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Amazing Student: Shreya Ganeshan

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - 11:50am
Shreya Ganeshan

Shreya Ganeshan, a Foundation Fellow majoring in economics and statistics, is focused on clean energy innovation and deployment. In addition to studying abroad in the Netherlands, Washington, D.C., and Australia, she has left her mark on several campus groups that have made an impact in the community and beyond.


Johns Creek, GA

High School:

Northview High School

Degree objective:

A.B. Economics, B.S. Statistics

Expected graduation:

May 2018

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

* Note: Every mention of me having accomplished something is really the product of intense mentorship, support and a lot of coffee.

Since my freshman year, I have been involved in UGA’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Network, the student-run arm of the Roosevelt Institute. The think tank is an incubator for policy innovation and development, providing a forum to think critically about the world and meet some of the most brilliant people at UGA and across the country. Through the conversations and mentorship I gained through Roosevelt, I became interested in energy and environmental policy.

During my first year, I developed a proposal for commercial buildings in Atlanta to improve energy efficiency by retrofitting existing lighting systems with LED lights. In the fall of 2015, I took the Roosevelt Scholars class through the UGA Honors Program. I researched the EPA’s Superfund Program and wrote a paper on reinvigorating site remediation efforts through an excise tax on polluting companies. The semester culminated in a class visit to the Georgia Capitol, where we presented our policies to Gov. Deal’s policy advisers. We also got to watch our adviser, Dr. David Williams, navigate I-85 rush hour traffic in a 20-person van.

Through my current fellowship with the Roosevelt Institute, I developed a proposal to institutionalize energy efficiency in Athens-Clarke County public buildings, and I am working with local government and community stakeholders to implement the proposal. Together, we can hopefully help Athens-Clarke County become a better steward of public finances, reduce its carbon footprint, perform overdue energy efficiency improvements, and foster a sustainable future. At the campus level, I lead UGA’s Roosevelt chapter as executive director. We were instrumental in driving the success of UGAvotes, a voter registration and education campaign established in 2016. We also focus on individual/group policy writing, local-/state-level implementation, regular policy discussions, and collaborative events.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I have been involved in a number of other organizations, gaining invaluable experience and relationships along the way. From starting an organization called the Energy Concept @ UGA with my best friends and fellow climate change geeks, to (attempting) to plant/harvest seasonal vegetables with the rowdiest local elementary school kids through the Lunchbox Garden Project, to being destroyed in soccer by 14-year-old boys while visiting local refugee neighborhoods with RefUGA, to sharing homemade foods with other Office of Sustainability interns, to being mind-blown by all the initiatives and research UGA sponsors while working at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, I am so thankful for opportunities UGA has given me. Other communities I belong to include Alpha Chi Omega, Palladia Women’s Honor Society, Dean Tate William Honor Society and Sphinx.

The Foundation Fellowship, UGA Honors Program, and Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities have provided me with the financial support to prioritize experiential learning. The summer after my freshman year, I worked as a research assistant at Leiden University in the Netherlands on a project assessing the environmental impacts of statistical uncertainties in industrial aquaculture. This past summer, through the Honors in Washington program, I interned in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. I worked on initiatives to implement the Paris Agreement (2015 international climate negotiation ratified by 127 countries). In December 2016, I studied abroad in Australia and took a course on sustaining human societies and the natural environment. A CURO Research Assistantship and Summer Fellowship helped me gain research experience and present my work to the Environmental Protection Agency, at Harvard College, and at Stanford University.

I have been continuously blown away by the culture of support this campus harbors. Older students and professors, mentors and role models, have invested in my growth and development. Now, I’m excited to do the same.

Current Employment:

As a policy fellow for energy and environment with the Roosevelt Institute Network, I developed a proposal to improve energy efficiency in Athens-Clarke County public buildings, and I am teaming up with local stakeholders to implement the idea. I also work at the only place on campus with free parking, the UGA Visitors Center. I feel lucky to call some of the most dedicated leaders and genuine people on this campus my co-workers and best friends. Also, we have such inspiring bosses – Eric Johnson, Natalie Mann and Terri Franks.

Family Ties to UGA:

My older sister graduated in 2014; she’s one of my biggest role models. Over the past seven years, our younger brother has also benefited from our collegiate experiences — accruing a significant amount of Georgia gear and meeting his favorite football player while on the field during a Homecoming game. You’re welcome, Slack.

I chose to attend UGA because…

1) Professors and administrators care about undergrads! I have met the most brilliant, engaged and invested faculty members during my time at UGA. Professors who want to mentor undergraduate research or write letters of recommendation (even when the deadline is fast approaching). Administrators who support student-led initiatives that often transform campus and the community.

2) The UGA Honors Program and Foundation Fellowship provide invaluable opportunities and connections. Not only do the programs offer financial support, they create a space for students to explore academic and extracurricular interests with personal guidance and exposure to high-level faculty.

3) I am a homebody. UGA is only 70 minutes away from Johns Creek, and I am able to go home often to stay connected with my family and my culture.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

1) Going to office hours, getting to know my professors, and making sure I understand what was covered in class.

2) Attending Honors Lunchbox Lectures and Book Discussions. They are great ways to meet different professors and students who I may not otherwise interact with. Shoutout to Barberitos and Donderos’ for the hook-up.

3) Meeting new people while giving campus tours, passing through the CSO, or sitting with someone random in the dining halls. I love when awkward conversations turn into friendships.

When I have free time, I like…

1) Running.

2) Talking with vendors at the Athens and West Broad farmers markets, while hoarding samples.

3) Attending a meeting for an organization or community group I am not already involved in.

4)Forcing friends to spend one-on-one time with me and answer deep questions. If you could be a shoe, what kind would you be? What is your biggest failure? How do you floss?

The craziest thing I've done is…

After reading the book “Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister in kindergarten, I have always wanted to see a coral reef. This past December, I studied abroad in Australia and was able to snorkel and scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. I swam with hundreds of rainbow parrotfish and felt like a child again.

My favorite place to study is…

… Moore College 116. The first chair facing the door, with the seat all the way lifted up.

My favorite professor is…

I can’t pick! I’ve been lucky enough to get to know several professors. Jennifer L. Rice, my research mentor, in the department of geography has challenged me to think critically about the (unintended) consequences of low-carbon urban development. While working on a paper about Seattle’s carbon gentrification together, she treated me with the respect of a colleague and collaborator, rather than just an assistant. Through every opportunity I have pursued, no matter how close the deadline, or how busy her professional and personal lives become, Jenn has remained a constant champion in my life. Speaking of champions, Meghan Skira, who taught my first-year “Introduction to Microeconomics” class, has since taught me different ways to apply economic frameworks of thinking (even though most of her examples are about burritos and root beers). She is also always a voice of reason during my mid-semester crises. Dr. Chris Cornwell, also in the economics department, introduced me to the versatility of statistical and econometric modeling as tools to answer social science questions. If the faculty I have gotten the opportunity to know are this phenomenal, I can only imagine who I’m missing out on.

Last but not least, the support and guidance provided by Dr. David Williams, Jessica Hunt and Emily Myers in the Honors Program are unparalleled. They’ve truly succeeded at making UGA a home for me and so many other students.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… my family. We bring so much life to the party. My grandpa brings his encyclopedia brain, which is so sharp despite his old age. My grandma brings creative South Indian foods (like chutney made from pomegranate peels). My dad brings years of wisdom and a plan that never usually pans out. My mom brings her iron will and romantic dreams of me having a birthday bash while wearing a tiara and ball gown. My sister brings half-eaten foods (for someone else to finish). My brother brings his witty comebacks and love of Chipotle (and Tabasco).

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… become a South Indian classical (Carnatic) singer. I grew up singing and performing Carnatic music. It is the most ancient, nuanced and spiritual art form I’ve ever interacted with. In college, I have not been able to allocate as much time to music as I would like, but I am lucky to have an amazingly talented brother who motivates me to stay connected.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… open a locally sourced vegan food truck called “Renewables” that runs on solar power and biofuels. Every day, the truck would travel to different urban neighborhoods, crossing not-so invisible racial and socioeconomic boundaries. Customers would have the option to buy full-priced foods or receive discounts in exchange for usable raw materials — vegetables, spices, cooking utensils, etc. Every Sunday, every person who shares something/someone they are thankful for will eat for free. “Renewables” would demonstrate that healthy eating and clean energy can be affordable and equitable.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

In a career at the intersection of industry and policy, I hope to prioritize economic development built on renewable energy rather than on finite resources. Although cheap fossil fuels (like coal or natural gas) satisfy end-use demand, their production cycles reveal the detrimental social and environmental impacts of resource extraction that disproportionately marginalize the most vulnerable populations. Clean energy is far more viable. Using data analytics to mobilize public and private investment, I hope to reveal the unintended consequences of “green” urban development and opportunities to reduce high upfront capital costs to clean energy in urban centers. Affordable clean energy will catalyze equitable growth, reduce national and global greenhouse gas emissions, and lead a transition toward a low-carbon economy.

I also am committed to demonstrating to consumers, developers and governments that LED lighting is the lowest-hanging fruit of building energy efficiency. Save money, live better. Shreymart.

After graduation, I plan to…

I’m not exactly sure where I’ll end up, but I would like to work on clean energy financing. I hope to challenge institutional and mission-oriented investors to expand their portfolios and invest in clean energy innovation and deployment. As a facilitator of these impact investments, I hope to catalyze the transition to a low-carbon economy, creating pathways for mobilizing the funds to scale up renewable energy infrastructure in cities.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

From April to November 2016, I helped build a coalition of student and administrative organizations in a nonpartisan voter registration and education initiative called UGAvotes. The campaign was led by Roosevelt @ UGA, SGA, Young Democrats, College Republicans and Georgia Political Review and supported by several other champions. Together, we committed ourselves to reminding young people that their voices and votes matter. Along with SGA, we lobbied the Athens Board of Elections to acquire the first on-campus early voting location in Athens and UGA history. On Nov. 8, 2,648 voted early at Tate. Through the partnerships that drove this campaign, I made so many friendships. After six months of meetings and presentations, tabling and mailing forms, Tweeting and posting on Facebook, I cast my first presidential vote alongside my roommate — one of the boldest, nastiest women I know.

Department or Program featured: