Because of Zach Owens, one of the graduates from Regis’ first Master of Development Practice cohort, you can breathe a little easier. Focusing on sustainability efforts, Zach is helping to institute green practices on campus, around the state and within the global community.  

We sat down to talk with him about his initial interest in sustainability, his Regis journey and his plans for after graduation.

Where did your initial interest in sustainability come from?

I first became interested in sustainability during my undergraduate chemistry classes at Regis. We were studying equilibrium law discussing that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the acidification oceans. After this class, I joined a student club called SPEAK (Students for Peaceful Environmental Action and Knowledge) where we worked on sustainability efforts like bringing recycling to campus.

How has the Master of Development Practice (MDP) program helped develop your perspective on sustainability?

Regis’ MDP global classroom opened my eyes to sustainable development challenges across the world. My cohort is composed of students working in communities from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Vietnam and Ghana. Together, we study and bring varying perspectives on topics like intersectionality and global health. The MDP program has helped me become more patient, focusing on facilitating sustainability efforts, instead of exclusively focusing on the end goal.

How has the MDP program influenced your career path?

The program has given me the background and skills need to manage complex development programs. I even used my thesis framework from the program to develop a program at the Colorado Energy Office to electrify Colorado’s highways to enable travel across the state in electric vehicles. Throughout the program I also worked with the nonprofit WalkDenver. I was able to apply teachings to help develop and implement a new fundraising strategy.

What are you plans for after graduation?

Addressing climate change will continue to be the arc of my career. I plan to continue working as a Program Manager for Transportation Fuels and Technology at the Colorado Energy Office. I’m also thinking about pursing a Ph.D. in sustainability, so, we’ll see where that takes me.

How do you feel being one of the first graduates from the MDP program?

Regis has given me the opportunity for a lot of “firsts.” During my undergraduate career, I served as RUSGA’s first Director of Sustainability. I’ve also had the opportunity to be in the pilot cohort for the MDP. Regis is a leader among Jesuit institutions when it comes to sustainable development. It is a passion of mine to ensure Regis continues to develop programs within the sustainability sector.

What’s something about the MDP program that the Regis community might not know?

The program uses classrooms at the Posner Center for International Development — outfitted with cameras and screens where instructors and student from around the world can interact in real time. This is so different from other graduate models where students have to physically be in the space or only interact through online forums.