I returned to college in 2009 after dropping out twice—from Syracuse University in 1975 and Arizona State University (ASU) in 1978— unable to identify a course of study that interested me. After finally finding success through entrepreneurial efforts, the third time was a charm. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2012, graduating summa cum laude from what is now ASU’s College of Integrated Sciences and Arts, a flexible General Studies degree program for working adults. Here, I discovered sustainability as a course of study, and I was able to take core undergraduate sustainability curricula.
After graduating, I began an online Master of Liberal Studies degree program in Creative Nonfiction Writing, and midway through that program, pivoted to the School of Sustainability’s Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership (EMSL) degree, which I completed in 2016, the same year my business partner and I sold China Mist Tea Company, the enterprise we built over 34 years.
The first semester of my 2009 return to undergraduate studies, I found History and Philosophy of Sustainability, co-taught by Paul Hirt and Joan MacGregor, in the catalog. This course introduced me to sustainability as a scholarly pursuit and ASU’s School of Sustainability, the first in the Nation school of sustainability. Paul has remained a close friend and mentor throughout my sustainability education and beyond and I am still in touch with Joan who has reached out from time to time, including me in projects on which she is working.
I also took an online blogging course taught by Patricia Colleen Murphy where I developed my ecocanyon.org blog site. Shortly thereafter, I interned with her as the “summer blogger” at the Superstition Review, the ASU online literary magazine she founded, where I had the opportunity to develop their podcast. She remains a very good friend and mentor.
I have also stayed in touch with Antonios Printezis, my supply chain sustainability professor from my undergraduate program. Antonios is also quite a prolific photographer. He sold me his old photography rig for the trip, a full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and is advising me on its use. Antonios also photographed the header for ASU’s School of Sustainability Road Trip web page that went live on Thursday.
Of course, all professors write and publish but the two writing professors who most inspired me are both poets. In my Master of Liberal Studies Degree Program, Becky Byrkit taught me memoir and allowed me a lot of latitude in my writing. Becky’s memoir course was a standout and an important element of blogging for the road trip. I missed out on Becky’s travel writing class which would have been valuable too…but who knew?
Though not the capstone I had in mind at the time, the Road Trip represents my application of the four threads of ASU’s Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership (EMSL) program—global context, strategy, communication and leadership. Essentially, I applied the sustainability lens and tools I acquired in that degree program to the trip. Bruno Sarda, (global context), has inspired me in many ways including a personal transformation from vegetarian to vegan lifestyle. He has been my go-to person on developing the sustainability context of the project and when I informed him that I was going to donate the trip to a charity and asked him if he had any ideas, he suggested that I find something that ties directly into my personal sustainability story. This lead me to selecting the Rocky Mountain Institute, whose co-founder, Emory Lovins, co-authored “Natural Capitalism,” a book I picked up on a whim in the late 1990s that inspired me—perhaps the “inciting incident” as Joseph Campbell would define it—leading me to begin integrating sustainability principles into our company. Park Howell, (communications) showed me how to write my sustainability stories and develop a social media plan. Park will interview us on the road for his Business of Story podcast on July 18, between Whistler and Vancouver. George Basile (strategy) showed me how to construct the sustainability strategy including diagramming the systems approach (see graphic) and finally, Kevin Gazzara (leadership), on 21st Century Leadership, essential to the collaboration I have sought in developing this project.
Post Graduate Application
Since earning my EMSL, I have taken opportunities to volunteer at ASU. Whether it be leading the School of Sustainability’s alumni chapter, serving on the College of Integrated Sciences and Arts’ Dean’s Council, or acting as an ambassador for the School of Sustainability, I feel like I am contributing in a small way to solving the challenges of future generations.
A few years ago, Paul Hirt introduced me to Ed Finn, Founding Director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination (CSI) and I got involved in designing a course—Arizona 2045, which led to my being involved with CSI’s Drawn Futures: Arizona 2045 , “a science-based comic book for 5th through 8th grade students from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Created by award-winning comics authors Gary Cohn and C. Edward Sellner and advised by ASU senior sustainability scholar Paul Hirt, this original story envisions the near future of Arizona’s energy systems. In an increasingly networked and visual culture, comic books and graphic novels are important tools for bolstering literacy, communicating with diverse audiences, and creating a space to discuss complex scientific and social topics in a meaningful and accessible way. Drawn Futures: Arizona 2045 is designed with these goals in mind and aligns with Arizona State Standards for the 6th Grade science curriculum.”
We will have print copies of the comic book and teacher materials to hand out on the Road Trip including presenting to kids at Pennypickle’s Workshop at the Temecula (California) Children’s Museum on July 31.
And finally, I was recently introduced to ASU’s Sustainability Teachers’ Academy (STA), which educates K-12 teachers around the country on how to integrate sustainability science into their curriculums. We will be distributing copies of CSI’s teacher materials for Drawn Futures: Arizona 2045 to teachers trained by STA last year on Whidbey Island in the State of Washington.
Weaving my education with ASU into our road trip has been very rewarding. I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the leadership and staff of ASU’s College of Integrated Sciences and Arts, ASU’s School of Sustainability, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives for providing me with my sustainability education, for supporting this project and for providing me with post-graduate opportunities to stay involved. My sustainability story continues.
May the fork be with you always…