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HSE x Staiy

Challenge around sustainability in the business world by HSE University

In late winter 2021, students from HSE University in Moscow participate in a challenge around sustainability in the business world. Daria Müller Velasquez and Oxana Budjko, the two women behind this project, explain to Staiy EDIT how it all started and how important such initiatives are for Russian universities.

Words By José M. Sainz-Maza


HSE University

HSE x Staiy

Good ideas often come from collaboration between people with common interests. Daria Müller Velasquez, editor and project manager at Staiy, had worked for 5 years with Oxana Budjko during her time at HSE.

Oxana is now head of the International Office at this university, which is among the most important ones in the Russian Federation, and understands perfectly the students’ interest in testing their skills in real companies.

At the same time, many startups like Staiy are hungry for young talent, so the combination of both ingredients can only bring a positive outcome.

At the beginning of the interview, I can already perceive the affinity between both women and feel their excitement about the initiative that they have managed to launch in just a few weeks. “For me, as a Russian citizen and former HSE student, connecting such a dynamic and fast-growing university in my country with a young European startup like Staiy is a real pleasure,” Daria states. “Oxana and I kept in touch after I moved to Berlin, and when we started looking into partnerships with different universities at Staiy, it occurred to me that this could be an interesting new market for the company to explore, and a very attractive opportunity to offer to HSE students.” With her inextinguishable smile, Oxana agrees: “I was very excited about this possibility from the beginning. In Russia, going to university is expensive if your grades are not good, so there is a lot of stress and a lot of competition among the students. However, a challenge is a fun experience for them, an opportunity to compete in a motivating and stress-free environment,” she explains.

HSE x Staiy
HSE x Staiy

The project, made public at the end of February, consists of a team competition whose participants can be students enrolled in any degree program at HSE. They have to reflect on the question How can companies successfully implement recycling and other initiatives to promote a circular economy? and propose viable solutions to be applied within the fashion industry. The idea is for students to understand how sustainability plays a fundamental role in the business world today while they are given the chance to carry out research on sustainable practices and come up with innovative strategies. Following student presentations, on March 15, the three members of the winning team will be awarded an internship in their preferred department at Staiy, while second and third-place finishers will receive a discount card for the Staiy marketplace.

“In my opinion, another positive aspect of such activities to consider is that it allows students to have a realistic experience and gives them a more accurate vision of the working world,” Oxana shares. “In addition, it allows them to look closely at high value-added and innovation-related activities in economic areas where sustainability is playing an essential role nowadays.” Collaboration between universities and startups is one of the fundamental points of the event, which is carried together with partners such as the HSE Business Incubator and some foreign universities: the University of Luxembourg; the Italian universities of Milan, Turin, and Ferrara; the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France, and the universities of Bochum and Bayreuth in Germany. “I believe that Russian students, who have highly-developed hard skills, can use practice collaborating as a team, sharing ideas, and giving presentations to the public,” Oxana adds.

Sharing ideas

“Of course, the exchange of ideas between peers is something that universities must always try to promote, and I think this challenge fits perfectly with those values,” Daria insists. Oxana nods: “At this time, the pandemic has brought remarkable changes in consumer behavior, and I think that universities should use this turning point and assume leadership by taking advantage of the possibilities offered by communication tools and all the spare time students have.

Networking, teamwork, and participation in joint projects with companies and startup incubators can be a way of making the best out of the current situation. This is all about promoting positive values and generating synergies between Russia and the European cultural and business sphere,” she reflects.

HSE library

The library of HSE university in Moscow

The Best Is Yet To Come

Our conversation ends by discussing the role of universities in a changing world, the possibility of running new collaborative programs between HSE and Staiy, and the enthusiasm of the entire team for the results that the students will present in just a few days. When the meeting concludes, Oxana and Daria seem clear that this is only the beginning and great things are yet to come. “Do svidaniya,” we pronounce as the cameras go off.