The talk has turned to politics when Ian Karra makes his point. “Here’s the thing: You shouldn’t have to be either an economy guy or an environmentalist,” he says. “You can be both.”
From the way he says this, it’s clear that Karra, a 20-year-old finance and economics double major from Roswell, has made this point before. It’s the lynchpin that connects his education in business fundamentals with his passion for conservation.
His passion and work ethic are two reasons that he’s been selected to represent UGA at the inaugural Southeastern Conference Symposium, which runs Feb. 10-12. Titled “Impacts of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future,” the conference highlights the how the Southeast can help shape the world’s renewable energy future.
Karra sees the first-ever symposium as a recognition that renewable energy can be a part of SEC research; and that universities can lead the way toward demanding a cleaner future.
“A big win for us at this conference would be to change institutional attitudes,” he says. “The University System of Georgia is the largest buyer of energy in the state. If they say they want to get 20 percent from renewable resources, they have the ability to make that happen.”
Karra helped co-found the Sierra Student Coalition, one of UGA’s biggest student organizations. Their latest efforts have been pushing UGA to retire its coal boiling plant, which Karra says is nearing the end of its useful life. The coalition would like to see UGA follow examples from Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, which have begun harnessing solar energy with more vigor.
Karra will serve alongside Heather Hatzenbuhler, the other student selected by UGA’s Bioenergy Systems Research Institute and the Office of Sustainability to represent the university at the conference. Hatzenbuhler is a senior environmental economics and management major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“I was blown away by the activism of these two UGA undergraduates and their commitment to renewable energy and environmental sustainability,” said Robert Scott, UGA’s associate vice president for research and chair of the local organizing committee for the symposium. “They will make superb representatives of UGA as university ambassadors in Atlanta.”
The symposium is part of the SEC’s academic initiative known as SECU. Through SECU, the conference sponsors, supports and promotes collaborative higher education programs and activities involving administrators, faculty and students at its member universities.