Interdisciplinary Model

James Ajello

James Ajello ’76 MPA is the recently retired executive vice president and CFO of Hawaiian Electric Industries. He recently made a $250,000 gift to create a professorship and support interdisciplinary research in energy and environmental policy at the Maxwell School.

Q
How do you assess our battle against climate change?

A
It represents the most important possible planning and work we could be doing. It’s one of our very biggest global challenges.

Q
How, within the energy industry, do you attend to these questions?

A
We no longer talk about shareholder value in exclusion to other things. We talk now about stakeholder value. So environmental considerations, regulatory considerations, policy considerations, as well as shareholder considerations, environmental considerations — they all have to be brought together.

It’s a multidisciplinary approach. Ten to 20 years ago, there would have been great resistence to that viewpoint. But more and more it’s accepted. We’ve turned a corner in terms of how we spend money, how we look at the environment, how we look at our consumer interests, and we’ve made tremendous progress.

Q
Where do universities fit in among actors addressing these issues?

A
Universities help expand people’s minds, and help solve these problems in multidisciplinary ways. Multidisciplinary programs at universities provide a microcosm for the way that society and companies and policymakers solve climate change.

You can’t do it only with engineers. You can’t do it only with lawyers. You can’t do it only with policymakers. It’s a whole panoply of different skills. There’s no better place to promote that interdisciplinary approach than at a university.


This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.