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(Editor’s note: Ryan Delaney will receive the Young Alumni Achievement Award at Founders’ Day 2015 on March 5. Learn more about Founders’ Day.)
Which groups or activities were you most involved in at ASU? What did you gain from that involvement?
I became a teaching assistant early on during my period at ASU, and quickly learned to enjoy the interaction with the students. I was a TA for an entry-level sustainability class for my first several semesters, but eventually I was selected as TA for an environmental economics class. This not only allowed me to delve deeper into economics and further refine my knowledge in that field, but work closely with the bright undergraduate students, providing me with valuable leadership experience.
How did your education at ASU prepare you for your current job or business?
As much as any classwork, the relationships with my peers and my professors, especially my thesis committee, shaped my experience at ASU. The support and ideas from my fellow students have provided fundamental assistance related to my current work – in fact, a good friend and fellow ASU alum is currently on our board of directors. The diligent guidance my thesis committee provided, even though I'm certain they thought our idea was a little crazy, was essential in my preparation for the challenges of working in a developing country and a professional career.
How did ASU help you achieve your dream?
ASU's Innovation Challenge business competition provided the first seed funding to begin Carbon Roots International in Haiti. This was an essential first step down the path I've been on for the past five years. It forced us to think about our business in rigorous terms for the first time, gave us the confidence to move forward with what at the time might have seemed like a crazy idea, and, not insignificantly, provided us with the first seed money to get the wheels in motion to produce sustainable fuel in Haiti. The mentorship and guidance instilled a professional attitude in our fledgling company, and truly set the tone for Carbon Roots in its current form.
What current development at ASU do you find most exciting?
The current university initiative to blend business, global issues, and sustainability fascinates me. I believe market-based solutions to global sustainability problems are an essential tool in the modern professional's work. Programs such as the ASU's USAID Research and Innovation fellowship provide valuable experience addressing issues in the global context and can help launch students into a meaningful and fulfilling career.
What advice would you give to today’s ASU students?
My favorite quote from the film "The Social Network" is very applicable in today's globalized, connected world: Students should "believe that inventing a job is better than finding a job." An amazing way to pursue your dreams and make a difference in the world is to come up with an idea and work to see it through. If it fails, you will have learned an amazing amount about people, business, money, and the world. If it succeeds, you have the potential to make a lasting impact on the lives of others.