Alumni Spotlight - Megan Acker

August 18, 2022

Megan Acker
Bachelor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM)/Corporate Environmental Management (now known as Corporate Sustainable Systems), 2008

Why did you choose BBE/SSM while attending the University of Minnesota?

I was originally a business major. During my sophomore year, I took an environmental science class as an elective and realized that I was passionate about applied sciences and natural resources. As a result, I reevaluated my current curriculum and career path, and changed it in order to be aligned with my passions. I'm so glad I did! I was intrigued with the diverse course list of engineering, science, business, law, and sustainability. I switched my degree junior year and joined lecture halls and lab groups of freshman taking entry level engineering and law classes. I had a lot to catch up on, so I quit my part time job, took out a loan, and took 18-24 credits a semester to graduate on the four-year plan. If I could do it again, I would have given myself more grace and an extra year to enjoy the journey.

Where do you currently work, and what do you do?

3M - a global manufacturer. I'm currently transitioning from leading our Global Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Program to the Environmental Manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). My primary goal (shared by many colleagues) is to foster an organizational culture where environmental compliance and performance are core values that are consistently prioritized by the organization's people, systems, and processes.

How has your education from BBE/SSM impacted or influenced your life and career?

I fell behind in grade school and high school both academically and socially. I feel very fortunate that I was accepted into the U and supported by many mentors and advisors. Achieving my Bachelor of Science from the University of Minnesota gave me my first academic accreditation that proved to myself that I could achieve any of my goals (including an MBA a decade later!). However, I didn't accomplish it on my own. I found many professors who were patient with me the moment I showed up for office support hours. The professors at the U helped me see that most people want you to succeed, be it at your class presentation or your life in general. That mindset is a special one to realize, and one to give back to others.

What are one or two of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating from BBE/SSM in which your education played a role?

The professors and coursework were ahead of their time, and there were a couple early moments I recall... (1) In my first job out of college, I was able to get on the Environmental Impact Statement team for the Polymet Mining Project because I had taken a great class called "Environmental Impact Statements" where we simulated a full EIS project throughout the semester. That experience got me another assignment supporting an EIS for the construction of the Hiawatha Line. (2) In a business environmental management class, we read a published case study about flexible environmental permitting between the MPCA, EPA, and 3M. I had the rewarding experience to take a business class by the author of the case study itself, and I got to work at 3M on the environmental permitting team with several of the individuals quoted in the case.

What advice do you have for current or future students interested in pursuing a similar career in your field?

Network! The goal is not just to develop a network, but to find your mentors (short or long term). Be prepared for the mentor roles to flip and flop throughout time as we can all learn from each other. If you don't know where to start, start with your professor's office hours and/or cold calling. In the professional world, people expect cold calls from students trying to feel out potential future careers. And, it's a win-win because we get to meet potential future candidates to hire.

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

My current favorite quote: Alone, we go faster, but together, we go further.