CFAES Give Today

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Undergraduates attend national Net Impact Conference

Dec. 5, 2017
Ohio State students attend national Net Impact conference (left to right:  Tim Cho, Taylor Racela, Sarah Fischer and Kathleen Fillingim).

Four undergraduate Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) students had the opportunity to attend this year’s Net Impact Path to Purpose Conference in Atlanta, GA.

Net Impact is a national organization with more than 300 global chapters. The students that attended are members of Ohio State’s undergraduate Net Impact chapter.

Returning from this year’s conference representing Ohio State’s Net Impact chapter were seniors and EEDs majors Sarah Fischer, who is minoring in Nonprofit Management and Tim Cho, who is minoring in City and Regional Planning. Juniors Kathleen Fillingim, an EEDS major and Taylor Racela, a Finance major with a minor in EEDS also attended.

Continue reading to find out what these students had to say about attending Net Impact’s Path to Purpose conference focused on mobilizing new generations to use their skills and careers to drive transformational social and environmental change.

On learning about the conference

Sarah: I currently serve as President for Ohio State’s undergraduate Net Impact chapter. Net Impact is a student organization of 60 plus members that focuses on encouraging the integration of sustainability in business. I knew about the conference because the national Net Impact organization hosts it every year, and we try to send at least a couple representatives from Ohio State.

Kathleen: I learned about the conference during our chapter's weekly meetings, but I learned about the program, which paid for my conference pass from the national Net Impact's newsletter.

Tim: I learned about the conference through the Net Impact Undergraduate Chapter at Ohio State. I have been involved in the chapter since my junior year, heard about other students’ experiences, and always wanted to attend.

Taylor:  I have been a member of Net Impact since my second semester at Ohio State. I heard from members who attended the conference last year what a great experience it was, and it seemed like a really beneficial opportunity for me.

What motivated you to attend this year’s conference?

Sarah:  I had the opportunity to attend the Net Impact conference in Seattle when I was a sophomore, and I wanted to attend one more time as president of our chapter. It was my last chance to engage with other Net Impact students from across the nation before graduating this May.

By attending, I was hoping it would give me some project and programming ideas to implement in our chapter before I leave. I was also motivated by the incredible networking and professional development opportunities offered at the conference. I was able to attend a Career Search Bootcamp, have my resume reviewed one-on-one by the founder of a D.C. nonprofit, and take part in a personal mentoring session with the Director of Corporate Sustainability at a large utility company. These experiences are ones I could not have gotten anywhere else.

Kathleen: I was motivated to attend partially because of the free conference ticket, but mainly because it was a great opportunity to learn from and network with sustainability in business professionals. I was hoping to become more confidant in my choice of major (EEDS) and how it would prepare me for my career.

Tim: The opportunity to attend the national Net Impact Conference through a scholarship and to experience sustainability in business in a professional conference setting motivated me to attend. The conference was also in my hometown, Atlanta, GA, so it presented an opportunity to go back home and network with professionals and speakers there.

Taylor:  I attended Net Impact as Ohio State’s representative for Up to Us, which is a national competition to raise awareness on our campus about the national debt. This allowed me to attend the conference on full scholarship, which was a really great opportunity. That aside, as a third-year student, I am starting to look for career opportunities and learn more about the field of sustainability, and I felt that attending the Net Impact conference would help me with that.

Conference Takeaways and Insights

Sarah:  I think the conference helped me learn how to network a lot better. It is an intimidating and somewhat tedious task sometimes, but if done the right way, it can lead to incredible opportunities. After the conference, I started reaching out to companies and nonprofits that I was interested in learning more about. I’ve been extremely surprised at how excited the employees are to simply tell you what they do and how they got there. Many of them are very willing to have conversations about the sustainability field, and almost all of them have offered to connect me to their colleagues in the cities I’m looking to move to after graduation.

Kathleen:  One major takeaway from this conference is the importance of business classes. Many of the panelists who spoke at the conference sessions stressed how useful their business degrees or backgrounds are in their various positions, regardless of whether or not their position was specifically titled with anything sustainable-related. While the EEDS major will not result in a business degree, I will be able to present myself as both educated in these same skills and knowledgeable about specific sustainable business initiatives.

Tim:  One thing that I will take away from this conference is the case for social entrepreneurship and ventures. Coming into the conference, I did not know much about this topic and as a result of choosing to attend this final breakout session on the last day, I got a glimpse of topics like angel investing, non-profit management, mental wellness in the workplace, and the challenges and inequalities in the investment arena. Hearing from three inspirational social entrepreneurs all with very different paths to purpose left me with a new interest in social entrepreneurship and impact investing, both of which I will consider more into my post-college career.

Taylor:  From the conference, I learned that there are many sectors of sustainability; it’s more than just renewable energy and climate change. You can contribute to building a sustainable world by creating a stronger community, by helping young girls receive education, or by being a business major like myself. I learned that my business degree will be very valuable to my future career in sustainability, and that knowledge has made me more passionate about what I’m learning.

Students interested in learning more about or becoming involved in Net Impact at Ohio State may contact Sarah Fischer ( or visit Ohio State’s Net Impact chapter website.


Editor’s note:  Kathleen attended the conference as part of the “Energy Transition Games” associated with Shell’s “Future of Energy” competition.