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School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

March 1, 2019

Haley PennyHaley Penny is a hardworking senior soon to graduate from the School of Sustainability and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. Through her unique experiences abroad and insight from influential professors, Penny learned the importance of cultural representation in sustainability and city planning, and became motivated to develop multilingual sustainability curriculum.

Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in sustainability (economics track), a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish literature and a TESOL certificate, Penny believes her education will allow her to "walk on the fine line between science and social disciplines, confident that [she is] a vital asset to many companies and educational institutions."

Read the Q&A below to see why she decided to study sustainability and what her exciting plans are for the future.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Answer: I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for nearly my entire life with my parents and my younger sister Grace. We have always spent a lot of time together, especially because we love sports so much. Grace and I played volleyball through high school, my dad is a cyclist and my mom has always been a runner. We spend a lot of time outside supporting each other at races, hiking Piestewa Peak, or surfing (my new endeavor), which I believe has contributed to the awareness my family has of nature. It has been fun sharing sustainability with my family throughout my time in the School of Sustainability and seeing them become bigger sticklers about buying local produce or turning lights off than even I am!

Q: Why did you choose ASU’s School of Sustainability?

A: In high school I had an awesome AP Biology teacher, Ms. Trevas, who taught us about the interconnectivity of ecosystems in a way that prompted us to think about the agency that we have as consumers. She opened my eyes to understanding my value within ecosystems and economies, even at 17 years old. As someone who generally runs from science, I didn't think I would realistically be able to pursue a degree in biology or chemistry.

Furthermore, I've always been passionate about the idea of teaching and working with different languages. I was stuck in a bit of a predicament trying to weigh out my options until Brigitte Bavousett came into our class and shared about the School of Sustainability and the idea of addressing ecosystem problems with a social-cultural lens. I thank Ms. Trevas for sparking my interest and Brigitte for encouraging me that there was a program out there that combined all of the disciplines that I was interested in. Here I am four years later finishing a degree that I believe lets me walk on the fine line between science and social disciplines, confident that I am a vital asset to many companies and educational institutions.

Q: What’s been your favorite class so far and why?

A: My favorite class at ASU has been the SOS 394: Latinos and the Environment class with Professor Francisco Lara-Valencia. This class was structured into two sections: first, a pedagogical approach to viewing environmental injustice across Latino and non-Latino communities in the southwest United States, in which we read many case studies about access to government funded amenities (such as public parks) and historical injustice within the built environment. Second, we went into Latino and non-Latino neighborhoods across the Phoenix valley and conducted interviews about the quality of public parks and the residents' feelings of representation/inclusion in the creation of these parks.

This is an incredible class that I consistently recommend because it highlights a need for cultural representation in city planning and gives students the opportunity to interact with communities in both the English and Spanish languages.

Haley PennyQ: Can you tell us more about your extracurricular experiences?

A: During my time at ASU, I have had the pleasure of being connected with the School of Sustainability through clubs, jobs and internships. I was a Residential Paraprofessional for two years, during which I got to know the interdisciplinary passions of freshmen and created at least 12 sustainability-based events a year. We discussed ideas about environment, economics and society. This was such a fun position because of the personal connections and the ability to come together to work in our residential garden.

In Spring of 2018, I was a School Wellness Programs intern for the Be Kind People Project, which is an incredible nonprofit focused on youth development and inspiring positive social change in elementary classrooms across the country. During that semester we were able to cultivate salsa gardens in 18 Title I schools across the Phoenix valley and directly impact over 1,000 students with ideas of sustainability and holistic health. I cannot speak more highly of an organization that is making an impact by showing students that they are powerful change agents in their schools and communities. Working with Be Kind has probably been the most rewarding thing that I've done that came about through my involvement in the School of Sustainability.

To speak a little bit about my study abroad, I spent the Fall of 2018 studying Spanish and Euskera (the Basque language) in Donostia which is located in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. This was an unforgettable experience. I was so inspired by the responsibility that the Basque people feel to take care of nature, by seeing how their traditions are founded in the health of the land and people, and by interacting with young people who grow up speaking three to four languages.

Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?

A: Because of my experience working with elementary students and studying abroad in Donostia, I have been able to see from first-hand experience the need for sustainability curriculum. I hope to pursue a master’s degree in multilingual education to better equip myself to develop multilingual sustainability materials that can be used to highlight the importance of cultural representation. In the future, I would love to investigate the differences between cultures in the view of humans and nature. Right now I have my sights set on the Basque Country.

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?

A: My definition of sustainability would have to be very synonymous with my definition of integrity. To me, sustainability is about considering cross-cultural, environmental and inter-generational impact in every decision and making the right choice even when it’s not an easy choice.