Entrepreneurship challenge promotes green energy, sustainability

Grant allows future entrepreneurs to strengthen skills through workshops


Courtesy of Pixabay

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, green energy is “electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.”

Isaiah Ramirez, Staff Reporter

A new grant-funded initiative at UTEP is set to promote sustainability, green energy and entrepreneurship — all at the same time.

The “Green Energy Entrepreneurship Challenge” is a three-day bootcamp that will consist of a green energy busines pitch competition where UTEP students will participate as part of the curriculum for certain courses. They can also earn prizes at the end of the competition.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Dr. John Hadjimarcou, chairman of the College of Business Administration’s marketing and management program, as principal investigator and Michael Garcia, director of the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce as the co-principal investigator.

Dr. John Hadjimarcou, principal investigator, and Michael Garcia, co-principal investigator. (Courtesy of UTEP)

The Green Energy Challenge will also consist of workshops sponsored by Venture Well, an organization that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education, which the same group providing a $10,000 to the project.

According to the organization’s website, the grant is known as a “faculty planning grant” with the goal of implementing workshops to build concepts of sustainability into the curriculum of existing college courses while building new circular programs that include modern concepts of sustainability.

UTEP has already been in talks with the University of Texas at the Rio Grande Valley on developing the workshops and holding virtual events in the future relating to the sustainability challenge with community partners such as El Paso Electric.

“One of the reasons we got the grant is because we entered into a collaboration with UTRGV and we are working together where we both develop workshops and events that cover the whole Rio Grande Valley,” Garcia said.

Garcia said that Venture Well is very interested in being able to better serve the Hispanic demographic and both universities will help in that effort.

Initially the Mike Loya Center’s idea for The Green Energy Challenge was for it to be a single event that would focus on developing renewable and sustainable sources in this region.

That idea was scrapped in place of the workshops stemming from Venture Well’s desire to see the sustainability concepts in UTEP’s curriculum instead.

“Venture Well told us that our idea for an event was great, but what they really wanted to see was those kinds of concepts built into the curriculum and what we are teaching in our classes,” Garcia said.

Within the workshops, the main topics will cover how to be an entrepreneur, understanding the different kinds of markets in business, financial planning associated with starting a business, while weaving in concepts of sustainability.

But the coronavirus pandemic did bring upon difficulties in organizing the Green Energy Challenge.

Purchasing extended Zoom licenses, Web X platform licenses, and becoming more efficient at Microsoft Teams were just a few of the hurdles that Hadjimarcou and Garcia had to figure out how to jump over.

“This environment is very challenging and takes a lot more work and planning, but the Mike Loya Center figured it out early,” Garcia said. “It’s very challenging for our customers and clients, who are the people that engage with our students in the competition, that there is no way to assure how things are like on their side as far as connectivity.”

But despite the obstacles, the team at the Mike Loya Center along with Hadjimarcou found a way to make it work.

“This is a team effort from our principal investigator who is a consulate expert in this field to our team at the Mike Loya Center which includes research and we have a very dedicated team that is making this happen,” Garcia added.

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected]; @_IsaiahRamirez1 on Twitter.