An Independent Study for the Climate

Sam Shugart presenting his independent study on "Climate RIsk"“I have always been interested in large-scale structural problems,” Foster MSBA student Sam Shugart shares. “Particularly how companies, nations and other groups respond to crises.”  

A Research Trip to Myanmar 

Sam’s early experiences as an undergraduate studying International Relations proved valuable as he became proficient in grant writing and found an interest in research projects.   

Soon after graduating, Sam became part of a 4-person team in Myanmar, where they conducted research to understand the country’s political status quo. During his time there, Sam worked with a small consulting firm, which was bought by a cellphone tower business. He put his learnings into post-conflict development and conflict dynamics working as a Project Manager there to deal with political risk management, government negotiations for the organization, and physical risks such as monsoon season. 

“The experience taught me a lot about how organizations deal with risk and how they prioritize the different types of risks,” Sam said. 

About two years into moving to Myanmar, Sam collaborated with a few colleagues to cofound an agrobusiness social enterprise. Their goal was to support farmers in north Myanmar to receive organic certifications and produce products to sell in major cities.   

Sam had to part ways with the startup because of the military coup in 2021 after which he moved back to the U.S. 

“What next?” 

Sam joined a local startup after returning to the U.S., a role he describes as “fascinating!”  

“My team grew threefold, but I was interested in transitioning to a role involving climate and risk,” Sam noted. “I was in this position where I had all these experiences that didn’t really fit together in a career arc, so that’s what led me to the UW.” 

Six years of professional experience in the bag, Sam began the Foster MSBA program with an intrigue in the conversation around climate risk and company responses to climate risk.   

Sam Shugart presenting his independent study on "Climate Risk"

His second quarter at Foster, Sam began an independent study to pursue a passion project, Climate Risk Research. Foster MSBA students have the opportunity to study or research under the supervision of individual faculty members as part of an optional independent study course.   

A structured, one-quarter independent study exploring climate risk soon expanded into a bigger idea as Sam came into discussions with Professor Charlie Donovan and some other climate-focused organizations at UW.  

Once Sam became involved in Professor Donovan’s initiative – the Climate Risk Lab – his passion project transitioned into a personal long-term project. He is working hard to support the development of the Climate Risk Lab, networking with individuals across campus in an effort to bring together those with similar curiosities. 

“The ability to project-manage and coordinate resources are skills of very high value but very hard to teach, it’s a learned behavior from practice,” Sam shared his biggest takeaway from the independent study.  

Are you Interested in Sam’s work with the Climate Risk Lab? Click here to learn more.

Written by Niv Joshi
Writer & Content Strategist
[email protected]