ClimateCAP Keeps Growing, Announces Inaugural Cohort Of Fellows

ClimateCAP Brings Its Global Initiative To A Small Cohort

Duke professor Daniel Vermeer, a co-founder of ClimateCAP, which for the first time this year has named a class of fellows: “For students who really want to build their careers around this, we thought they could benefit from a 12-month experience with peers, coaching and mentoring and exposure.” This year’s event is February 24-25. File photo

Several years ago, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business professor Daniel Vermeer noticed that across graduate business education, there were holes in MBA curricula for educating students on the climate, and that companies hiring recent grads were having to bring them up to speed on climate change. Vermeer decided unprecedented change was necessary to tackle the issue — and he saw no better leverage point than the future business leaders themselves.

“There’s a need to get a large scale of students trained on this stuff,” says Vermeer, who today serves as the executive director of Fuqua’s Center for Energy, Development and Global Environment (EDGE).

That’s why Vermeer and EDGE Managing Director Katie Kross co-founded the ClimateCAP summit in 2018. The intensive weekend-long, global program hosts leaders from industry and business alongside students spanning 30 MBA programs to assess climate change and its implications for business and investment. The programming addresses not only climate as an energy issue, but a major driver of business, performance, and success across all industries. This year’s event will be hosted by the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business on February 24-25.


Duke’s Jessica Wingert: “Climate can mean a lot of things. There’s a lot of subcategories within that, but we’re working to really narrow down the kinds of speakers they want to see”

Three summits after its launch, ClimateCAP has also announced its inaugural fellowship program involving 12 MBA students from eight universities. Each of the students will narrowly research a subject of climate for 12 months and present the work of a year-long project, with the goal that the cohort could one day become future leaders and changemakers.

While the summit introduces a wealth of information for interested students, it’s a once-a-year event. Duke hosted the first summit in 2018, UVA’s Darden School of Business hosted it in 2020, and last year it was hosted by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

It seeks awareness and expansions through diverse programming and input from top industry practitioners. Some speakers scheduled at McCombs include NextEra’s President and CEO Rebecca Kujawa, investment company BlackRock’s managing director Ray Cameron, Walmart’s Jane Ewing and others.

Vermeer says the summit is about introducing all sorts of topics ranging from the energy transition to renewables to the effects of climate change in industries like food, real estate and construction.

The fellowship, on the other hand, aims at providing high-level development and networking throughout the year where students can tailor their study based upon their intended careers paths.

“For students who really want to build their careers around this, we thought they could benefit from a 12-month experience with peers, coaching and mentoring and exposure … to take the ClimateCAP model, but provide high quality content and discussion,” he says.

The world has increasingly experienced changes in temperature and as a result, severe weather patterns from extreme droughts, fires, floods and devastating storms. Activity sectors like energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, commercial and residential are among the main emitters of human-caused greenhouses gases that make the planet hotter. The recent decade was the warmest on record, demonstrating the rate at which the crisis is accelerating.

Vermeer says there is a need to rapidly transition from energy systems like oil and gas to carbon-free sources, but without underlying the reliability of the systems that could exacerbate social inequality. He hopes, instead, social outcomes and access to energy for marginalized communities can be improved through technology, innovation and policy. The dynamics of the systems, though, are complex and he believes success is only tangible through collaboration. Whether it’s a weekend or year-long program, partnership across B-schools is a defining feature of both the summit and now fellowship.

Vermeer says the need to train students and implement progress supersedes any competition between B-schools; instead, the program has provided a catalyst for faculty across schools to share curricula.

“The ClimateCAP community now fosters this kind of peer-to-peer interaction at multiple levels,” Vermeer says. “I think this has motivated a lot of players to think ‘Hey, this is the right framing.'”


Congressman Sean Casten, D-Illinois, will give a talk titled “The Role of Government in Leading Change” at Kellogg’s inaugural climate event this month

Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, a ClimateCAP partner, announced during last year’s summit that it would host its own event in 2023. The day-long Kellogg Climate Conference on February 22 will feature speakers, such as Lanzajet CEO Jimmy Samartzis and Illinois Congressman Sean Casten.

Kelly Kosnik, a Kellogg MBA student and organizer of the event, says the B-school sees rising interest in climate change issues among students, pointing to Kellogg’s Energy & Sustainability Club, which she says was voted the top student-run organization at the B-school last year.

Kellogg’s conference is organized around three main topics: establishing a powerful edge in sustainability, the role of government, and climate issues around equity. Kosnik says attendees will have a chance to connect each of the topics in a practical manner.

“Our goal for the conference is to show the diverse ways in which leaders are approaching climate change … Climate change is expected to cost business $1.3 trillion by 2026, so not paying attention will harm both businesses and our planet,” she says.


ClimateCAP Fellow Mackenzie Audino is a dual-degree master’s student at Duke, studying business and environmental management. Applicants were required to specify prior experience in a climate-related field. Audino previously interned at Y Analytics, an associate of the private equity firm TPG, INC. The research firm manages the disclosure of data regarding business operations as it relates to the environment and other matters, also known ESG reporting, for TBG’s Rise Climate funds.

“It opened my eyes to the world of impact investing through an ESG lens,” she says.

She had a chance to meet with her fellow colleagues recently.

“At the MBA program, you meet a wide range of students and get many diverse perspectives, but to have a focused group who’s pursuing to be the top climate leaders is invaluable. That’s such a rare opportunity,” she says.

The fellowship, which began last month, goes until next December. Keeping the schedule of a full-time MBA student in mind, key elements include learning and development sessions, networking and a final self-directed project where fellows study, design and implement a climate action plan. Audino’s focusing her project on ocean health and the blue economy. Her research will entail finding methodologies to generate more investment into the blue economy since, she says, the ocean’s health is so imperatively tied to the climate’s health.

“I am really running with this idea for my fellowship, because it’s really underappreciated and an underinvested portion of climate tech,” Audino says.

Her future self is aiming to generate more capital for ocean health by either joining the venture capital world or a startup.


Jessica Wingert, a program leader at ClimateCAP, says fellowship programming will be tailored to the specific goals and interests of fellows.

“Climate can mean a lot of things. There’s a lot of subcategories within that, but we’re working to really narrow down the kinds of speakers they want to see,” she says.

Some perks of the program include one-on-one mentorship and workshops for academic and professional leadership. A period of intensive learning is designed to take place during this semester. The summer is a planned period of sustained, independent learning and fewer meetings, which aside from the summit, are all held virtually. A period of renewed project work and feedback, as well as final presentations are slated for next fall.

ClimateCAP fellows also receive a $3,000 stipend and the long-term benefits of membership in the growing network of ClimateCAP Fellowship alumni.

Wingert says many projects ClimateCAP fellows have pitched cover a range of diverse criteria, though they are still refining their final topics. The goal is to have their projects published next December in whatever form that may be whether it’s a case study or research paper. Some fellows are working on startups.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.