June 4, 2015
Sharyn Tom is a Spring 2015 graduate of the School of Sustainability, having earned a Bachelor of Science in the Economics of Sustainability track. She also obtained a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business.
Prior to graduating, Tom shared her sustainability story with us. We look forward to hearing where her curiosity and passion for problem solving take her next!
Why did you choose to major in Sustainability?
Because I’m a dual citizen between Canada and the U.S., I would go to Vancouver, B.C. every summer to visit family. I was constantly inspired by the city’s sustainability advances in transportation, First Nations Law, urban planning, policy and conservation. I wanted to be part of the revolution that brought those wonderful things to Phoenix, and I saw the sustainability program at ASU as an opportunity to become knowledgeable in the field.
Why did you choose the Economics of Sustainability track?
I was completely inspired by ECN 360: Economic Development - a class I took with Todd Schoellman. It remains one of my favorite economics classes because it opened my eyes to new ways of applying my sustainability knowledge for good. Understanding key elements of economics - such as supply and demand, market movements and financial incentives - became a powerful part of building the business case for sustainability.
And a major in Marketing, as well? How did that combination come about?
Spring semester of my sophomore year was a rough one. I entered the W. P. Carey School of Business late, crammed too many “weed out” classes into my schedule and – naturally – struggled. That summer, when I was able to relax again, I realized that I needed a mission – I needed to find meaning in my studies.
Shortly thereafter, I met Tom McDermott, a life coach for CEOs and students alike. Tom taught me that passion only goes so far; you can have a passion for snowboarding, but that doesn’t mean you should do it professionally. It’s far easier to commit your life to something that you’re passionately curious about.
“Curiosity,” he told me, “will continue to drive you forward even when all other passions fade.”
Through one of his sessions, we determined that my curiosities entailed crafting narratives, giving presentations, inspiring others and fighting the good fight. That’s when I became a major in both marketing and sustainability - sustainability gave me a cause to fight for and marketing gave me tools to present a strong story.
What School of Sustainability experiences have shaped you most?
Becoming a founding member of GreenLight Solutions in 2012 satisfied an entrepreneurial side of me I didn’t think I had. Working with others to write and revise a constitution made me appreciate the effort it takes to create something from nothing. GLS also gave me opportunities to interact directly with clients, establish special relationships with faculty and lead my own project team. Last year, I brought in my first client and led the researchers that presented customized sustainable solutions in just under seven weeks!
I also took my public speaking and presentation skills to the next level through SOS 598: Create Your Own Ted Talk, taught by Kathy Kyle. Every day was a joy. In a six-person class, it was easy to receive personalized coaching and engage in activities that you couldn't anywhere else. Understanding how to be persuasive and concise is vital to being an effective change agent, which made this class especially valuable.
What does life after graduation look like?
I’ve started conversations with employers, but will be abroad for six months and will re-open the discussion for full-time positions for the start of 2016. Because it can be hard “getting off the treadmill,” I took advantage of the college recruitment season by setting up informational interviews with companies in order to establish a relationship. Often, those turned into formal interviews and open invitations to come back when I was ready.
Ultimately, I don’t care much about titles; I don’t want to just be something, I want to mean something. If my work isn’t meaningful, then I will find a constructive way or an outlet to make it so.
Advice for future School of Sustainability students?
No one is going to hand you opportunities. Professors and advisors want to see you succeed and will give you tools and resources to get you where you need to go, but you have to be actively seeking on your own. This means making calls, following up with new connections after an event via email, and making the time to go to conferences and career fairs.
I also created a video called “The SOS's Student Survival Guide” on this very topic! It covers what to expect from your degree program, opportunities to get involved and what students should obtain from a job, internship and/or research.