Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
After graduating with my MS from the University of Dayton, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in sustainability in higher education. Because of this, I sought programs that complemented my graduate degree in ecology. I found SPEA’s Urban Sustainability program tied in nicely to my previous training while also providing me with new skillsets outside of science, specifically in policy and economics. I was also lucky enough to receive a scholarship to pay for my IUPUI graduate education.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I’m most proud of the collaborative projects I’ve been able to work on both in my capacity as a SPEA graduate student and the Director of Sustainability at IUPUI. I’m currently working with a SPEA graduate capstone class to complete a greenhouse gas assessment of the university. Utilizing the university as a “living laboratory” allows students to hone their skills and network with university personnel, all while bettering the campus infrastructure. It is my hope that this level of assessment will be utilized to create greenhouse gas reduction goals for IUPUI in the future.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis has all the benefits of a big city while maintaining the character of a small-town community. I really enjoy the people and opportunity to get involved. Folks are incredibly friendly and willing to collaborate, which makes the work that much more enjoyable. I also appreciate how personally invested people are in bettering their city; there’s a tangible sense of ownership.
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
Coming to IUPUI was a complete leap of faith. I turned down full-time employment in the sustainability field in California to come back home to Indiana for my SPEA training. As luck would have it, that leap of faith paid off. Shortly after enrolling with SPEA, I was hired as Assistant Director of the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) at IUPUI. I stayed in that position for nearly a year before I landed my dream job – Director of Sustainability at IUPUI. If it hadn’t been for SPEA, there is a 0% chance I would be where I am now, and I’ve worked diligently to collaborate heavily with SPEA in my capacity as director. In addition to the greenhouse gas assessment, we have two graduate students doing research on food waste policy for the campus and city, worked with environmentally-centric non-profits to create an innovative internship model for SPEA students, hosted two big Earth Month events in collaboration with SPEA, and are looking to create a fellowship program for students with interest in sustainability.
I’m also proud of our partnership with the Indiana Sports Corporation to make athletic events in Indianapolis more sustainable. This summer, IUPUI will be hosting the first zero waste Olympic event in the world. This effort has included stakeholders from across campus and the city, including a Herron School of Art + Design visual communications class; these students are designing all of the print and digital media to communicate zero waste to fans and athletes.
I’m incredibly grateful I chose IUPUI’s SPEA program over California. The program has paved the way for my professional career and taught me the importance of dedicating my skills to entities that need it most.