Noah Last (MS-ESM’23) on Advancing and Promoting Sustainability in the Business World
As the spring semester comes to a close, Georgetown McDonough is pleased to commemorate the accomplishments of the Class of 2023. This year’s graduating class demonstrated immense commitment, discipline, and determination to reach this milestone, and we are proud to recognize their achievements as they embark on their next chapter as Hoya alumni. To celebrate, we’re spotlighting several of the exceptional students in the Class of 2023 as they share their personal stories, reflect on their time on the Hilltop, and preview what the future holds after commencement.
Throughout his time at Georgetown McDonough, Noah Last (MS-ESM’23) has bridged his passions for business and sustainability through the classes and extracurricular activities he has been involved in. The case studies and lessons he has learned during his academic career have prepared him to tackle the environmental challenges the business world faces and help corporations achieve their sustainability goals for a brighter and cleaner future.
Here, Last reflects on his favorite moments from the interdisciplinary program and shares his advice for the next cohort of MS-ESM students at Georgetown McDonough.
What is your favorite memory or proudest moment from your time at Georgetown?
Colleen Norton, my co-representative, and I organized a student speaker series called “Peer Career Talks,” where students in the MS-ESM cohort spoke to their peers about their previous work, motivations for coming to Georgetown, and what’s next for their career. It started because we were nosy about people’s backgrounds and didn’t want to ask them directly but turned into a great forum for making connections and getting career questions answered.
How do you plan to apply the skills you have learned at Georgetown in the next phase of your career?
I’ll be going back to the big pile of case studies I’ve accumulated through my business courses. Businesses taking sustainability efforts seriously is a relatively new field, and these case studies have taught me so much about what can work, what will fail, and what that might mean for organizations in the future that are working towards sustainability goals.
What is one of the most important lessons you have learned while at Georgetown?
Some of the most successful sustainability professionals are connectors and collaborators. An interdisciplinary academic approach, such as the MS-ESM program,is useful because it teaches two technical ways of thinking—scientific and business—both of which are key to making good sustainability decisions.
Is there a particular person in the Georgetown community that has been instrumental to your success?
I cannot think of just one.Vishal Agrawal, Colleen Norton , KC Morris , and all of the students who came into this program with work experience and have broadened my view of sustainability—thank you!
What are your post-graduate plans?
I’d like to continue working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or some other governmentalagency as a federal employee.Government has been so much more of a fast-paced, collaborative, and innovative institution than I expected, and this administration continues to impress me with its environment, equity, and economic sustainability leadership.
If I am not working in governmentthen I’d like to get hands-on experience at a big company that’s leading sustainability initiatives, such as like Unilever or Eastman. I’m moving to Los Angeles, California in the fall and I am excited to join the sustainability community out west.
What advice would you give to the next cohort of Georgetown MS-ESM students?
Your classmates have so much to teach you. They each have a different background and motivation for doing this program. You’ll learn a lot from them if you ask, and they’ll make great connections post-grad in the wider sustainability world.
As a member of the inaugural MS-ESM cohort, how do you see the program growing in the future?
I believe that one of the biggest draws of this interdisciplinary program is that students from all different backgrounds are eligible to apply with no prerequisite classes required.At the same time, this also represents its biggest challenge. How do you get scientists with no business background to think about net present value, and how do you get business professionals to think like a scientist? I think it’s particularly hard to teach science, especially in an 11-month program.
While the program has done a great job teaching business acumen, moving forward, I would like to see the science curriculum become more refined. The field of sustainable business needs to move from marketing to robust standards and metrics, and we’ll need plenty of professionals who can think like a scientist to get us there.
Finally, the arts, history, and social justice components are just as important to leading a sustainable future as business and science. I hope the MS-ESM program will increase the number of mixers and events in collaboration with students in those specific fields.