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Monday, October 18, 2021

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Grant Mack (left) with fellow A.S. council members during the 2009-10 academic year Grant Mack (left) with fellow A.S. council members during the 2009-10 academic year
 


Alumnus Finds His Calling While at SDSU

Grant Mack, now the director of the Office of Governmental Affairs at the California Public Utilities Commission, became interested in environmental issues while in A.S.
By Olivia Li
 

“I became attracted to environmental issues because they cut across all disciplines. They impact people’s quality of life; they impact our ability to thrive and survive on this planet.”

As soon as he set foot on campus at San Diego State University, Grant Mack knew he wanted to get involved with student government. As a political science major, he was interested in politics and solving problems. He just wasn’t sure what area he wanted to focus on.

In time, that focus became environmental issues and Mack’s contributions came as the elected head of Associated Students. He was so passionate about the environment that he became known among his peers as the “sustainability president” during his 2010-11 term.

Now, Mack serves as the director of the Office of Governmental Affairs at the California Public Utilities Commission, having been appointed in April 2021 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“I became attracted to environmental issues because they cut across all disciplines,” Mack said. “They impact people’s quality of life; they impact our ability to thrive and survive on this planet. Once I started to learn more about climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and resource degradation, I was like ‘Oh, my God. This is one of the most significant issues we’re going to be facing this century.’”

Mack immediately started making a positive change on SDSU’s campus when he joined A.S. in the first semester of his freshman year. He got involved in numerous A.S. boards, committees and commissions and continued to build upon his work each and every year. 

During his junior year, Mack was appointed A.S. Sustainability/Green Love Commissioner and established sustainability initiatives and services designed to promote broad awareness and educate others on the importance of a more sustainable future. Mack’s leadership experience culminated in being elected A.S. president for 2010-11.

Mack’s contributions to sustainability can still be seen today, as he played a pivotal role in helping the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union become LEED Double Platinum certified, creating bike lanes throughout campus and establishing the weekly SDSU Farmers Market.

Now as the current director of the Office of Governmental Affairs at the California Public Utilities Commission, Mack serves as the point of contact and liaison between the commission and the legislature. His agency is tasked with regulating all private electric gas, water, transportation and telecommunication companies in California to ensure they provide safe, accessible, clean, affordable and reliable service.

“I’m involved in helping shape and influence legislation to make sure that whatever policy is contained in legislation or bills is actually aimed at solving the identified problem,” Mack said. “We want to make sure that it’s workable, that we have the resources to implement that policy and that at the end of the day, it’s going to deliver the outcome.”

One issue Mack is currently involved with is ensuring that the lights stay on for California citizens this summer. Because of the increase in extremely hot temperatures, an imbalance of electric power supply and demand can arise as Californians turn on their air conditioning. This can result in cascading blackouts, unplanned outages for long periods of time. But Mack is working with stakeholders to build and have enough energy resources to ensure blackouts don’t happen.

Mack is also heavily involved in helping to prevent wildfires from being ignited by electric utility equipment and working with the telecommunication industry to ensure that cell phone towers continue to work if power outages do occur.

As he reflects back on his time as an A.S. leader, Mack attributes his time at SDSU as the foundation to where he is now today. The skills and life lessons that he learned while serving SDSU students have continued to be applicable when serving the larger demographic of all California citizens.

“Everything I learned in Associated Students is directly applicable to the job that I do now,” Mack said. “Working in student government taught me how to identify certain problems that affected students, how to work with other students on what are the right solutions and then implementing those solutions. Negotiating with others, building coalitions, collaborating with others, basic interpersonal skills, expanding my emotional intelligence to understand where people are coming from and their perspectives to find compromise – those are all directly applicable to what I do today.”

As Mack reflects back on his time in A.S., he is grateful for his experience and how it paved the way for his career in advocacy. In addition, he is proud that his sustainability initiatives continue to make an impact on SDSU’s campus.

“The students during my time wanted to leave the campus in a better place than when we got here,” Mack said. “And I’d like to think that we did that as much as possible.”