Johnson Energy Connection: Connecting Past and Present Cornelians

by Jeff Gordon, MBA ’15 (10/31/13)

Jeff Gordon, MBA ’15

Alumni from across the country returned to Cornell to share their insights on the ever-changing energy industry.

JECThe Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise held its fourth annual Johnson Energy Connection on September 27th and 28th, 2013. Alumni from across the country returned to Sage Hall for this annual event to meet with students and share their insights on the ever-changing energy industry. Students from across campus, including many undergraduates and engineers, joined the crowd of Johnson MBA students for the two-day event sponsored by Chevron and Emerson.

The first day of the event centered around a series of speaker sessions. The alumni speakers, who hailed from as far as California and as near as Ithaca, gave 15-minute talks about developments within their businesses or their area of expertise. The wide array of topics conveyed the broad range of opportunities within the energy sector. Among these sessions were talks by:

JEC 2013 alumni

  • David Kapolnek (MBA’04), Director of Product Marketing at Emerson Micro-Motion, on how his group has developed measurement tools to more effectively gauge and improve fuel usage within the shipping industry
  • Michael Harrington (MBA ’10), Manager at Con Edison, on the drastic changes that he foresees will occur within the utilities industry over the next two decades
  • Sarah Emerson (BA ’84), Managing Principal at ESAI Energy, on the repercussions and global shifts in energy demand that will result from the shale gas boom of the last four years

  • Paul Sellew (CALS ’80), Founder and CEO of Harvest Power, on his company’s wide scale development of biogas and fertilizer from the excess food waste in several North American cities

  • David Johnson (BSME '89, MBA '90), President and CEO of Achates Power, on his company’s development of a highly efficient internal combustion engine that could save millions of gallons of gas annually
  • Bill Davis (MBA ’99), VP of LNG Market Development at ExxonMobile, on the growth in natural gas over the next 25 years


The speaker sessions were followed by company office hours, allowing attendees to speak with the alumni in a less formal setting. The alumni speakers answered questions about their presentations, their businesses and their careers post Cornell.

New this year, the event was expanded to Saturday giving students the opportunity to confront a real challenge within the renewable energy industry head on. Jeff Fuchs and Ryan Legg, from General Electric’s Renewable Energy Leadership Program, presented a case that focused on an actual problem that currently plagues GE’s success within the wind energy sector: how to plan for the expansion of the wind turbine business when the factors that affect demand are so heavily dependent on unpredictable government policies and subsidies. Three teams were assembled to present recommendations for this pressing issue. The students’ recommendations were evaluated by Fuchs and Legg, who then discussed how GE plans to approach the problem.

JEC plant tour 5Meanwhile, while students were working on the case, alumni were invited to join Cornell’s Senior Director of Energy and Sustainability, Burt Bland (MBA’96) for a discussion on Cornell’s transition to a low carbon system with district energy and microgrids. Spontaneously the group decided to head over to Cornell’s combined heat and power plant for a quick tour.

This annual two-day event was brought together through the work of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, the Johnson Energy Club and the Sustainable Global Enterprise Club and the generous support from Chevron and Emerson.

JEC Plant Tour 1
* Plant tour photos provided by Hanson Boyd, MBA '14