with The Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate and Energy Policy while working as a Publicities Assistant for UChicago myCHOICE and a brand advisor to Cleveland Sews. Additionally, she handles publicities and engagement as a board member of the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative, UChicago’s premier sustainability student group.

    I used to say that I’d never been in a place with so many inspiring, interesting, and intelligent people before coming to UChicago. Unfortunately, after COP28, the university has to take #2. Everyone I talked to was articulate, thoughtful, passionate about their work, and incredibly generous with their time (from entrepreneurs like Maen Mahfoud to philanthropists like Dr. Muna Al Gurg to other youth like Equipa Terra from Portugal.) I am so grateful for this invaluable opportunity of learning from global leaders across the sustainability sector. I’ve returned to campus reinvigorated with more faith in the future than ever before.”

    Ashton Oh
    College ‘26

    Ashton Oh is a second-year at the University of Chicago majoring in Economics & Environment, Geography, and Urbanization. This summer, he interned at a Chicago-based Foundation and examined the connection between social inequity and environmental degradation. He is interested in low-carbon development, sustainable urbanism, and renewable energy transition.

    “Reflecting on COP28, corporate discussions in the Green Zone highlighted the need to reduce investment risk in green-tech solutions. However, equity concerns complicate investment strategies that favor industrially competitive, profitable climate solutions. As I consider the debate between decarbonization and development in emerging markets, I hope the public sector will implement market incentives that drive private capital to green-tech, deploying infrastructure in countries most susceptible to climate change.”

    Aman Majmudar
    College ‘24

    Aman Majmudar is a senior majoring in law, letters and society. He represents his class for College Council and co-directs professional development at the Energy and Climate Club. His guest essays have appeared in Times Higher Education, The Scientist, and Undark Magazine, and his letters have been published in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

    Wealthy countries have unfairly imposed the task on developing nations to stop using fossil fuels, which would slow their growth. The COP28 discussions heeded that. Now I’m optimistic the global north will continue to fund better ways for the global south to develop at once quickly and renewably.”

    Satvika Mahajan
    Harris '24

    Satvika is a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, pursuing a specialization in Energy and Environment. She is Vice President, Strategy, at the Harris Energy and Environment Association, and has served as a Harris Student Government representative. She works as Research Assistant at the Development Innovation Lab where she supports the Market Shaping Accelerator and the Innovation Commission on Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture in identifying market shaping mechanisms such as advanced market commitments to surface promising climate-agriculture innovations. She has over 7 years of experience as development and policy advisor to governments, multilateral organizations, businesses, and social enterprises to advance climate adaptation, mitigation, and secure food systems in emerging and developed economies including South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and North America. Her educational background spans across Policy, Business and Finance, and Liberal Arts, which makes her curious and determined to leverage collaboration across disciplines to solve complex development challenges.

    Participating in COP28 as a University of Chicago delegate was an instructive experience. The inaugural global stocktake marked a crucial moment for countries to recalibrate their climate strategies. Observing negotiations, ministerial roundtables, initiative launches, and pledges underscored the imperative for youth inclusion in decision-making on issues that profoundly shape their future.”

    Ava Hedeker
    College '25

    Ava Hedeker is a third-year at the University of Chicago, double majoring in Environment, Geography, & Urbanization and Inquiry & Research in the Humanities with a minor in Architectural Studies. During her undergraduate career, she conducted campus food waste research at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and worked with Commissioner Kimberly du Buclet from the Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Currently, she is a Research Assistant for Dr. Sabina Shaikh, conducting literature reviews for a research project that examines the experiences of climate migrants in Cambodia. On campus, she is co-leading a research project regarding urban design and mental health at Paul Douglas Institute, on the board of Energy & Climate Club, and a member of Phoenix Sustainability Initiative. An aspiring urban planner, she is interested in fostering environmental sustainability in cities through enhancing transit-oriented development and implementing nature-based solutions.

    Being surrounded by so many inspiring leaders across diverse climate initiatives, COP28 serves as a compelling reminder for why I aspire to pursue a career that works towards mitigating climate change in the first place. I connected with individuals worldwide whose career focuses align with my background in campus sustainability research and environmental law.”

    Julia Ferreira
    College ‘24 & Division of Social Sciences ‘24

    Julia is a fourth year at the University of Chicago majoring in Political Science and completing the Committee on International Relations joint BA/MA program. At UChicago, she serves as the Co-President of the International Development Society and leads committees for UChicago’s high-school and college-level Model United Nations conferences. Julia has explored her interests in international relations and sustainability through internships at the Department of Energy Office of the Deputy Security, the Department of State Office of Energy Diplomacy, and the New Democrat Coalition Policy Team on the Hill. Julia hails from South Florida, but her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Fortaleza, Brazil. In her free time, she loves listening to Brazilian music, painting, and playing volleyball.

    “Attending COP28 opened my eyes to the massive effort needed for a just clean energy transition. However, learning about creative ways to combat disparities in accessing climate finance and getting to meet people dedicated to change from all over the world has made me optimistic that we will succeed!”

    Rohan Mathur
    College '24

    Rohan Mathur, a senior at the University of Chicago, studies Economics and Data Science. His global upbringing shapes his passion for climate change, politics, and multilateral cooperation. His internship at the Illinois State Board of Investments, focusing on private market investments, has deepened his interest in how financial institutions and private sector players can take a lead in funding the climate transition. At COP28, Rohan aims to explore global mitigation strategies and assess the financial viability of emerging technologies for climate transition.

    Hannah Rogers
    College '24

    My name is Hannah Rogers, and I’m a fourth year Economics student at UChicago. My academic journey has been intricately linked with my interest in climate policy and renewable energy technologies. This interest led me to an internship at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., where I collaborated with the Climate and Energy team. During my internship, I helped strategize for New York Climate Week and COP27, gaining invaluable insights into international climate diplomacy and policymaking. Post-graduation, I will be working as an Energy Policy and Investment Analyst in Washington D.C. 

    As a delegate to COP28, I am enthusiastic about the prospect of engaging with industry experts, global leaders, and renowned academics. This opportunity will not only broaden my understanding of the advancements in renewable energy technology and climate finance but also enable me to bring back knowledge and perspectives that can contribute to the discourse on sustainability within our university community. 

    “Attending COP28 was an incredible experience that gave me an energized sense of commitment. Connecting with passionate individuals from around the world served as a vital reminder of the urgency of climate change. I am inspired by the multitude of community-driven initiatives and their power to spur greater ambition among world leaders.”

    Mohit Jindal
    Booth '24

    Mohit is an MBA student in his second year at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Before joining Booth, he worked at Dasra, where his collaboration with the Gates Foundation focused on blending climate resilience with water and sanitation infrastructure, enhancing WASH innovations in urban India. At Booth, Mohit deepened his expertise in climate change, emphasizing early-stage investments in startups targeting mitigation and adaptation strategies. He currently serves as a partner in the Tarrson Fund, Booth’s impact fund, and contributes part-time to Impact Engine, a fund specializing in early-stage investments in Chicago.

     

    Alejandro Garcia Cabrera
    Harris '23

    Alejandro is an MA student at the Harris School of Public Policy. Before joining graduate school, he worked for three years at the Ministry of Finance of Mexico, overseeing the relationship with international green funds. His experience includes being the lead advisor of the Mexican Co-chairmanship at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in 2021 and assessing mitigation and adaptation projects for the Mexican territory. 

    At Harris, he has supported the research on conservation economics of Professor Eyal Frank. During the summer, he interned at the UNFCCC, analyzing greenhouse gas emissions data and supporting the upcoming multilateral assessment of developed countries. 

    Alejandro is interested in the intersection between data analytics, conservation, climate change, and ecosystem preservation.

    The most significant insight I took from CO28 is the initiatives non-governmental stakeholders champion in energy transition, climate innovation, and sustainable finance. COP headlines usually revolve around countries’ agreements. However, being private emitters among the largest, more attention should be paid to them and their solutions.”

    Elisa Epstein
    Law '24

    Elisa Epstein is a law student at UChicago Law (’24). Before law school, she worked on US foreign policy and national security in Washington, DC. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago.

    Kelsey Sawyer French
    Booth '24

    Kelsey is co-chair of Booth’s Energy Group and a leader in North American energy markets and transportation. At COP28, she is most excited to hear about the latest advancements in methane abatement, carbon capture and trading, and long-duration energy storage technologies.

    Kelsey began her career in the energy sector in 2015, during the most dramatic oil price crash in the 21st century, igniting her curiosity to understand the mechanics of commodity markets and how they are repeatedly surprised by shocks. Her work has since focused on how to inform uncertainty into strategic decision making, especially for large-scale capital projects.

    After learning the ropes in business development at Chevron and Enbridge, Kelsey turned to strategy by joining McKinsey & Company’s team of energy experts. She has advised clients across the power, oil & gas, and investment sectors.

    Since at Booth, Kelsey has pivoted towards investing, working at climatetech venture capital firm Earth Foundry, energy private equity firm SCF Partners, and the commercialization team at Argonne National Lab.

  • Adera Craig

    Adera Craig is a second year a the University of Chicago studying biology and environmental studies. This summer she interned at the Lincoln Park Zoo. She is one of the co-creators of EPIC’s Energy & Climate Club.

    Elizabeth Zazycki

    Elizabeth is a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago majoring in history, political science, and geographic information science. During the summer of 2022, she interned at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Climate Hub. She previously interned at People and the Planet First and at the U.S. Department of Interior. Elizabeth is primarily interested in the social and economic effects of climate change as well as energy transitions.

    Raghav Pardasani

    Raghav Pardasani is a second-year in the College, planning to major in Economics and Environmental & Urban Studies. On campus, he is involved with Phoenix Sustainability Initiative, EPIC’s Energy & Climate Club, and the Socially Responsible Investing Club. He is interested in renewable energy transition, energy storage, and environmental justice and colonialism.

    Zoë Saldinger

    Zoë Saldinger is a fourth year environmental studies and public policy double major at the University of Chicago. She is co-president of the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative which frequently partners with EPIC, the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, and plans to partner with Northwestern and other Chicago-based schools. She is interested in environmental justice, conservation ecology, and the green burial movement.

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