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Nearly 1,000 people gathered at the UNC-CH Friday Center Thursday morning to kick off UNC-CH’s sixth annual Clean Tech Summit.

The summit was co-hosted by UNC-CH’s Institute for the Environment and Center for Sustainable Enterprise. It hosted students, government officials, and industry professionals for two days of workshops, panels, networking, and keynote talks.

Greg Gangi, UNC-CH’s associate director for clean technology and innovation, is the main coordinator of the summit. He started it in 2013 as a way to drive innovation and conversation around renewable energy and sustainable technologies. He requires that his students attend the summit, telling them, “This event is the single best way you can connect with jobs and internships for the future.”

Gangi added a career fair and mentorship program to this year’s summit as a way to enhance networking opportunities for students. The mentorship program matched students with professionals in the sustainability industry to help them build professional relationships, and the career fair allowed students to network with companies that were looking for interns and employees.

Janina Mills, a junior environmental studies student at UNC-CH, attended the summit for the first time this year. She said: “The summit allowed me to attend diverse panels and get a better sense of what I’m passionate about, all without having to spend time in a formal classroom. I really enjoyed being around people who had similar interests to me and being able to hold a stimulating conversation with them.”

Mills attended the summit because she’s a student of the environment, ecology, and energy program (E3P) at UNC-CH, but she believed it was a valuable experience for students of all majors. She said: “No matter what major you are pursuing, there will always be an opportunity to include the environment in the discussion. The summit was just one way of seeing that discussion in action.”

Some of the central themes at this years summit were sustainable agriculture, energy grid modernization, and innovations in energy. The panels, workshops, and keynotes were centered around these themes and sparked conversation about solutions to diverse environmental issues.