Lessons from the Palo Verde Tree

This spring we start a new tradition. Attached to the gowns and hoods of our graduates are small branches of palo verde. One of the most common trees in the Sonoran Desert, the palo verde is also the state tree of Arizona. What astonishes most visitors when they see palo verde trees is the green bark and branches. We locals know that this allows the trees, which often shed their small leaves during hot and dry periods, to continue photosynthesizing – to convert the sun’s rays into useful chemical energy. If there is sufficient rainfall, in the late spring, they produce bright yellow flowers that nourish pollinators and produce seed pods, a source of food for birds, rodents, and, particularly in the past, for people.

These beautiful trees have adapted to the difficult conditions of the desert. Mature specimens can live for hundreds of years. They are a reminder that even in harsh environmental conditions–with little and unpredictable rainfall, seething heat and freezing temperatures–life can adapt and thrive and bring beauty and sustenance.

As you graduate and go out into the world, at some point you will likely encounter your own difficult environments. You may have co-workers who doubt your novel ideas. You may work for bosses who are perfectly satisfied with the status quo and won’t budge. Banks and investors may be skeptical of your innovative business plans. Decision makers may dismiss your forward thinking interventions. Community members may not initially welcome you.

But when these challenges arise, think of the palo verde. Your good ideas, your energy and passion for creating a better, sustainable future need to see the light of day. Don’t let difficult environments discourage you. Use the problem-solving skills and the positive, solutions perspectives you learned in the School to overcome the doubters, the naysayers, and the short-sighted. I am confident in your resilience, knowing you have the skills and drive to grow and thrive in the face of difficult and entrenched challenges.

Most importantly, remember that you are not in this alone. You are joining more than a thousand SOS alumni who are ready and willing to support you–to help you launch your careers, listen to your challenges, find solutions, and realize your dreams–just as other alumni did for them. And remember that you are a part of the School of Sustainability family forever. You will always have a place here in this beautiful desert we call home.  

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

Honor Sustainability

Tonight I will be attending–at the kind invitation of our students–the Honor Society for Sustainability banquet. This is a great chance to celebrate accomplishments, including graduation, as well as induct new members into the society. Similar to many other sustainability efforts, ASU was the first to create a national honor society specifically for sustainability.

I am pleased The Honor Society for Sustainability is open to students at ASU in other sustainability programs besides our majors.  In my book, sustainability is something to be shared, not hoarded. In the next year, my hope is that chapters will open at other universities around the country. To really make a difference in addressing sustainability challenges requires concerted collaboration and network building.

I like the words “honor” and “sustainability” sharing the same space. Honor, as we know, can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it is often used to describe something or someone held in high esteem. Sustainability deserves our highest esteem for the magnitude of challenges it takes on alongside the sense that we can create a better future. As a verb, honor can denote an action of holding something or someone in high esteem, like a great piece of art or a loved relative. To honor can also mean to fulfill an obligation or keep a promise.

For the students graduating from ASU this year and to the new inductees, I would like them to think of the Honor Society for Sustainability in both meanings of the word honor. We have events like banquets to hold you in high esteem as excellent students. But you should also think of honoring the society and honoring the promises and obligations you must keep to ensure that its mission, and the mission of sustainability, remain with you no matter where you go.

 

 

School of Sustainability Fall 2016 Convocation Address

SOS ConvocationThis has been a year of surprises. Around the world, many were shocked by the “Brexit” vote, committing the United Kingdom to leave the European Union after more than 40 years. The results of the US federal election caught many off guard. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. And Bob Dylan received (well, was awarded) the Nobel Prize in literature.

Change can be unsettling, but it also brings opportunity. Your degrees in sustainability I firmly believe are more important than ever. While the winds of change can shift direction quickly, the commitment to sustainability in many private, public, non-profit and religious organizations remains firm. We have reached a kind of sustainability “lock-in” that would be very difficult, although not impossible, to dismantle.

Of course, this kind of experience in persuading others about the importance of sustainability – from practical and ethical standpoints – is something all of you have lived over the course of your career in SOS. As you launch into the next stage of your life, you will not always be surrounded by like-minded people. Indeed, you were not at ASU and even in the School of Sustainability. Negotiating different sets of worldviews and priorities to achieve common goals is something you are all very well prepared to do, and I am confident you will.

This century belongs to you. And to your children and grandchildren. You will be the leaders at a critical time in human history. I know you will be smart, motivated, and ethical with the decisions you make—individually and with others—to design and build the future we want and need.

In January of 1964, a very young Bob Dylan (about the age of most of the undergraduates here today), released the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Any one of the verses from that song are as relevant now as they were 50 years ago. Here is the first verse (feel free to hum along):

Come gather ‘round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Congratulations to the class of 2016!

Giving Thanks

On behalf of the leadership at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

This year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the nation’s first-ever School of Sustainability, a success that could not have been achieved without you – our staff, faculty, students and alumni. Your commitment to a sustainable future has enabled us to build and strengthen the world’s leading program in sustainability education, research, and practice.

I’m grateful you are part of our community – and our family – as we continue to innovate and implement new ideas to address the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges. I look forward to the next 10 years and all that we will achieve. Have a wonderful holiday season.

signature_chris

Two Great Degrees in Five Years

09_2012_fall_undergrad_commencement_1363wI am very pleased to tell you that last week, the School of Sustainability officially launched an accelerated (4+1) degree program. Current and future students who meet the requirements can enroll and receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree (MSUS) in 5 rather than the typical 6 years. We built this program in response to my breakfasts and lunches with current students. When I asked how many would want to enroll in a 4+1 program nearly every hand went up.

This interest doesn’t surprise me for a couple of reasons. First, our students are smart, motivated, and passionate about what they do. We have the highest retention rates on campus, which speaks to the quality of the degree programs we offer and the dedication of our students. The chance to stay on in the School of Sustainability and specialize even more by enrolling in a master’s degree in sustainability should therefore not come as a surprise.

Another reason is that many of our students are already doing graduate quality work by the time they get to their junior and senior year.  In the accelerated program, students can take some courses toward their master’s degree while they are finishing up their bachelor’s degree. An added bonus is that because we work with and know the potential of our own students, we do not require them to take the GRE when they apply for admission. Below are the basic eligibility requirements for the 4+1 program. If you are interested in learning more, have a look at the full description on our web page: https://schoolofsustainability.asu.edu/4-plus-1-accelerated-masters-program/

To be eligible for admission to a 4+1 program, a student must:

  • Have a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credit hours of undergraduate coursework.
  • Have accumulated at least 75 credit hours toward the undergraduate degree at the time of application; 90 credit hours are required to begin the program.
  • Have completed at least six credit hours of upper division coursework in the major.
  • Be on track to graduate with the undergraduate degree two semesters after being accepted into the program (one calendar year later than the acceptance date).

Looking back on my own years as an undergraduate student, I wish this kind of opportunity had been available to me. I encourage all of you to take a close look, and feel free to talk to any of our advisors. I look forward to welcoming many of you into this new and exciting 4+1 program!

ASU is all-in for sustainablity

This fall, another 150 students joined the School of Sustainability as majors and graduate students. In total, 2,000 students are enrolled in sustainability programs at ASU this fall. The School of Sustainability is committed to offering education to students in sustainability no matter what their major. This can range from a single course, such as the ever-popular Introduction to Sustainability, to concentrations, certificates, a minor, and double majors. We have also developed a very robust executive education and training program, one that links the expertise of our world class faculty to growing needs for sustainability training in the private, public, and non-profits sectors.

The reason we can reach all these audiences is because ASU is an “all-in” university when it comes to sustainability. And because ASU is a large, research-intensive organization, we can draw on the talent pool of 415 Sustainability Scientists and Scholars to tackle almost any sustainability question.

Our students benefit hugely from the sustainability expertise that has been fostered at ASU over the last dozen years. Over the next decade we will continue to engage globally by bringing students to ASU from around the world, in person and virtually through our excellent online programs. Last year we launched ASU’s first joint degree program with a foreign institution. With the MS in Global Sustainability Science students earn a degree from ASU and from Leuphana University of Luneburg, Germany. ASU and Leuphana students spend a semester abroad at each other’s university and work together on sustainability projects.

We have also created a global consortium of universities and research institutes focused on sustainability outcomes. The purpose is to work together to scale solutions to have a global impact.

All of these efforts are centered on our most important mission–educating students to develop practical solutions to the most pressing sustainability challenges. As we welcome another fabulous group of students to ASU, I share their excitement about the years ahead, what we will learn together, and how we will build a better future.

Photo from Camp SOS, Prescott AZ, Aug 2016
New School of Sustainability students at orientation camp in the cool pines of Prescott, AZ.

Anytime, anywhere education to tackle sustainability deficit

IMG_1862I have written elsewhere about the sustainability deficit, and what we and our graduates are doing to fill it. Data from our alumni surveys show that the demand for sustainability graduates is strong and growing. At ASU, the university is committed to offering sustainability education in as many formats as possible, from majors and graduate programs, to minors, concentrations, and certificates. At the end of last academic year, more than 1,700 students were enrolled in sustainability programs at ASU. Next year, I expect that enrollment to top 2,000.

Over the last 10 years, ASU and the School of Sustainability have become a world leader in sustainability education, research, and outreach. My goal is to make this expertise available to as many students as possible, regardless of what time zone they occupy or time constraints they face.

This past year, we launched the Master of Sustainability Leadership degree fully online. This was designed by sustainability faculty and practitioners to equip ambitious, dedicated individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to drive sustainability in a variety of private, public, and non-profit institutions, as well as the military.  We also launched fully online BA and BS degrees in Sustainability, programs that are internationally renowned as the gold standard. In addition to allowing students to take their degrees anytime, anywhere, the other purpose of the online offerings is to engage voices and experiences from around the world. Ultimately, sustainability is a global issue. I want students in the United States to interact with students from around the globe, to learn from one another, create bonds of friendship, and find ways to build a better future together that takes into account the diversity of needs and aspiration of people everywhere.

The world needs more sustainability graduates and we are dedicated to meeting that need. Think about what role you want to play in building a better, more sustainable future.

 

Sustainability degree at the Polytechnic Campus

asu_poly_campusI am very pleased to announce that the School of Sustainability is now established at the ASU Polytechnic Campus! Located in Mesa, AZ and the fast growing East Valley, the beautiful Polytechnic campus provides a small campus feel with a student-centered mission. Starting this fall, students can pursue the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Sustainability at the Poly campus. Also available is the option to earn two degrees at the same time–the Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability and Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain Management from the WP Carey School of Business–by enrolling in the concurrent degree. The Sustainability minor, the sustainable food systems certificate, the sustainable energy certificate, and the Sustainability concentration in Business are also available to Poly students.

The Polytechnic campus has some unique offerings that will be especially attractive to Sustainability students: a world-class maker space, one of the country’s largest algae test beds and renewable energy labs, an agribusiness school, a degree that educates students for careers in environmental and resource management, and plans to develop a sustainable community near the campus’ international airport. Also in the works is the first integrated food-water-energy certificate at ASU exclusively for the Poly campus.

I am very pleased that the School of Sustainability has another home at the ASU Polytechnic campus. I encourage you to reach out to one of our advisors to find out more about the program. I look forward to welcoming sustainability students at Poly this fall!

 

 

10 Years On

10_yrsUnless you slept through it, which would have been very difficult given the noise and commotion, you know that we recently celebrated 10 years as a school. Because 10 is the base of the decimal numeral system (likely because we have 10 fingers on our hands), it is a special number in human culture, and one that invites celebration.

In the 10th anniversary logo, you may also have noticed that 1-0 stood for One World. This was meant as a unifying theme—we need to think of ourselves as members of a global community. It was also meant as a limiting theme – we have only one planet and we can’t break it since there are no other Earths to escape to.

The purpose of the 10th anniversary was to celebrate accomplishments and to demonstrate that sustainability is a principle that pervades all that we do at ASU. But I also called for us to think about how to expand our impact – to demonstrate that the principles of hope and agency can drive positive, enduring impact at a global scale. We have One World, but it is a big planet, and there are huge opportunities for all of you to make a difference in shaping its future.

I can’t wait to see what you accomplish over the next decade. I see a bright future for all of you, and with your training and passion for sustainability that means a better future for everyone. Mark your calendars now for spring of 2026 and join us for an even bigger celebration of the nation’s first and best School of Sustainability. Congratulations graduates.

What to celebrate

Next week the School of Sustainability will be awash in celebration as we mark our 10th anniversary. As the nation’s first School of Sustainability, this is a celebration not only for ASU but for sustainability education across the entire country. I have three goals for the 10th anniversary:

  1. Celebrate our accomplishments. As a fast-faced, innovative university, we are continuously working on ways to improve education, research, and practice. This is imperative so that ASU maintains its leadership role in sustainability. But it is also important to pause, take a breath, and recognize what all of us have accomplished. It is important to remember that this is a celebration of sustainability at ASU, not only the School of Sustainability. It is this breadth of engagement that makes us the national leader in sustainability.
  2. Look ahead to the 20th anniversary. A lot will change over the next decade and it is difficult to predict what the school and university will look like in 2026, but (as we teach our students) sustainability is about building the future we want. Nearly every college and a number of other university partners will engage with visitors about their current sustainability efforts and what they intend to accomplish in the next 10 years. We welcome ideas from everyone about what we will celebrate in a decade’s time.
  3. Engage globally. Ultimately the scale that matters for sustainability is global. My hope is that this celebration will invite ways for us to think about ways to scale solutions that will have meaningful impact on planetary systems while improving well being for present and future generations in locations around the world. Clearly, ASU cannot do this alone — we will need to explore partnerships that can extend the reach of ideas and practices well beyond our state and national boundaries.

Most of all, I hope that this celebration invigorates the dedication and commitment to sustainability at ASU, demonstrating leadership in a field that is critical for a prosperous and just future. I look forward to seeing you there!