My Rollins Gateway: Sustainable Success
October 08, 2021
By Adrienne Egolf
With degrees in marine biology and business, Colin Kelly ’19 ’21MBA is charting a course toward a tenable future in renewable energy.
The path from medical technology startup to sustainable aquaculture may not be obvious to some, but for Colin Kelly ’19 ’21MBA, it’s clear as a microscope slide. Along with two other classmates from Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business, Kelly is making a go of it with his business venture Xhalence, a medical device company that’s developing a breathalyzer to administer noninvasive glucose testing for Type 1 diabetes. The startup is the direct result of Crummer’s NASA-backed integrative capstone course through which students get exclusive access to NASA’s patent portfolio.
Kelly speaks about it with passion: “This product has the ability to make glucose measuring completely non-painful. So we’d potentially be taking pain away from kids with Type 1 diabetes. Any endeavor where you can take pain away from kids is a worthy investment of time from my perspective.” But as he sees it, Xhalence is just the beginning. Growing up on Long Island, Kelly always had a vision for his future.
“I want to have an oyster farm that I own and operate,” says the marine biology major, detailing the ways oyster farms contribute to healthy ecosystems, clean water, and sustainable food systems. “That’s always been my long-term goal.”
Enter Rollins’ 3/2 Accelerated Management Program, a combined dual-degree program with Crummer that allows students to earn a BA from the top regional university in the South and Florida’s No. 1 MBA in just five years. For Kelly, it was the perfect opportunity to combine two passions—aquaculture and business—and chart a direct course for his future.
As an undergrad studying marine biology, Kelly discovered a passion for making the human way of life harmonious with the natural world. He found his niche in mobilizing technology to clean and remediate waterways and water sources, which propelled his interest in sustainable business. At Crummer, Kelly became the president of Net Impact, a student organization devoted to social and environmental sustainability, where he honed skills in creative problem solving and collaboration that will be key as he strives for his long-term goal of leading the innovation of renewable energy generation.
Liberal Arts in Action
Kelly’s path to merging interests in biology and business started his second year during an internship through Rollins’ Gateway Fellows program at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, an educational system focused on maximizing the state of New York’s agricultural and natural resources. Kelly not only immersed himself in the hands-on work of growing oysters to help restore shellfish to the bays, but also educated members of the local community on how they could earn income while promoting environmental justice.
Kelly went on to secure an internship at Crummer with ecoSPEARS, a cleantech company founded by Sergie Albino ’10MBA, exposing him to startup culture and showing him yet another real-world example of the powerful connection between science and business.
As an undergrad, Kelly worked alongside biology professor Fiona Harper on research that deepened his scientific skills and laboratory techniques before later exploring his passion for sustainability at Crummer under the guidance of management science professor and Net Impact faculty sponsor Keith Whittingham ’01MBA.
“I was very invested in sustainability when I met Dr. Whittingham because that was immediately after the Cornell experience,” he remembers, explaining how Whittingham shepherded him toward opportunities that deepened his knowledge like traveling to a nationwide conference where discussions about circular economics and energy efficiency were coupled with personal stories about Whittingham’s coffee farm in Costa Rica. “He is a really powerful mentor.”
Whether it was an internship measuring the effectiveness of different aquaculture technologies, a leadership role with a student sustainability organization, or his current position as a technology analyst with ecoSPEARS, Kelly has plotted coordinates on his journey through Rollins that all lead toward his vision for a more sustainable world.
“As a marine biology major, I learned how to read, dissect, and make sense of scientific literature,” says Kelly. “That provided the science background that I needed. Then at Crummer, I learned how to start a business, make connections, and work as an effective leader. My diverse background at Rollins is what has given me the capacity to really pull all of my interests together."
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