SSM Student Spotlight - Alice Lesch

August 22, 2022

Alice Lesch
Pursuing a Bachelor of Sustainable Systems Management
Anticipated graduation date: Spring 2023

Alice Lesch smiling and has long dark hair, posed outdoors with trees in the background

Where are you from? Describe what your hometown and/or family is like?

I’m from our beautiful capital city, Saint Paul! I love all of our parks and historic neighborhoods like the Wabasha Street Caves, Minnehaha Falls, the Union Depot, and my favorite - Como Lake! Now I live just across the border in Minneapolis, but my parents and two little sisters are still living it up on the east side of the river.

Why did you choose Sustainable Systems Management?

It was kind of fate! I was completely undecided in CLA my freshman year and was taking random classes on legal torts, psychology, and drawing. By chance, I met Jason Hill through an Honors experience and he shared some of his work in the BBE/SSM department. I was fascinated by his research on the disproportionate effects of air pollution on low-income communities, as well as how certain food groups have elevated risks to human and climate health. I talked more about SSM with the lovely Tim Smith, and I realized that majoring in SSM would help me apply science to business and economic practices to support a better world.

What has been a favorite course or project in your program? 

This last spring semester, I took APEC3611W which is a writing intensive course on Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. We had two research papers that focused on applying economic principles to environmental issues such as pollution, energy consumption, land use, etc. For our second paper, we got to choose our topic. I chose to look into a cost-benefit analysis of the Como Lake Management Plan which is crafted by the Capitol Region Watershed District. Growing up near Como Lake, I had a special interest in figuring out why it was on the MPCA’s list of impaired waters for upwards of 20 years despite millions of dollars spent - and a portion being levied from homeowners in the watershed. After looking into the issues surrounding Como Lake’s pollution, I realize how important it is to effectively allocate funding. Tens of millions of dollars are going towards structural devices like stormwater management which has very high upfront costs. Alternatively, other watersheds have found that investing in non-structural practices such as preserving natural areas, street tree planting, and porous asphalt has lower costs and significantly higher benefits since preventing water pollution earlier saves time and money instead of treating it later. Issues like this are really important since more efficiently allocating resources can better solve the countless environmental issues we face today.

What student groups or extracurricular activities are you involved in and why?

I’m the Vice President of BBE/SSM ambassadors which is a student group in our department that focuses on outreach to incoming students, internal development within the majors, and alumni connections for job and mentorship opportunities. I joined this group to advocate for BBE/SSM for others since I was lucky enough to discover it by chance, and I wanted to meet more people in our majors to make friends and learn more about what people like me are passionate about.

I’m also the treasurer of the North Star Building Science Club (NoBS for short) which is a student group that is interested in sustainable building science. We’re currently gearing up to participate in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon which is a design competition with the goal of conceptualizing a high efficiency home that lowers carbon usage, uses sustainable building materials, and is built to best fit the environment and homeowner. I almost chose building science as my major track instead of corporate, so this club has allowed me to still learn about better building practices.

What are your career goals after graduation?

After graduation, I’m not entirely sure which field within sustainability I will go into, so I’m interested in working at an environmental consulting firm or government agency to get exposure to various water, air, natural resources, or emissions-based reporting. From there, I hope to find a company or organization that I feel best aligns with my interests and to work as a consultant, environmental/economic analyst, or project manager. After I’ve built up significant exposure in the business community of environmental sustainability, I would be interested in running for office and crafting environmental policy to ensure statewide or national measures of protection.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with the BBE/SSM community?

I love meeting new people and new friends! I love to run, garden, play Mario Kart and Just Dance, and longboard.