Going into college, I knew I wanted to study sustainability. It was something I had been passionate about for as long as I can remember. While I knew the University of Georgia was not particularly known for being the most sustainable school, I could not wait to get to campus and forage my own path.
I found out about the Sustainability Certificate while sobbing in my high school bedroom. I had originally applied to the Geography major when I got into UGA. Before even moving to Athens, I began to fret that the geography program would not offer all the sustainability knowledge that I desired. I was convinced that my life was in fact ending and that I would not be able to achieve what I had been hoping to do for so long. Upon a brief Google search, I discovered the Certificate, and along with it, many more opportunities available through the Office of Sustainability. Just like that, my tears dried, and I began to see my very exciting future at UGA take form.
When I moved to college, I was quick to join a bunch of sustainability-related organizations - I even became a member of a vegan student organization despite my deep love for fried chicken. It was fun to dip my toe in different areas of sustainability.
Once I had gotten a few of my core requirements out of the way, I immediately applied to the certificate. I found that many of the requirements coincided with my Geography major (which later became a minor as I switched my focus to Advertising). I began taking physical geography classes that dove into the science behind climate change. I had so much fun learning about the environment and would spend hours studying my Quizlets before exams, not only because of my unique academic determination that typically exists in a freshman, but also because it genuinely interested me. Starting out with the Certificate curriculum, I was certainly more concentrated on the ecological sphere. It was what I had been familiar with - I did not even realize how deeply important the other two spheres are. I started with a very narrow understanding of sustainability, seeing it as a very black and white area. As I got further into both my Geography courses and Certificate classes, this mentality shifted.
As I started exploring both the economic and social spheres, I began to reconsider everything. It became clear to me that the environment and people could not be viewed as separate spheres, having such a closely linked relationship. I began to learn about concepts like Urban Political Ecology which points out how the process of urbanizations contains political, economic, social, and ecological systems. One cannot be considered without the other. This new mindset made sustainability a much more complex issue to me. Through one of the seminar classes I met the founder of the Eco Incubator, an immersive sustainability initiative focusing on educating people about sustainable homes, permaculture landscapes, and wellness activities. Upon meeting the founder, I was able to work as an intern, learning even more about how sustainability does not just equate to saving the turtles and installing solar panels. Teaching people and prioritizing equity is what will enable future sustainability endeavors.
I like that being involved with this curriculum and meeting sustainability students/alumni with so many diverse backgrounds and futures has shown the many different meanings and positions that sustainability can hold within different lives. This in turn has proven the many alternative routes that I can take in my own life to pursue my certificate learning.
This portfolio shows some of the biggest takeaways that I have gotten from the Certificate. I reflect on the classes I have taken and projects I have been involved in. Mainly, I explore how I reached the point of understanding the importance of making sustainability accessible to all, the diversity within the field, and the need for human connection. I am glad that the certificate provided me with this new way of viewing things. It brought me the courage to apply for wonderful internships and become a leader in sustainable organizations on campus like Fair Fashion UGA and Sustainability Certificate Ambassadors.
Going into a career in advertising, I am incredibly grateful to have received this unique curriculum. I have learned the importance of communication approaches that consider the broader community and not just limited populations. It is necessary to make information very accessible so that it can be far reaching and benefit as many people as possible. I look forward to applying these understandings in my own career to create better informed types of advertisements.
My hope is to use my creative communication skills to amplify voices and causes that matter. I have had the opportunity to gain some experience in doing this through two internships at the Office of Sustainability. Both positions involved working with local organizations (Envision Athens and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia) to alter their branding techniques and reach more people via social media. I loved getting to combine my knowledge from my Advertising degree with what I had learned through the certificate to create informed and shareable content. It was hugely exciting to gain even more experience in this area through my capstone project with DIVAs Freedom Boutique.
I know my younger self would be very proud of where I am now, and I can’t wait to further myself in the realm of sustainability.