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Global interests land alumnus job in sustainability engagement

by Jennifer Johnson,

Michael Chen

After three years of teaching in Thailand, an MBA in San Francisco and one fateful train ride, Michael Chen BA’18 has embarked on the next chapter of his whirlwind life as a sustainability engagement associate at Meta. 

A member of the company’s global sustainability team, Chen facilitates internal sustainability events and highlights the work of employees across several projects he promotes, the largest of which is organizing all guest speakers, events and product and partnership launches the week of Earth Day. 

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “I’m learning so much.” 

Embodying Willamette’s ethos — continued growth, acceptance, stepping outside of your comfort zone — led him to the job, and he continues to live those values every day. 

“The most important things I learned didn’t necessarily happen in class,” he said. “It was remembering the dynamic in the classroom, the people I surrounded myself by and the activities I participated in — those were the experiences I brought forward.”

Michael ChenA math major with endless interests, Chen’s enthusiasm for involvement found many outlets. From leading Jazzercise at Wulapalooza to guiding admissions tours and joining Associated Students of Willamette University, he had a lot of fun learning how to become a leader — and even impersonating one, as he did his senior year when he dressed up as President Steve Thorsett for Halloween. 

“I lived my best life those four years,” he said. “Part of me will always be there.” 

The professors he met at Willamette were passionate and welcoming, inspiring him to recreate the same atmosphere for his English students in a rural Thailand community. But as he taught and embedded environmental sustainability into his lessons, he realized he had an obligation to dedicate his career to fighting against climate change for his community there.  

Returning home to San Francisco, he knew he wanted to build community and engage in sustainability while also diversifying his career path. Hult International School of Business provided an avenue to explore these interests within the corporate space. He met people from all over the world, spent a semester in Boston and became connected to a network of alumni as he considered next steps. 

After 65 LinkedIn coffee chats, he ran into a Meta employee on a train ride from the airport. Their conversation kicked off a series of events any job seeker would dream of: Chen connected with a sustainability employee at Meta, a role suddenly opened at the company and a Hult alumna happened to be the hiring manager. 

About a week before Chen graduated, he got the job — then watched his hiring manager give the commencement speech at Hult. The stars truly aligned, he said. 

Ever focused on community and positivity, Chen said the role fits his personality as much as his future aspirations to elevate smaller organizations through larger platforms. And he’s still a magnet for Willamette: he recently created an alumni messaging group, Bearcats at Meta, that’s 20 members strong. 

“I’ve taken my leadership and ‘Non nobis solum nati sumus’ to heart,” he laughed. 

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