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Michael Patzer: Finance Graduate

Image is of Michael Patzer

When Michael Patzer was a student at USI, he explored many of his passions. Climbing was one of them. He often could be heard giving instructions to students getting ready to climb USI's climbing tower located in the Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness Center.

"Ready to climb," said the student. "On belay," answered Patzer.



Patzer called out instructions as the student clambered up the wall. Patzer often reflects that his love for climbing began in childhood. Quite simply, he liked to climb trees. He smiles fondly as he recalls a childhood spent exploring the woods surrounding his home. "As kids, we were given a lot of freedom to roam." He grew up with the understanding that you preserve nature, not degrade it. On the flip side, Patzer has always been up for an adventure—from playing the stock market as a middle school student to bungy jumping, jet boating, hiking, and rock climbing as an adult.

Patzer has never thought of himself as an environmentalist, just one who appreciates nature. It was an experimental class in environmental economics that helped the finance major and economics minor pin point his focus. "It was a very small class. We had a textbook, but so much we learned was from hands–on applications. We did an environmental impact study on the cost of mitigating polution with a focus on the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone", an area where the ecosystem, commercial fishing, and recreation have been destroyed because of pollution. The study included the cost of non-point source phosphorus pollution, mostly from agriculture, from the Mississippi River and its tributaries including the Ohio River." said Patzer. Later, the students were able to choose topics of their own interest, research it and then take turns leading the class. "I learn better this way. It is more free-form. But when you get right down to it, you are still doing calculus-based economics."

It is the appeal of the science of environmentalism that is leading Patzer to pursue a science and engineering based degree beyond just finance and economics. "So much of environmentalism is focused on individual behavior changes which are so minor they can seem to be ineffective. To make effective changes, you have to apply environmental cost-benefit analysis to policy-making and business decisions. Literally, you have to figure out the true costs of pollution on human health and the environment, and compare them to the benefits of a given course of action."

Patzer chose to research the cost savings to the University if it put campus computers into reduced power mode, or turned them off during idle times and at night. He later presented his findings to the faculty senate which supported his recommendations. He is currently serving as the alumni representative for the University's new Environmental Stewardship Committee.

The experimental class led Patzer to think about how to apply business to the science of the production and consumption of the dwindling resource—clean water. He decided the best way to utilize his love of economics and environment would be to combine them.

The class led Patzer to adding another degree to his name. He plans to attend the Colorado State University in Fort Collins to begin an ambitious endeavor to earn both a BS and MS degree in Environmental Engineering.

Story by Barbara Goodwin
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