Director of Marketing and Admissions, Conway School of Design; Age 28
Adrian Dahlin traces his passion for the environment to a childhood trip to the Cascades with his father. But he said he got into what he called “social entrepreneurship” accidentally.
Specifically, while studying political science and environmental studies at Tufts University in 2011, he received a $29,000 Compton Mentor Fellowship to fund a project of his own design. One aspect of that project was building an online resource that would connect graduates with jobs in the environmental and sustainability sector.
“There weren’t many resources or good career advice for people like me who wanted opportunities to impact people and the planet,” said Dahlin, who attracted additional seed funding from investors the following year to turn the enterprise, called Rising Green, into a startup business, which he ran for two years.
Rising Green helped plenty of job seekers and employers alike, he said, and there’s still a need for it, but in 2013, he shifted gears and became director of marketing and admissions at Conway School of Design, drawn by the graduate school’s mission of training the next generation of landscape designers and urban planners, with an emphasis on sustainable design methods.
“I wear a lot of hats here,” he said. “It’s really motivating to be around students and see them working on projects with real clients in real communities. I see the passion they bring to their work, and I believe in Conway’s applied-education model, teaching a master’s program through real-world projects.”
Dahlin’s passion extends to his own community, Holyoke, where he’s spearheading an entrepreneurship-education program for the city’s SPARK initiative and has served on the Conservation Commission. Last fall, he ran for City Council against a ballot of much more well-known candidates, but garnered broad support across a wide spectrum of sectors, including the business community, civic groups, and racial- and economic-justice activists. Though the effort fell short, he hasn’t ruled out another run someday.
“I have what seems to be an inevitable interest in both politics and entrepreneurship,” Dahlin said. “Some people see those as conflicting things, as business and politics can get messy. But I can’t separate them; for me, they’re two ways of contributing to society, and I bring the same approach to both. It’s all about having a positive impact and bringing modern technology to bear on these things, and doing it all with integrity. I want to help make our community strong.”
— Joseph Bednar
Photography by Leah Martin Photography