A Daniels MBA degree is helping Memo Trevino succeed in his dream to combine business and environmentalism

Memo Trevino was living in Dallas working in corporate banking, after graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in finance, when he decided he was ready for a break. He enjoyed Texas and what it had to offer—good food, good people—but he wanted to spend time in the outdoors and have an adventure.

So he and his partner decided to live “the van life” for a while—they got a teardrop trailer and drove all around the West Coast, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing. “All kinds of stuff outside while our bodies are still young,” he explains.

It was on that adventure through the western United States that Trevino was taken by the beauty of the country’s wild places: vast national parks; soaring, snowy peaks; sharp rocks and cliffs. But he also witnessed environmental dangers, from climate impacts to natural disasters.

“I have some vivid memories of driving through Idaho and seeing forest fires, and experiencing how hot it was,” he explains. “Colorado was having fires, and being from Texas, I had experienced so many climate events. That was one of the moments I can think back to where I said, ‘I want to find a way to merge my business background with supporting climate change initiatives and sustainable companies.’”

Shortly after the trip, in 2020, Trevino decided to enroll at the Daniels College of Business so he could pursue a full-time MBA while also getting a crash course in sustainability programming. Since 2016, Daniels has offered sustainability courses; Denver MBA students can also pursue a concentration in sustainability or a graduate certificate in global business and corporate social responsibility.

Memo Trevino

Trevino was inspired by the challenge-based curriculum at Daniels—“one of the best ways I learn is by doing,” he says—and was especially motivated by his global challenge project working for a Denmark-based chocolate licorice company and helping them develop their environmental, social and governance strategy. “I learned a lot from that direct experience—about how efforts can drive stakeholders, what can drive strategy, what is important. It was one project that made the whole MBA experience worth it.”

Trevino isn’t the only person inspired and reaping rewards from DU’s program. The Daniels Denver MBA (DMBA) ranked 10th on Princeton Review’s 2023 list of Best Green MBA programs. The DMBA’s placement is based on student assessments of how well their school is preparing them to face environmental, sustainability and social responsibility issues, and for a career in a green job market.

Daniels’ inclusion on that list is evidence of the college’s commitment to “the topic of business ethics—the feeling that businesses can’t be sustainable if they’re not founded on a good ethical principle,” says Lowell Valencia-Miller, assistant dean of MBA programs at Daniels. That includes a focus on the environment.

Daniels’ green-focused MBA programs are indeed helping to train and inspire its students to work in the green industry, but more than that, they are helping them learn how environmentalism and sustainability fit into business—no matter what industry they choose to work in, Valencia-Miller says.

“They’re always thinking, ‘How is what I am doing impacting customers, impacting shareholders, and impacting communities in which we serve?,’ regardless of the role they may hold in that company,” he says. “Our success is predicated on the success of our students. Our legacy is what our students can do to change the world.”

Lowell Valencia-Miller

For his part, Trevino—who graduated from the full-time MBA program with a concentration in sustainability and finance in 2022—found his perfect role post-graduation. He now works as an associate for the finance and operations team at the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA), a membership organization that works with energy customers and providers. He joined CEBA in the summer of 2021 as an intern while completing his MBA.

“Customers want to be able to procure clean energy to meet their goals. What we do is facilitate a lot of conversations, do a lot of research, and provide a lot of education opportunities to support that transition,” he explains. “We are very focused on the customer and making change in the business community.”

The concept of sustainability intertwined with business is growing, both Valencia-Miller and Trevino say.

“A lot of times, when you think about business and capitalism, you think about, ‘How can I get the most with as little as possible?’” Trevino says. “With sustainability it’s, ‘How can I get a lot while also doing it in a way that doesn’t [negatively] affect the environment?’ You have to think about it differently.”

Valencia-Miller points to the growing argument that it’s good business when you are doing right.

“When you treat people well, when you treat your customers well, and when you treat the community well—and that includes the environment—that’s just good business.”

What does Trevino want people to know about sustainability?

“You can’t do everything,” he says. “Not everyone is going to drive an electric vehicle, and you can’t do everything to be perfect in sustainability. But if you try, and you’re cognizant of it, or if you lead initiatives in your company, then that’s a good start.”