Christina Calvin

Lithium Powered Startup

This past December, Lundquist College of Business alumna Christina Calvin founded her own heavy element recycling startup after completing her MBA with a specialization in sustainable business practices in fall term.

With a background in geology, mining, and the oil and gas industry, Calvin's success underlines the fact an MBA with a focus in sustainable business is increasingly relevant to students and professionals from diverse backgrounds and areas of interest—especially the sciences. The Center for Sustainable Business Practices coordinates this MBA specialization at the University of Oregon.

Prior to attending the Lundquist College, Calvin knew she wanted to earn an MBA in sustainable business, but she didn't want a school that would put her on a single track toward becoming a consultant—something she found common at other universities. 

“I didn't want a cookie cutter approach to my career," Calvin said. “At Oregon, they'll help you find your spot as opposed to squishing you into a spot that already exists. That was very appealing to a student like me."

Considering her time at the Lundquist College, Calvin attributes her success in part to the ready availability of Mohr Career Services.

“You can meet with the career services staff every day if you want to. That was really exciting for me," Calvin said.

Calvin also mentioned courses like Lean Launchpad, taught by instructor and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship program manager Kate Harmon. She appreciated Lean Launchpad's mix of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as members of the community.

“That mix was exciting and wonderful," she said. “I loved the feedback I got. I highly recommend the mix, not just for students but for the community."

Calvin's new enterprise, launched along with her business partner Mahfuzur Rahman, seeks to recycle heavy elements and lithium found in batteries and electronics. Set to earn his MBA in spring 2020 with a specialization in sustainable business practices, Rahman has a background in chemical engineering.

“There are no recyclers for a lot of these materials in the U.S.," Calvin said. “The most logical thing to do is recycle them instead of throwing them in the landfill. At the rate we are consuming materials, renewable energy is never going to get off the ground if we don't start recycling."

With China controlling most of the lithium in the world, as well as other elements common in modern technology, Calvin sees this as not just a sustainability issue, but a national security issue as well. She can't speak to additional details about how exactly her company intends to solve this issue until patent processes are completed.

“Christina Calvin is emblematic of the high caliber of students coming through the MBA program in recent years whose strong academic backgrounds and exceptional industry experience allows them to develop impactful companies," Harmon said of her experience with Calvin. “We can't wait to see where she goes from here."

In her time at Oregon, Calvin was also able to network with several mentors via the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship mentor network, without whom she said she wouldn't be where she is today. One mentor, Robert Scherle, was able to connect her to Chinese recyclers; another, Tim Cling, was able to connect her CEOs of several national companies.

Calvin was shocked by the scope and reach of people with whom she was able to connect in Eugene, and now that she's graduated, Eugene is where she hopes to stay for now.

“If you're in a supportive community and people are helping you out—why change?" she said.

—William Kennedy