Jenna Wiegand’s relentless pursuit of knowledge centers around a simple yet powerful mission: To change the world for the better, one sustainable business decision at a time.
“She’s a very forward-thinking person,” said Susan Bates of Lake Oswego, one of three donors for the Presidential Scholarship that sealed the deal for Wiegand to come to Oregon State and major in finance and sustainably.
“I’m a believer in Jenna for sure,” offered Susan’s husband John, a former OSU business professor and like his wife an OSU alumnus.
“Jenna’s a terrific young lady,” added the third donor, retired teacher Joan Griffis of Portland. “She is absolutely delightful, and she has tremendous goals.
Wiegand found her educational and professional niche while taking part every year in Wilsonville High’s annual science fair competition, which involved working on a project throughout the school year and then presenting findings to judges in the spring.
Wiegand noticed that she gravitated toward the environmental and sustainable when choosing her science fair activity. Pondering that trend, she realized what she wanted to do was combine earth-friendly, socially conscious concepts with a career in business.
“I want to be part of the application side,” she said. “Business is where sustainability will have the most impact in the future, so business was logical to pair with that. And as I was finalizing what I wanted to go into and knew it was sustainability, I knew it made more sense to stay in Oregon, because Oregon is the state for that, and the scholarship cemented that decision.
Wiegand, a 2015 graduate of the University Honors College, has immersed herself in her studies – literally, as she spent fall term 2013 in South Caicos, part of the Turks and Caicos Islands archipelago, studying marine ecology and environmental policy, work that involved a total of 5.5 hours of scuba diving. The research also included trying to under local perceptions of tourism as the island transitions from fishing to a tourism-based economy.
Wiegand’s studies also took her to Bangladesh, where she spent five weeks working with the Grameen Bank, and to Nicaragua with OSU’s social entrepreneurship club, Enactus; both of those journeys centered around microfinancing – making small loans in developing countries to impoverished people who lack conventional access to capital.
So interested in microfinancing is Wiegand that this past winter, she connected with a peer-to-peer lending startup in San Francisco, Kiva, and funded a loan to a Haitian woman looking to equip her home with solar panels.
After graduation, Wiegand went to work in New Jersey for multinational consumer-care products company Unilever.
“They’re a big sponsor of Enactus, and they got my name and asked me to interview,” she said. “Sustainability is very key in their mission -- social sustainability, health and hygiene. I’m working in supply chain for a company that cares about corporate social responsibility, that wants to make difference, that cares to do that, that combines business and sustainability in ways that I want to.”