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School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 21, 2018

Girl with brown hair smelling large white flowersSusana “Susie” Puga is a first-generation college student from the farming community of Yuma, Arizona. She had a hard time explaining to her family and friends how studying sustainability would set her up for future success, but there’s no doubt they can be anything but proud of her now.

Puga is in her junior year of pursuing her bachelor’s in sustainability with an economics track from the Arizona State University School of Sustainability. She’s also working on a minor in psychology and a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Besides sustainability, Puga is also passionate about dance, poetry, creative writing, meditative practices and cooking with friends.

Read Puga’s Q&A below to see how she is connecting sustainability with all of her interests and what she plans to do in the future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?

Answer: I originally wanted to be a teacher. However, my senior year of high school my instincts were pushing me to check out some other options. I found sustainability on ASU's website, and it dawned on me as I browsed the website that all of the reasons to study sustainability and apply it in the real world were thoughts I had always had in the back of my mind. I had lived in such a bubble that I never realized the how necessary it is to send graduates trained in sustainability into the world. I just thought sustainable behavior should be intuitive! Thus, despite no one in my family or friends circle understanding my decision or how I would have a job in four years, I switched my choice to sustainability. Everything fell beautifully into place after that.

Q: What’s been your favorite part of being an ASU sustainability student so far?

A: My favorite part of being a School of Sustainability student by far is the community I have grown with for the past three years. Anyone (on a graduate or undergraduate level) that chooses to study sustainability typically has a unique, passionate, beautiful way of seeing the world. I am surrounded by changemakers! I have grown and learned so much about myself and my passion because of my peers. I really do have a second home here and feel excited to think about where and when I will reconnect with some people in my career.

Q: Can you tell us more about your sustainability-related extracurricular activities?

A: I have been on the Sustainabilibuddies (a mentorship program) E-board for two years. My first year I was the mentorship training specialist, and now I am the president. I really enjoy Sustainabilibuddies because it can be one the first connections a freshman or transfer student has to another peer that makes them feel included in the community. We center around building community in the School of Sustainability, and I have had wonderful experiences as a mentee, mentor and working with my executive board. The laughs never end at our meetings!

I also worked as the Sustainability Chairwoman for the National Association for College and University Residence Halls Conference my sophomore year. This was an amazing opportunity to apply sustainability in real-life situations where you are working with teams of people who may not be as educated or passionate about sustainability as the classmates you typically do group projects with. Some of my highlights included running a zero waste banquet with 2,400 attendees, reducing the overall energy usage during day two of the conference compared to day one, and getting the nickname "Sustainable Susie" for the weekend.

I am also a School of Sustainability Ambassador. I help recruit students and teach them their SOS 191- Intro to ASU and School of Sustainability course. Working with freshmen their first few weeks here was such a wonderful and rewarding experience! My favorite part was being able to answer their one-on-one questions about their individual situations and get to know what their passions were. Now I get to watch them succeed and keep up with them through other sustainability events and groups!

Girl standing on beach on cloudy dayQ: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?

A: I am very excited for my career. I want to start off exploring my artistic side and write a novel exploring the intersection of sustainability, human values and self-love. This has been in the works for a few years now. Maybe afterwards I'll work on short children's stories too! I do want to go back to school for a PhD in either sustainability, policy or international relations. I would like to work in a think tank setting developing models and policy for climate change adaptation and move that work into the international sphere as well.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?

A: I also currently intern in the Broadmor Elementary School Learning Patch. I teach children plant science here and absolutely adore hearing their perspectives. I am also working on my honors thesis: Biophilic Design and the Mental Wellness of University Students. For my thesis, I am working with Hayden Library to implement biophilic design elements in their prayer/meditation room that will be open in August 2019.

I truly believe if humans got themselves into this climate "mess," we can get ourselves out! It’s just a matter of making the choice to. Humans are amazing — we can accomplish a lot when we put our minds to it.