Marisa Kraft found a position closer to her values at Oregon Bottle Recycling Cooperative.

Pivoting to a Values-Driven Role

Students at the Oregon Executive MBA work at organizations all around the greater Portland region and beyond. Some of these companies are global giants: think Nike, Adidas, and Intel. Others operate on a national scale. Alongside these are businesses and non-profits grown right here in Oregon, with cultures that match the state’s values: local, small scale, community driven, crafty, organic, sustainable and equitable. When blended with core MBA knowledge, these principles make for a business education with a distinctively Oregonian flair.

2023 graduate Marisa Kraft is one great example of the program's many students and alumni working for companies that are very “Oregon”. Here's a look at how Kraft used the Portland-based MBA program to pivot to a key role at an organization that truly reflects her values.

Meet Marisa Kraft, MBA ’23, Director of Business Development at Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue additional education, but I was inspired to take action and apply for the executive MBA program when thinking about my father, his impact on me, and how much he valued education,” says Kraft.

Kraft says her father—who himself earned an advanced degree later in life—inspired her to get her own MBA. He passed away days before the pandemic outbreak. This difficult time in Kraft’s life motivated her to pursue impactful work that aligned more with her values.

She came into the executive MBA program with years of experience working at well-known Portland food companies, including Killer Burger and Salt & Straw. And while she enjoyed her time in the food industry, it wasn’t exactly her passion.

Kraft was an environmental studies major in undergrad, and she had always wanted to return to work that was more directly connected to her passion for resource conservation. And where better to pursue such a career than at the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC).

Oregon has long championed sustainability efforts in the U.S.—the state was even the first to adopt a bottle bill, way back in 1971. The bill laid the foundation for OBRC, which organized the beverage industry to work together as stewards of their packaging, revolutionizing Oregon’s recycling practices, dramatically improving environmental outcomes, and delivering convenient redemption options for consumers. Kraft now works as OBRC’s director of business development.

“In my role at OBRC, I get to help show other systems around the country, and even internationally, how we do it, and see if the know-how we’ve developed over the past 52 years in Oregon can help their systems thrive as well,” says Kraft.

For Kraft, a key takeaway from her executive MBA experience was the program’s emphasis on collaborative problem-solving. She says that sharing creative ideas and working toward shared outcomes within the University of Oregon classroom elevated her confidence and allowed her to see herself as an impactful leader.

Going forward, Kraft hopes to be able to grow Oregon’s one-of-a-kind Refillable Bottle program and help struggling systems elsewhere replicate Oregon’s success—by further developing and implementing OBRC’s container-processing technology.

This article appeared in a slightly different form in Willamette Week in February 2023.