If you want young talent to drive innovation in environmentally-minded development and business, you need to train them and you should do the education before they enter an industry with existing norms.
That’s why Mikhail Naumov founded The GREEN Program from within his dorm room during his Rutgers University undergraduate years in 2009, part of the young entrepreneur movement. (That’s Global Renewable Energy Education Network for those who like acronyms.)
Now based at 17th and Arch in Center City, the company is very similar to a student study-abroad program but with an industry pipeline focus. Costing between $2,000 and $3,500 depending on the program, which range from five days to a couple weeks, GREEN sends students to Costa Rica and Iceland to experience the countries’ epicenters for renewable energy. Students are educated on the technology, policies and business aspects of renewable energy while abroad and can bring their knowledge back to the United States. The ultimate goal is for students to use this knowledge to accelerate their careers.
“Back in 2009 when my classmates and I actually founded this company in our dorm room, we found that the clean energy sector, it was a booming industry,” said Naumov, who leads a staff of less than ten full-time employees.
He noticed that more than $250 billion was being invested in clean energy technology annually. However, there wasn’t money being invested to properly educate and train young people on clean energy. Naumov and his team set out to fill the gap in this market.
Three years since the launch of the company, GREEN has built partnerships with more than 140 universities and has sent hundreds of students from more than 36 countries from around the world on the nine, 10 and 12 day excursions. While GREEN is a business, Naumov believes in the change and the impact that the company’s program can make. The educational side is important to him, he said.
“We share the program with universities who believe in giving their students a better education experience,” Naumov said. “So we’re really proud and happy to be associated with institutions like Rutgers, Penn State and Princeton University who have been sending students. Universities like Penn State who believe in the academic rigor of our program so much that they’ve actually sponsored up to 20 students to attend our program every year.”
GREEN and the universities share the same idea that education needs to be experimental to be effective. Melissa Lee, 23 and co-founder of the program, explained how building international relationships is the driving force for the educational core of the program.
Melissa Lee, co-founder of GREEN, explained her position with the company.
“I back packed around the country [Iceland] and found all the rich resources of what we need to be looking for to build this strong educational component,” Lee said.
Lee spent a few weeks in Iceland developing a new program for GREEN in a location that is said to be the greenest country in the world. The company partnered with Reykjavik University in Iceland. Known for its engineering program, the school accredits the program and provides the crucial educational component for GREEN.
While Lee spoke fondly of being a student entrepreneur, she touched on the importance of building a business to bring about good and change.
“People are trying to create jobs and make jobs that actually have some kind of twist with social good which I think is awesome. That’s something we’ve always believed that you’re able to do good and do well, it’s a beautiful recipe. There’s no reason why there should be any stigma that you can’t make money if you’re doing something that’s good for the world,” said Lee.