Propelling environmental and career change with the Master of Sustainability Leadership

For many ASU Online students, the chance to make a difference in their communities is a powerful motivator for earning a degree. Whether their goal is to advance in their current field or propel into a new arena altogether, working professionals who enroll in one of our online degrees find the flexible and robust nature of the program helps set them up for success.

Pursuing a Master of Sustainability Leadership degree enabled ASU Online student Annalise Dum to transition from the field of architecture into the nonprofit sector, where she now works as the Chicago facilities and workplace wellness manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her role with the environmental action group includes overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Chicago office, in addition to consulting and advocating for the wellness component of sustainability within institutional construction projects and NRDC’s workforce.

“I focus on holistic sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and health and wellness in the workplace,” Annalise says.

“I am certain that I got here, in large part, because of the MSL program. Being able to talk about the four different threads of the program and my capstone project is what sold me in my interview."

Annalise graduated from undergrad with a bachelor’s degree in architectural design, but knew it wasn’t something she wanted to turn into a career. It was within design, however, that she first discovered the idea of sustainability in the built environment. She decided to pursue an online master’s in sustainability so that she could continue working full-time, and was referred to ASU Online by someone she met through the U.S. Green Building Council.

“I spoke with an academic advisor and then with a former student,” Annalise says. “The more I learned, the more I liked, and once I applied it was a no-brainer. I wish I had done it sooner. I have no regrets, and ASU has always felt like the right choice.”

 

In particular, Annalise feels the format of the program has been perfectly tailored to fit a working professional’s schedule.

“The balance of independence and interaction is great for me,” she says. “I can maintain my own schedule with work and watching lectures, but I also have due dates and requirements for interacting with others or jumping on a phone call with a professor.”

In addition to communicating with peers in the classroom and colleagues in offices across the country, Annalise documents her personal and professional efforts with sustainability on Instagram as @adumvegan

Jorge Salinas was in search of a reputable online school when he discovered and applied for the MSL program. After graduating from undergrad in 2013, Jorge entered the workforce and found he did not really enjoy what he was doing. He felt, as many people do, that going back to get his master’s degree in something more specialized and catered to his interests would give him an edge in finding an alternative career path.

“I had never taken an online course before this program, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Jorge says. “Even though I have flexibility, I have to be able to really focus. It is still adhering to deadlines, and takes just as much if not more effort to stay organized. I check Canvas every day and use calendars. It definitely requires looking forward.”

The program, he says, is really what students want to make of it.

“If you just want to get your degree, you can absolutely do that,” he says. “But it’s also a great opportunity to network and get different perspectives on things. It is a real learning experience, not just turning a quick paper in here or there. You can take a lot out of it if you put in the time.”

Jorge is currently working on his capstone project, a sustainability fair in his community to teach people about small ways they can make a big difference in their environmental impact.

“The idea came to me from one of our textbooks in an intro to sustainability class called ‘Sustainability is for Everyone,’” Jorge says. “I want to prove that regardless of social status, citizenship and legal status, or economic status, there are little things you can do that add up.”

One of the main activities of the fair will be a clothing swap. Attendees will be asked to bring a few articles of clothing to demonstrate that things still have value even when you’re no longer using them. Any leftover clothing will be donated to charity after the event.

With a background in project management, Jorge hopes to pursue similar roles in the sustainability field upon graduation.

“I think I now have the skills to apply for something that is more meaningful to me,” he says. “ASU Online has met all of my expectations. Now I want to take what I’ve done and what I know and apply it all to a new kind of project.”

Learn more about ASU Online’s Master of Sustainability Leadership degree program.

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