People of IonE: Alexis “Lexie” Studler, a sustainability ‘up and comer’
The sustainability sector employed over 4.5 million Americans in 2017. It’s an ever-increasing figure, and we’re proud to see it grow — especially when changemakers from inside our building join its ranks.
Alexis “Lexie” Studler joined the IonE community during her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota, when she enrolled in the sustainability minor’s internship course. She was assigned to work as a program assistant for Link, an IonE venture that connects organizations struggling with sustainability challenges with dedicated research teams equipped to handle them. It didn’t take long for Studler to become an integral member of the team, says supervisor Jeff Standish: she tackled projects including partnership data management, event logistics, and research, and eventually began development on a fleet optimization tool for a partnership between Link and Hennepin County. Two years later, her work at IonE continues — until May, when she will officially begin as a full-time Corporate Sustainability Analyst at Andersen Windows.
“Not only has Lexie provided invaluable skill in her multiple roles, but she has been a true ambassador for IonE whenever she has interacted with external sustainability partners,” says Standish, who says Studler’s new position is a testament to her valuable skill set and leadership qualities. “I am really proud of the fine work that she has accomplished, and look for her to do some amazing things in the sustainability space going forward.”
We caught up with Studler to talk IonE, Andersen, and the unique perspective young people bring to sustainability:
When would you say you first become ‘sustainably-minded’? In other words, when did you first become very cognizant of the environment and your effect on it?
Actually, my family and my background had a big role. My family was always what I like to call “accidentally” sustainable; we didn’t talk about climate change or anything similar, but we were all interested in the outdoors and sustainability before we knew what it was. Growing up in that environment (with DIY compost, experimenting with solar panels, et cetera) meant understanding sustainability as a concept came easy to me and was just part of life.
You became involved with IonE through the class SUST 4096, which placed you in a sustainability internship. How do you think your experience with IonE has led you along your career/sustainability path?
I believe my experience at IonE has led me to the best entry-level opportunity I could have asked for. The interdisciplinary nature of IonE exposes you to more connections and information than any other job, which I think – number one – helps students narrow down what their best path might be and – number two – better equips students to work with others outside of their function and understand their impact outside of their school/workplace.
For me, working at IonE honed my ability to think cross-functionally, which is especially important in a sustainability position but also has been necessary to be effective within a broader organizational context.
Your manager considers you an “up and comer” in sustainability leadership. As businesses begin to turn their attention to sustainability, what do you think young people have to bring to the table?
This could be wishful thinking, but I think the current generation of young and incoming professionals has an increased awareness of consequences, whether those consequences concern environmental impacts, business-society interactions, et cetera. There’s more emphasis on systems thinking, in my experience from both the sustainability and business worlds, which I think prepares young professionals to get creative with problem-solving in and outside of their organization. I believe this will also help organizations move towards more collaborative, mutually-beneficial (read: actually sustainable) solutions.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position with Andersen?
The beauty of sustainability careers is that there’s rarely a concrete path and always something to tackle, and working at Andersen is no different. I’m lucky to be returning to the organization as we’re refining our sustainability goals, initiatives and overall strategy, so I’ll actually have some influence, which is a rare find in an entry-level position. Andersen has always had a great reputation for sustainability, so this time is an exciting opportunity to “back up” our company values, celebrate our progress so far and ensure we’re being proactive.
If you could say anything to a young person hoping for a career in sustainability, what would it be?
I could write a book on this, but for now, I’ll say that it’s hard! And it’s worth it! Like I mentioned earlier, sustainability is still a new enough field that it doesn’t have the set paths that other careers do; some people thrive in this and some find it overwhelming. It’s important to know yourself and what your threshold for uncertainty is. I think it’s also one of the most rewarding and educational careers you could invest in; you’re constantly learning about new pieces of the puzzle and how it all fits together.
As far as more solid advice, get involved with as many things related to your chosen career as you can: go take the internship class; say yes to a random seminar on water sustainability; join the sustainable business club no one knows about. That’s the best way to get connected to others, gain the skills you need to be effective, and most importantly, learn about yourself.
Grace Becker is the Communications Associate at IonE and an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, where she studies strategic communication, sustainability, and Spanish.