Economics senior Michael Blakeslee is a busy student. As a Research Assistant at U-M's Center for Poverty Solutions, he worked on a project advising the Michigan Township Association on their business reopening strategy while making an online and pdf map of city homeless sanitization stations in Detroit to be distributed to shelters. As a brother in DTD, an international social fraternity committed to fostering leadership, academic achievement, and philanthropic service, he held executive positions focused on philanthropy, mental health, and alumni relations. Michael is also a member of the Ross Leaders Academy 2020 Cohort which he has called “a truly transformative leadership experience”; and is on the Executive Board of Impact Investing Group, a student run micro-finance organization which provides micro-loans to impact-oriented, minority-owned businesses in the Greater Detroit Area.

Additionally, Michael supports PhD research in lifecycles assessments (LCA), even helping a team of U-M scholars as they planned a multi-day LCA workshop in 2019 for the African Materials Research Society (AMRS2019) international conference held at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NMAIST) in Arusha, Tanzania; serves as VP of Corporate Development for the Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative (Detroit R&B), a U-M Ross student group, helping put on their annual Detroit Impact Conference; he pursues independent research at U-M's Global C02 Initiative, creating a carbon removal index to help track C02 removal and carbon neutrality pledges; is a member of the Michigan Economic Society; has been continuing his 2020 summer internship at the American Sustainable Business Council part-time through this school year; and studied abroad last summer at the London School of Economics where he connected with the lead London Climate Protest organizer and attended climate protests.

Through all of these experiences, Michael has come to see just how many people here at U-M are doing cutting edge work, and discovered a desire to be at the forefront of discovery with them. His mother an alum, Michael was already familiar with U-M’s unparalleled opportunities when he chose to come to Ann Arbor, and since arriving he has honed his ability to be a self-starter and take initiative, as exemplified by his many extracurricular activities.

Growing up in D.C., the potential impact of policy on people’s lives and the environment has always been salient to Michael. Being close with a neighbor who was a professor in the field, Michael came to appreciate early on just how influential economics could be—seeing how it could cut across disciplines and political noise to invoke positive social change; and recognizing the strong base it could provide for pursuing his goal of becoming an economics expert in poverty, sustainability, and clean energy policy. As he continues to learn about economic principles, Michael has come to find business as not just an essential driver of the economy, but one that can be a force for good; inspiring him to apply and be accepted into the Ross Business Minor in addition to his Economics concentration.

As a third-generation college student, Michael is surrounded on the Ann Arbor campus by people from similar backgrounds. And though he could take this for granted, take his opportunities as givens or entitlements, he doesn’t—rather, Michael is keenly aware of how fortunate he has been in life, and finds himself humbled and motivated by it. Conscious of the disparities in access to education and basic standards of living, both domestic and abroad, he finds it “hard to sit comfortably knowing people are in poverty,” letting it drive him to go the extra mile in his studies and numerous extracurricular activities to make sure everyone has the kind of opportunities he has been afforded.

Michael is also cognizant of the existential threat of the Climate Crisis and sees how as the situation worsens, poverty and inequity will only be further exacerbated across the globe. With this in mind, Michael’s work forecasting for the ecological damage of climate change has ignited a passion for exploring how clean energy and poverty can go hand in hand; specifically, how distributed energy resources can be deployed to underprivileged communities to provide them with cheaper and cleaner energy. He is interested in how the energy transition works through a Diversity & Inclusion lens, as well, and how new projects can be deployed in communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change. With immediate, real-world implications driving his intense work ethic, Michael is constantly aware just how much is on the line, and how vital it is not to waste a second as time to affect necessary change is not inexhaustible.

Additionally, seeing how COVID-19 has amplified the importance of sustainability and poverty alleviation has only fortified his dedication to these issues, and upon his graduation this spring, Michael will continue working on sustainability and poverty solutions either in sustainable consulting, or for a renewable energy company. He plans to work for a few years before returning to school for an MBA or graduate degree in economics.