ESG@Wake initiative invites students to compete

$25,000 investment allows students to create solutions around environmental, social and governance factors


Katie Fox

The School of Business has partnered with ESG award-winning company Windstream to host a video pitch competition open to all Wake Forest students.

Aine Pierre, Online Managing Editor

Wake Forest University will commit $25,000 to student projects in the realm of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), the university announced in a Feb. 24 press release.

The investment, billed ESG@Wake, is part of a partnership between the Wake Forest School of Business and ESG award-winning company Windstream that features a video pitch competition open to all Wake Forest students, regardless of whether they are enrolled in the School of Business. 

Students can submit video pitches until March 25. Prizes range from $5,000 for first place to $1,000 for third place. There will be three separate competitions, one focusing on the student as a stakeholder, one focusing on climate neutrality and one focusing on creating a globally inclusive Wake Forest. Students must compete in teams of at least three people.

“The ESG@Wake initiative and pitch competition is an important opportunity for Wake Forest students to learn about and be engaged in creating solutions around topics that matter most to them — like sustainability and social responsibility,” Interim Dean of the School of Business Michelle Roehm said. “This initiative will help prepare future business leaders to create solutions that address some of the world’s most pressing issues.”

Windstream CEO Tony Thomas, who earned his MBA from Wake Forest’s Business School, is excited about the project.

“It’s an honor to join the Wake Forest faculty and students for ESG@Wake, an event that recognizes the importance of environmental, social and governance factors in creating value for institutional stakeholders,” Thomas said in a press release. “At Windstream, we believe setting and achieving aspirational ESG goals helps our business succeed while also ensuring we do our part as citizens of this planet.” 

Junior Max Shenkman is studying ESG at Wake Forest as part of a custom concentration and plans to compete in the competition.

“We’re starting to develop our initiatives regarding the ways that Wake Forest can improve itself in terms of sustainability, in terms of diversity and in terms of creating inclusive communities at Wake Forest,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman said he always had an interest in ESG and currently works at Taulia, Inc., a financial technology company, as an ESG contractor.

“I’ve always had a passion for ESG,” Shenkman said. “I think that the world of business and capitalism has a lot of work to do toward making sure that businesses are held accountable.”

He continued: “[Businesses must also ensure] that they are actually giving back to their communities and treating the people that they work with in respectful ways.” Shenkman said that he believes it is imperative to situate Wake Forest in a model of corporate governance.

“Corporate governance essentially means that Wake Forest uses its money, students serve as shareholders and the student body can give back and make sure that Wake Forest adheres to its wishes,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman believes that competitions like this — especially given Wake Forest’s partnership with Windstream — are encouraging to those who believe that ESG looms large in the future of business.

“It’s really encouraging that large organizations in the United States are valuing ESG, both for its monetary value as well as just being able to give back to the community at large,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman encouraged students to get involved, as well, citing ESG’s professional value.

“ESG is a really amazing opportunity for students to learn about,” Shenkman said. “I think that ESG is probably one of the top three skills that are demanded by employers right now in any type of corporation. So the message that I would have to the other students at Wake is essentially just to get involved with this because it’s going to be something you’re seeing a lot more of later on.”