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Gavin Smith: Combining a Passion for Environmental Sustainability with Business Acumen

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“I would encourage everyone to take risks in your academic journey. You never know what you'll end up finding....”

June 5, 2024

Try everything, take risks, push the boundaries, work hard. These are the key callouts from Gavin Smith, a Class of 2024 graduate who is poised to begin a career that combines his personal passion and academic excellence.

Smith earns his degree in finance with a minor in marine conservation and management. In addition, Smith will take the CFA Level 1 exam in August, to further prepare for his chosen career path.

Come September, Smith begins work as a financial analyst at Triple Oak Power, a renewable energy company with a focus on wind energy development, in Portland. The job is just the right balance of his interests in business and sustainability.

“This opportunity perfectly aligns with my interests in pursuing a career in corporate finance and my passion for environmental sustainability,” Smith said. “Landing this opportunity took many late nights understanding the industry and putting together financial models to showcase my quantitative skills to the company executives.”  

These industry specific models were impressive enough for the Triple Oak executive team, but Smith has additional credentials to flash.

As president of the Investment Group at Oregon State (OSIG), an opportunity he describes as integral to his personal and professional development, Smith directly oversaw $4.3 million in assets under management dispersed across three different investment portfolios.

“My most proud moment was managing the DA Davidson Competition portfolio for the Investment Group. We held the first-place ranking among 20 other universities,” he said. “We massively outperformed the composite index under my leadership tenure. Ultimately, at the end of the competition we were able to return $9,580 to support the group.”

By ‘massively outperformed’ Smith means that the portfolio competition utilized S&P 500 composite, and by the end of his time as portfolio manager, they returned 19.6% in comparison to the S&P 500 return of 1.3%.

Additionally, Smith worked as an academic researcher for the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station and Hatfield Marine Science Center. His project studied the Pacific oyster and the impact of ocean acidification on their breeding success. Ultimately they determined that larvae with stressed parents (who had experienced ocean acidification in their lifecycle) take more time to go through metamorphosis, particularly when then raised in acidification conditions.

“This was possibly the most challenging experience I had,” Smith said. “I placed myself in an academic field that was new and unfamiliar. However, the work I put in helped me become a more well-rounded individual and allowed me to take a more multidisciplinary approach to academia.”

Smith’s time at OSU brings him leadership experience, respect for creative ideas and valuable real-world experience in business and science – and his ideal first job. 

“I would encourage everyone to take risks in your academic journey and spend time exploring a variety of academic fields,” he said. “You never know what you’ll end up finding an interest in.”

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