BY JEHANGEER ALI SYED
It is one thing to mix pleasure with business, but as earnest as SAIS students are, those at SAIS Europe managed to prioritize business with leisure. On a weekend excursion to Vienna, Austria, for the International Atomic Energy Agency Staff Association Ball, the SAIS Energy, Resources and Environment Club, the Student Government Association and students reached out to alumni and organizations working in the energy sector in Vienna.
Though the overall trip to Vienna included more than 150 students who traveled to Vienna strictly for the ball, 11 students arrived a day early, on Friday. The daytrip was open to all SAIS students, but ERE concentrators — who were partially sponsored by ERE Club mini-grants — made up the bulk of the group. The trip, organized by ERE students Max Stadler and Kate Strickland, brought together students from varied backgrounds, and served as a stimulating learning experience for the group.
The mini- “Career Trek” proved a unique opportunity for SAIS students to learn more about renewable energy, municipal utilities, oil companies and the energy consulting industry. By tapping into the SAIS alumni network in Vienna, Stadler and Strickland found that the organizations generously opened their doors to students and were forthcoming regarding their work in the energy sector.
The day started early at 8:00AM on the outskirts of Vienna at the Müllverbrennungsanlage (MVA) garbage incineration plant. This state-of-the-art facility collects 250,000 tons of garbage from households annually and burns it at more than 1,200°C to produce electricity for approximately 50,000 Viennese households. The entire process challenges the adage of garbage in-garbage out; rather it takes garbage in and optimizes its potential by turning it into fuel. This facility is not only an example of a renewable energy power plant, but stands out as a model of social responsibility of the people of Vienna, where they were fully involved in the decision to construct the facility.
The day progressed as students traveled next to Österreichischen Mineralölverwaltung Aktiengesellschaft (OMV). OMV began as a state-owned company in 1956 and developed into the most successful industrial corporation in Austria and an international flagship. The students were welcomed by SAIS Bologna graduate Veronika Bauer and were introduced to the company and its international strategy by Robert Stajic (Corporate Strategy), and Dr. Stefan Richter (Public Affairs). The presentation gave way to discussion on interesting topics including: company functions and business priorities, managing a sustainable upstream resource portfolio, and increasing competitiveness in the downstream oil and gas divisions. The discussion allowed students to gather insights on the company’s overall business strategy, while also increasing their understanding of how private firms operate in the energy sector.
Keeping up with Austrian efficiency, the lunch was a brief tryst with wiener schnitzel at a pop-up lunch bar before meeting with Vienna’s public utility company Wiener Stadtwerke. Students met with Isabella Kossina (Chief Sustainability Officer) and Bettina Klötzl (International Representative) to learn about its diversified portfolio that includes: urban planning, infrastructure, energy distribution, public transportation, and funeral services. Wiener Stadtwerke provides services as they joked, “from cradle to grave.” The company is proud to assist Vienna in consistently scoring the highest in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey in the world and serves as an exemplary model for sustainability to other cities.
The last meeting of the day brought students to JBC Energy. SAIS alumni Erwin Traxl (B ’12 / DC ’13) and Alexander Poegl (B ’06) gave students an overview of JBC’s consulting and research functions and led a question-and-answer session regarding the future of world oil and gas markets.
The trip to these organizations not only allowed SAIS Europe students to learn how to network in the historic city, but also to understand the ways in which it is evolving to meet the needs of the future. Speaking to students who participated in the trip, SAIS alumni pressed students to focus on their studies while at SAIS, but also to follow their interests and passions. Students interested in internships at any of the organizations are encouraged to visit their websites to learn about the deadlines as well as to tailor their CVs to the type of internship they apply for.