The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School

A Penn Undergraduate Pursues Passions for ESG and Environmental Justice

As a Turner ESG Senior Fellow and Research Assistant at the ESG Initiative, Penn Senior Marielle Kang engages with experts, works across diverse research projects, and mentors the next generation.

What sparked your research interests and how did you find your way into your current project?

My first research involvement at Penn was through the Water Center, where I was an Undergraduate Fellow on Water, Equity, and Climate Resilience during my freshman year. This experience enabled me to see research not only as it translates to a more informed understanding of the world, but also as it gives us the tools to effectively build a more just society.

After this experience, I continued to seek out research opportunities that prompted me to apply what I learned in the classroom to the problems faced by local communities. That led me to working with Prof. Domenic Vitiello and Prof. Michael Nairn through the Penn Institute for Urban Research in the Spring of 2022.

Now, in my role as a research assistant with the ESG Initiative, I conduct data analysis on PhD candidate Ludovica Castiglia’s research on ESG funds in the United States. I also contribute to the diverse pool of research conducted across the Initiative.

How has your work with the ESG Initiative shaped your career goals?

Through the Turner ESG Fellows program, I have had the opportunity to learn from experts in the field and engage with forward-looking perspectives on business, considering both the innovative capabilities that lie within ESG engagement as well as the risks posed to the global economy. And as a senior fellow, I’ve served as a mentor to the new undergraduate fellow class.

In my career, I aspire to apply this knowledge in adaptive and climate resilient approaches to financial risk management. To this end, I will be working in a credit risk management role at J.P. Morgan after graduation in May. As I continue to move forward in my career, the ESG Initiative has encouraged me to be an agent for environmental justice within the business world.

What advice would you give to students interested in doing research in this space?

I would tell them to seek out the University’s academic communities and be an active member within them. Penn has a research center for most anything you might be interested in, and there are many opportunities to pursue your topic of interest through mentorship, funding, and discussion. Talk to your academic advisor about your interests and goals; don’t be afraid to discuss your thoughts with your professor during office hours! I’ve found that my understanding of my field of interest develops most when I ask questions and engage in conversations where my views might be challenged.

What’s a project you’re working on that you’re excited about?

I’m working on my senior thesis in Penn’s Earth and Environmental Science department, and it focuses on environmental justice in a community that matters deeply to me.

Entitled Analyzing Stakeholder Relationships in Cebu, Philippines during Typhoon Odette, this research analyzes business-led immediate relief efforts in Cebu City after the 2021 disaster. I ultimately seek to better understand private sector-led climate resiliency within the context of limited public resources and through the lens of my parents’ hometown.

I’m completing this research in collaboration with the Institute for Urban Research’s Undergraduate Urban Research Colloquium with my mentor, Prof. Simon Richter.

What has been your favorite class so far and why?

Last spring, I had the opportunity to take Prof. Simon Richter’s global seminar, URBS 1151: Comparative Cultures of Resilience and Sustainability in the Netherlands and the United States. Throughout the course, we traveled to the Netherlands and to Eastwick (Philadelphia) in a comparative study to address the Philadelphian community’s close proximity to a superfund site and high risk of flooding. For our final project, I presented a proposal to the community in its ambition to execute a managed retreat. I loved this class because it highlighted the cultural nuances within climate adaptation policy and provided the opportunity to apply our learning to an ongoing environmental conflict within the Philadelphia community.

Describe your Penn experience so far in six or less words!

Challenging, exciting, life-changing.

Marielle Kang, C’24

Marielle Kang posing for a professional headshot in a black turtleneck against a brick wall

School: College of Arts and Sciences

Studying: Major in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability and Environmental Management; Minors in Urban Studies and Economic Policy

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Activities: Research Assistant and Turner ESG Senior Fellow at the Wharton ESG Initiative; Undergraduate Urban Research Colloquium Participant at Penn Institute for Urban Research; Member of alpha Kappa Delta Phi Asian interest sorority

Professional Experience: Incoming CIB Risk Management Analyst at JP Morgan, Class of 2024; 2023 CIB Risk Management Summer Analyst at JP Morgan; 2022 Summer Underwriting Intern at Chubb