CHSS Distinguished Alumni - Russian and Eurasian Studies
CHSS Distinguished Alumni
BA Area Studies '86
Since graduating from George Mason University in 1986, Joseph C. Brandt embarked on a multi-faceted international journey inspired and nurtured by his time at the university. He readily acknowledges and embraces that he is likely over-educated. Upon graduating from George Mason, he became Mason’s first Fulbright Fellow, studying at Helsinki University in Finland in 1986 and 1987. He returned to the U.S. to continue his graduate studies at the University of Virginia (MA 1989) and the University of California, Berkeley where he specialized in what used to be known as the Soviet Union with a particular emphasis on centrally planned economies and particularly the electricity sector. When the Berlin wall came tumbling down in 1989, he saw an opportunity to develop a career in a part of the world for which he thought he would be an academic, realized he needed just a bit more coursework, and received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center (1997).
For the next seven years Brandt was engaged as an investor and then an executive in the global power sector where he eventually served as executive vice president and chief restructuring officer and later chief operating officer at The AES Corporation. At AES he was responsible for a large portfolio of international businesses including in countries such as Ukraine that he had begun studying and visiting during his time at Mason.
In 2005 he stepped out on his own, founding and serving as chief executive officer of a start-up global power generation company, ContourGlobal, growing in a little over a decade into a multi-billion dollar business present in 19 countries active in both the traditional and renewable energy sector including several marquee projects including: Peru’s first wind farm, a power project harvesting a unique source of naturally occurring methane gas in the waters of Lake Kivu in Rwanda, and highly efficient energy centers with carbon dioxide capture for Coca Cola in Europe & Nigeria. ContourGlobal has been a path breaking developer of power plants in Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing electricity to some of the continent’s poorest countries and Brandt was one of business leaders instrumental in President Obama’s Power Africa initiative and was with the president when the program was launched in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 2013. In 2017 ContourGlobal became a publicly listed company with an IPO on the London Stock Exchange.
The Brandt family is a double Mason household, with his wife Carol Brandt a 1987 graduate of the university. They have three children, Alexander, Patricia and Courtney. Alex and Patricia graduated from the University of Chicago and Courtney currently studies there. Alex received his PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and Patricia received her PhD in biology from Princeton University.