Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Alumnus applies HNC education to a career in blockchain and sustainability

Recent alumus Nick Manthey, MAIS ‘19, shares how he applies his Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) education to his work as Head of Business Development at Qianyuhui Investment (QYH) & Synergy Blockchain.

For Nick Manthey, MAIS ‘19, the work done in HNC classrooms has closely connected with the environmental work he does in China. As a MAIS student who studied Energy Resources and the Environment (ERE) primarily in Mandarin Chinese, his research focused on startups that worked in voluntary carbon trading utilizing emerging technology. “One of the companies I interviewed with, is the current company that I’m with now,” he said, “I did an interview with the CEO.”

Manthey had visited his current company, QYH Investment, with HNC Professor Roger Raufer in April of his last semester at the HNC because, “we were really interested in how you could use things like blockchain to improve carbon trading and power markets.” Searching for next steps after graduation, he landed a job at QYH Investment.

Looking back on his time at the HNC, Manthey sees aspects of his education applied to his current job. “Something that I didn’t expect to be so relevant to the work I do now was the Politics of Rural Development class with [HNC Co-Director] Adam Webb,” he said, “as part of the field research we did for that course, I focused on how water resources were being governed.” Although he did not realize it at the time, environmentally focused trips to rural areas would become a key component of his work, stating, “part of my job now is to go visit these rural areas to tour carbon offset projects and meet with local stakeholders.” 

Manthey also remembers reading the book The Retreat of the Elephants in his Environmental History class. The book relies on ancient texts and descriptions to investigate China’s environmental state more than a thousand years ago. “Maybe there aren’t records or environmental data, but you can tell from the poems and writings from 2,000 years ago, what the climate was like and what kind of animals and trees were there…there’s all this evidence that there were a lot more trees and animals, like elephants, in central China than other records would indicate,” he said.

Manthey recalls what he learned in that class as he travels around China. He is currently working on an afforestation project in Henan, a region that has hosted several ancient capitals and has been an essential part of Chinese history. “If you want to pinpoint where Han culture started, it’s in that area, more or less,” he said. In his work Manthey considers the long environmental history of Henan, which has gone through sizeable changes over the millennia. He reflects on his work’s role in restoring the natural environment of this storied region, “there’s this massive connection through time, thinking about how there were forests there during the Zhou and Han dynasties, and now almost 3,000 years after they were cut down, we’re doing reforestation projects there... Just this connection through history and time is pretty powerful,” he said, “when I go down to Henan, I’m thinking about what I learned in the Environmental History class.” 

Settled into his work, Manthey has found value in the things he learned and the connections he made at the Center. “My time at the HNC allowed me acquire skills and meet like-minded students and alums who helped me think about what to do next with my career,” he said. He points to the professors and classes he took and his internship experience as instrumental in providing him with guidance and skills needed for his career. The HNC gave Manthey a solid academic and China-focused grounding in the environment to pursue his career objectives. “Doing this work in China specifically,” he said, “I don’t think I could have gotten the jobs I got, working in the carbon markets now, without going to the HNC."

Written by Nick Kaufman, Certificate '21 + SAIS MAIR '22.