Small Change, Big Results.
“I was on Lantau Island in Hong Kong,” she explains. “We went out to the beach and you couldn’t walk without wearing shoes because there was so much debris from the ocean. There were a lot of dead fish, as well, and it solidified why I wanted to study sustainability. You may not want to recycle that bottle, but if everyone has that same philosophy, it impacts our world.”
Sarah had traveled more than 7,500 miles to participate in ASU’s urban sustainability initiative abroad, part of the Global Sustainability Studies Program.
Through a combination of lectures from industry experts and field trips that included visits to major landfills, students who participated in the rigorous two-week program had the opportunity to witness firsthand the serious sustainability issues facing such a large city. With a population of more than 7 million people packed into an area of roughly 420 square miles, such issues can be severe.
“It’s amazing to think that 17,000 people live per square mile,” Sarah says. “Everything is vertical, and almost everyone lives in the sky. With the way our population is increasing, that’s the way we’re headed.”
Sarah’s group focused on biodiversity, specifically concentrating on the city’s coral crisis. While the waters around Hong Kong used to house a variety of coral species, many have succumbed to pollution and land reclamation. The ASU students examined current policies and found many inconsistencies. Within two weeks, they were tasked with presenting a potential solution.
“It was a challenge, fitting a semester of work into that timeframe,” Sarah says. “But I thought, if I don’t take this opportunity, I’m going to regret it, and as a result I made lifelong friends. Studying abroad takes away the blinders of not knowing who is affected by the things we do. Now in my daily life, I make better choices when it comes to sustainability.”
Back in the United States, Sarah made the decision to continue pursuing her passion for sustainability by enrolling in ASU Online’s Master of Sustainability Leadership program. A graduate from the University of New Mexico and resident of Albuquerque, Sarah was inspired to attend ASU by her family, as well as her current job for local startup SunPort.
“Our device is the first of its kind, allowing anyone to go solar from anywhere without panels,” she explains. “Working here makes you realize that everything we do is interconnected. I thought it would be great to partner what I’m doing with my work with what I’m doing at school. I’ve felt so welcome at ASU Online — I know that my opinion matters. My program is new, and I was excited to be one of the pilot students who can discuss what works and what doesn’t, to build it into something great.”
When it comes to a work-school-life balance, the key for Sarah is prioritization.
“I wasn’t used to these six-week courses at first,” she says. “They are over as fast as they begin, so it’s important to map out what’s expected of me in advance. At the very beginning, I take an hour or two to write out what needs to happen according to the syllabus. It allows me to be more in charge of what’s happening and get into a rhythm.”
Upon graduation, Sarah hopes to continue working with companies that emulate her values.
“It would be a dream to work for Disney, or a similar company that impacts a massive amount of people and has its hands in a lot of things,” she says. “They are the trendsetters.”
Learn more about ASU Online’s graduate program in Sustainability Leadership.