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Associate Spotlight: Vee Zhu

April is Duke Earth Month. Celebrated this year on April 22, Earth Day is about coming together as one people to appreciate and protect our planet. More than 1 billion people in 192 countries will participate in activities to celebrate this special day.

April is also celebrated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month) at Duke and university campuses across the country (typically celebrated in May). It is an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the strength, tenacity, resilience, rich diversity, accomplishments and contributions of our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues to the Duke community, Duke Capital Partners (DCP) and beyond.

Headshot of a woman smiling at the camera with distinctive Duke archways behind her.

We would like to spotlight some of our incredible AAPI-identifying employees to celebrate. We recognize the important influence that the AAPI community has had on the history, culture, and achievements of the Duke community and around the world.

Vee Zhu, an Associate at Duke Capital Partners, is pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Management with a focus on Energy and Environmental Economics & Policy at Duke Nicholas School of Environment.

As she prepares to graduate this spring, Vee reflects on why she is passionate about sustainability and climate tech, her favorite aspects of working for Duke Capital Partners, and her hopes for AAPI representation in environmental action and elsewhere.

What led to your initial involvement with DCP?

I have a passion for nature and I have been finding ways to contribute meaningfully toward climate issues. Upon enrolling at Duke, through a diverse range of courses spanning energy and climate technologies, I realized the critical need for groundbreaking technologies that can have immediate and long-term impacts on climate issues. My interest in supporting climate-focused startups and scaling-up climate solutions led me to explore venture capital (VC). I was inspired to join DCP to get familiar with VC and Duke entrepreneurs. 

How has your education and expertise in environmental science played into your involvement at DCP?

Building on a double major in Environmental Studies and Economics from Brandeis University, I have actively worked with climate tech accelerators, sustainability consulting, and Environmental, Social, and Governance(ESG) investing. These experiences have equipped me with insights into evaluating energy projects, understanding clients’ needs and market trends, and identifying standout companies. My time at Duke has further helped me understand the climate technology and the policies driving market development. This knowledge equips me to support the DCP climate tech screening and adding an ESG perspective to the due diligence processes.

What are you short-term and long-terms goals upon graduation?

Time flies so quickly. Time at DCP helped me find a clearer vision of my career aspirations. In the immediate future, my focus is on training my skills in the climate and energy transition sector, particularly within finance or strategy roles. Looking ahead, my long-term ambition is to venture into the VC space as an investor specializing in climate tech. I aspire to support and scale-up impactful climate technologies that can thwart climate change.

What are your thoughts on AAPI representation and contributions in your field, and your expectations for the future?

I deeply value DCP’s focus on and acknowledgment of the AAPI community. In the environmental field, AAPI representation is crucial. Our planet Earth is our shared home. AAPI professionals play a pivotal role in shaping research and policies that aid U.S.-European stakeholders in understanding local perspectives on critical issues like climate change, biodiversity conservation, and environmental justice. These voices offer a global perspective essential for addressing climate challenges.

Despite their contributions, AAPI individuals often encounter visibility and recognition challenges. By fostering greater recognition and support for the AAPI community, we can enhance their representation in leadership roles to leverage their unique perspectives.

Any final thoughts or advice for Duke students and community members who want to be involved in conservation efforts?

I am truly impressed by the interest from the Duke community towards environmental protection and ESG. The university’s strong commitment to Climate Action underscores its proactive stance on pressing global issues. I believe it’s crucial for aspiring students to identify where they can make meaningful contributions – be it in conservation strategies, investment avenues, or technological advancements. Duke University offers a wealth of resources for students looking to explore environmental science, through engaging projects, specialized courses, and valuable internship opportunities which can provide invaluable insights and hands-on experience in this rapidly changing landscape.