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Focused on sustainable finance, Adelaide Morphett '13 returns to campus to talk about her work with the United Nations

Focused on sustainable finance, Adelaide Morphett '13 returns to campus to talk about her work with the United Nations
Focused on sustainable finance, Adelaide Morphett '13 returns to campus to talk about her work with the United Nations

As Adelaide Morphett ‘13 stood at the podium, she smiled. “I didn’t think I’d ever be so lucky as to receive my own ‘warm Harpeth Hall welcome.’” 

Ms. Morphett told students it wasn’t so long ago that she was the one in their seats, scanning through notecards as she anxiously awaited a post-assembly BC Calculus quiz. In fact, she said, with a nod to math teacher Polly Linden, it was in that class that she learned a lesson that has defined her career.

“I bombed the first BC Calculus quiz,” she admitted with a laugh, “And I learned that some of the problems set before you will seem insurmountable.” However, Ms. Morphett told students, this is exactly what her career has been all about: surmounting the insurmountable.

Ms. Morphett visited Harpeth Hall to tell students more about her career as part of January’s Winterim, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University where she majored in applied math and statistics and minored in French culture, she now works in sustainable finance, helping to free up space for banks to invest in infrastructure. In addition to this role, Ms. Morphett works with the United Nations and its Principles for Responsible Investment. She has traveled across the globe to help negotiate green finance deals.

As part of this work, Ms. Morphett informed students of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a set of ambitious aims to improve the world that include eradicating poverty, fighting inequality, and ensuring equal housing access. Executing these goals, Ms. Morphett reported, would cost over $2 trillion. This, she admitted, might seem like an insurmountable problem. However, there are institutions with this kind of capital: banks. Ms. Morphett shared how her company works with banks to free up money that can be invested into sustainable infrastructure.

Ms. Morphett’s passion for her work was palpable. During the Q&A, students asked how she became interested in her field and how she went about securing her job. Part of her process, she explained, was simple hard work. She strove to keep a high GPA, put in the hours, and dedicate herself to her studies. The other secret ingredient? Seeking out people to talk to about their careers.

“I cold called people,” she said, “Probably 100 people.” These calls led to valuable connections, which ultimately led her to her dream job.

Expanding on the theme of putting yourself out there, Ms. Morphett encouraged students to try out a variety of classes and extracurriculars while at Harpeth Hall. 

“The thing about this school is that everything here is excellent!” she said. “Try things on for size. Try out for a play.” She also emphasized that it took many different tries for her to find her own passion. 

In addition to speaking at upper school assembly, Ms. Morphett visited two Winterim classes this week — Making Bank led by  Harpeth Hall science teacher Hannah Bond and Finance with upper school math teacher Martha Elrod. Ms. Morphett emphasized the importance of “identifying your cheerleaders,” many of whom may be Harpeth Hall teachers, she said. Even if they do, occasionally, give you a failing grade on a BC Calculus quiz.