Adaptability is a key factor in Joanna Klitzke’s efforts toward positive change
A native of Oregon, Washington University in St. Louis senior Joanna Klitzke loves the outdoors and is committed to protecting the environment — not by engineering a more efficient car or drafting stricter legislation, but by building a better supply chain.
“Small decisions about packaging, transportation and factory operations can make a really big difference,” said Klitzke, who is majoring in operations and supply chain management in the Olin School. “Ultimately, I am an optimist about how business can affect the environment. Many people see corporations as the enemy of sustainability, but businesses that want to make a positive difference have the capital to accomplish big, meaningful change quickly.”
During her time at Washington University, Klitzke studied Spanish in Argentina, gender studies in Turkey and sustainable development and conservation in Madagascar where she helped residents make soap to use and sell. She says her experiences abroad have informed her business ethos.
“Listen and be flexible — you can come in with all of your ideas, but in the end, you need to trust the local knowledge and adapt your plans accordingly,” Klitzke said. “For instance, in Madagascar we planned to press oil from a local plant to put in our soap but quickly discovered that the oil press was only two small beams of wood. So we used oil they had in the local market instead. The experience taught me how to improvise and collaborate.”
Klitzke brought that same can-do attitude to Washington University’s first OWN IT, a female leadership summit. Founded by Ellen Kaushansky, a senior at the Olin School, and Claudia Vaughan, a senior in Arts & Sciences, the event hosted leaders in sports, science, entertainment, business and politics including Laura Meckler (AB ’90), Wall Street Journal national political correspondent; Michelle Larson, president of the Adler Planetarium; Nina Roth, senior director of marketing at ESPN and Sandra Stern, President at Lionsgate Television Group.
“I saw it as a way to bridge millennial students with the women who inspire them,” Klitzke said. “Yes, it is a summit for women, but more importantly, it is a summit designed to share with the WashU community many amazing people who, with grit and determination, have done great stuff with their lives.”
The event was a huge success and recently received the Excellence in Leadership Award for outstanding new campus event. Klitzke took care of the logistics from contracts to catering.
“My co-chair and I were the ones who made sure everyone was in the right spot at the right time and that everyone was happy about being in the right spot at the right time,” Klitzke said. “Basically the same reason I love supply chain is the same reason I loved working on OWN IT — I love working behind the scenes to get things from one point to another.”
by Diane Toroian Keaggy