Reflections on the 2019 SIILK Fellowship Program

By: Alicia Sidik

A year ago, I recalled sitting in a roomful of the nation's higher education leaders and decision-makers the same way I remembered my first day of college: anxious, curious, and slightly out of place. It was the 2019 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, which I had the opportunity to attend as a fellow with IEN. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I came into the fellowship with the goal of picking up a few new skills and gaining exposure to the world of endowment investing. Instead, I came away with a nuanced understanding of the endowment model of investing and the challenges institutions face when engaging in sustainable or responsible investing.

In the time since then, I got to work on several exciting projects, from analyzing membership data to researching trends in sustainable investing across college endowments in the United States. I also helped plan the ESG and Community Impact Investing Roundtable at the Haas Business School at UC Berkeley. I sent out emails, designed marketing materials, compiling attendee lists, and many more. In the process, I witnessed first hand all the hard work that goes into running events - from catering and scheduling to dealing with all the last minute mishaps - in order to plan a successful event.

In tandem, I worked on a project focused on developing a community investing toolkit that highlights shareholder advocacy and place-based impact investments at UC Berkeley. To produce this report, I talked to residents, local government officials, community organizers, and other stakeholders working towards greater equity in the East Bay. I assessed the viability of different strategies by examining existing case studies and offered recommendations for future strategic directions. At the same time, I received wonderful mentorship from IEN staff and Tracy Gray of the 22 Fund, whose expertise and experience in gender lens investing provided guidance to the project and my professional goals. Coming from an environmental science background at UC Berkeley, I didn't have the necessary finance or accounting background that a business student has. While it has been a learning curve to bring myself up to speed, the IEN team is invested in continued education and ensuring I understood the terms and concepts.

Throughout this fellowship, I've grown in small ways—learning to navigate Boston's subway system for the first time and big ways—gaining a new perspective of how diverse asset owners' sustainability concerns play into their investment decisions. The skills and experience I've learned from this fellowship have reinforced my interest in ESG investing and desire to continue working in this field.

To learn more about IEN's SIILK Network Fellowship, visit this page.


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