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Fueling a Sustained Interest in Sustainability

Matt Inbusch gains skills for free market solutions to challenges in the developing world

Matt Inbusch
Manager, Natural Capital Stewardship, International Paper

Vanderbilt MBA 2016

During three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, Matt Inbusch saw global poverty up close — and wanted to do something about it. When he returned home, he worked for a consulting firm in Washington involved with developing economies. He describes them as “a group of super-smart, passionate people doing innovative work in agricultural and manufacturing value chains all over the world.” The job took him everywhere from Eastern Europe to West Africa and Latin America.

As became more deeply engaged and experienced, Matt’s thinking began to evolve toward market-driven approaches to issues like poverty and climate change. “I don’t think the free market can or should solve every problem,” he says, “but I do believe business thinking has a huge amount to offer, and we’re just beginning to see that potential realized." 

At Vanderbilt, Matt found a number of ways to build the business skills and network that would enable him to pursue his passion. He attended national conferences and organized case competitions for Net Impact, the nonprofit focused on sustainability. When speakers and alumni came to Owen, he networked with them about their companies’ sustainability efforts. One such conversation led International Paper to create a sustainability position for Matt. 

“If you want to build something and put in the work, the possibilities to create something at Vanderbilt are almost limitless,” Matt says. As an example: During his first week on campus, a team of second-year MBAs and graduate students in Education asked Matt to help them compete for the Hult Prize, an annual challenge to create innovative, market-driven solutions to global issues. “I benefited immensely,” Matt says, “from the interdisciplinary leadership, design thinking and problem solving in unfamiliar territory.”

One year later, Matt organized Vanderbilt’s first on-campus round of the Hult Prize, with nearly 50 students pitching ideas. “The experience,” Matt says, “really captured what I came to Owen for: to learn, enhance my leadership abilities, and connect with smart people doing interesting things in the world.”

Fun Fact: Matt has toasted to health in a dozen languages (so far).

“I don’t think the free market can or should solve every problem, but I do believe business thinking has a huge amount to offer.”