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College sophomore Mark Wasuwanich (top right), Wharton sophomore Andrew Yu (top left), and Engineering and Wharton sophomore Aliris Tang (bottom) founded Penn Climate Ventures, which plans to educate students about climate topics, advocate for courses on climate innovation, and pursue other long-term projects. (Photos from Mark Wasuwanich, Andrew Yu, and Aliris Tang)

Credit: Max Mester

Three sophomores launched Penn Climate Ventures, an organization working to increase students’ involvement in climate innovation and environmental sustainability initiatives.

Founded by College sophomore Mark Wasuwanich, Wharton sophomore Andrew Yu, and Engineering and Wharton sophomore Aliris Tang, PCV plans to host speakers and events to educate and excite students about climate topics such as energy, agriculture, and waste this semester. PCV is also pursuing several long-term projects, such as advocating for the addition of an interdisciplinary course on climate innovation to the University's offerings.

PCV hopes to fill a void for students interested in climate innovation as there aren't many opportunities for student engagement with sustainability and climate, Tang said. 

“It doesn’t feel like there’s many resources out there," Tang, a former DP staffer, added. "You don’t see anything on listservs that really talk about sustainability and climate innovation and all that. So I think that’s one of our priorities: just increasing visibility.”

Yu and Wasuwanich initially planned to focus their efforts on designing a climate innovation course at Penn, but they soon decided to join forces with Tang and develop a broader focus for PCV. 

“We realized that Penn isn’t actually ready for a course like that," Yu said. "We actually need more interest in climate innovation first.” 

Students in the proposed class would learn topics such as green technology and innovation, environmental impact analysis, and climate finance and risk. They will also work on a venture to present to investors by the end of the semester, according to Wasuwanich.

PCV has already begun working with Penn administration to gain course approval for fall 2021, although they anticipate it may take more time to fully develop the course. 

This semester, PCV is focusing on hosting a pitch competition where students can propose business-oriented solutions to address the climate crisis. Students across all of Penn's schools can form teams of four or less to design and pitch a business plan in one of three categories: food and agriculture, energy and transportation, or waste and circularity. Winners will receive a cash prize and mentorship from industry professionals regarding their pitches.

PCV also hopes to partner with nonprofits and startups to develop a fellowship program during the semester which will allow PCV members to work with professional climate organizations in need of the students' skill sets. More than 50 Penn alumni have expressed interest in speaking at, funding, or investing in PCV, according to Tang.

Yu said there are many reasons why students should have opportunities like the ones PCV aims to provide, as climate is "a very hot space to be in right now" from a political, environmental, and financial standpoint.

He hopes that PCV will add to Penn's set of student opportunities for climate innovation. 

"I think climate change is one of the biggest issues the Earth has to face," Wasuwanich said. "I think at Penn, we learn a lot about climate change, and we learn all the space and science stuff, but we don't really learn how to actually make an impact."