People

Erica BerejnoiIMG_2168

¡Hola! ¡Yo soy Erica! I was born in Argentina, but moved to Bolivia when I was a toddler. My family was in search of better opportunities to enjoy our lives free from the political and economic chaos my country of birth was going through. My parents taught me to appreciate nature and get outdoors to breathe the pure air, embrace sunsets, and get refreshed with every new blue morning on the horizon. For me, protecting the earth as well as being mindful of every being around me was of most importance – it continues to reinforce the love for my surroundings and beings on this planet.

I moved to the USA in 2012 to pursue my undergraduate degrees at Berea College, KY, where I learned about sustainability in an academic setting and the issues going on in the world related to it. Through that experience and my job in the Office of Sustainability, I soon realized that, as sustainability had become a significant part of my world and lifestyle, I needed to continue learning about sustainability issues and how we can work to make the world better. Now, as part of my doctoral degree in the School of Sustainability at ASU, my research area is on spirituality, sustainability, and happiness as an approach for sustainable behavior. Spirituality requires a radical personal transformation to becoming love, and through that process, we experience lasting happiness and more mindful and sustainable behavior.

While my values are centered around sustainability, I would not be who I am if didn’t have dance in my life, a quiet space to meditate, and a good book to read at night. I frequently try to think about how important it is to stop for a moment in our busy schedules to do things that make us happy, things that will bring us joy and help us appreciate the beauty of life. To me, that’s what sustainability is about. We need to be sustainable in our own lives in order to sustain others and the world around us.

B.S. Business Administration | B.A. Asian Studies | Ph.D. Sustainability (Expected 2020)

Emma Zuber

I am an undergraduate Barrett student studying Sustainability (BS) with a minor in French and a certificate in food systems sustainability. As a Wellness Supervisor at the SDFC, I am very passionate about wellness education and how that correlates to my interest in sustainability, focused primarily on ecosystems and food systems. My passion for wellness and sustainability stem from being so immersed in nature as a child. Growing up as a military brat, I was given the opportunity to admire the beauty in different ecosystems, and I also learned a lot from my Swedish grandparents, who taught me how to respect the Earth even if you harvest the wild berries that it has to offer! 

My research interest lies in food systems, such as permaculture, and how that relates to assets-based community development. This includes how green spaces, specifically edible green spaces, can increase a community’s well-being. There are numerous studies to suggest that green spaces decreases a person’s feelings of depression, hopelessness, and loneliness. Unfortunately, many people do not have the resources available to access large green spaces. As such, it is vital that more green spaces, potentially edible ones, are made available in urban areas in order to help the well-being of community members. 

Leah Gibbons

I am a scholar-practitioner working in the fields of regenerative and ecological
development and design. I use a living systems lens to collaborate with communities (i.e.,
social-ecological systems) to develop capacities that enable transformation across scales
to thrivability and vitality. My research and practice focus on developing and
implementing tools and practices to support this transformation. I use mixed-methods
natural and social science research to understand to what extent individuals and
communities develop and operate from a holistic worldview and the consequences for
physical and social outcomes in neighborhoods, cities, and regions.
I am a doctoral candidate in Sustainability at Arizona State University. I have an MS in
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from The University of Tennessee, and a BS in
Biology and Anthropology from Vanderbilt University. I have worked in the fields of
sustainability consulting, green and natural building, restoration ecology, invasion
biology, and holistic health coaching for over 20 years. I have started, developed, and run
several businesses. Currently, I am Principal and Founder of Koru Collaborative, a
regenerative and ecological development and design firm. I am also in the process of
creating a non-profit to implement this work globally.
This semester, I am finishing my dissertation research and writing and graduating!

PhD in Sustainability (Expected 2019)

Sara Aly El Sayed

Can regenerative agriculture; that respects heritage and learn from nature’s generosity transform the way we connect to our food, and can it improve livelihoods? I hope to explore this question by analyzing projects in Slow Food’s global south network. I will also explore potential pathways that would facilitate that my project in Egypt transitions into a more regenerative and sustainable food system.

Keiley Meador

I’m an Earth and Environmental Studies major, minoring in Sustainability with a certificate in Food System Sustainability. There were several moments growing up that eventually lead me to choose my degree plan upon coming to the university. Part of my elementary school experience gave me awareness of our abilities to make decisions that promote the well-being of our planet and its resources. This knowledge carried on and grew throughout the rest of my life, and has lead me to want to continue learning in an applicable way. I have also felt very connected to the natural world at various points in my life, which gradually created a desire in me to value it and understand the significance of the provision we have through it. Through my major, I appreciate continuously learning about the way in which many of the earth’s systems interact to create vital processes for our basic needs and even our very livelihoods. My desire is to bring other people into the same esteem for what we have and together be able to regard it with a conscious and caring mentality. 

Along with the environment, this also stems from a passion for people and community. This has grown from different involvements in my life and the impacts that varying individuals have had on my life. I’m joining the Happy Lab as part of the work I’m completing for my honors thesis. Under it, I am planning on studying the effects of environmental degradation on human populations, and the way in which having prudent human-environment relationships promotes our own livelihoods. I believe rooting such ideas in people is a key element to promoting sustainable practices, and that without connecting to people and within communities, this would be a difficult task. I am excited to learn about what different communities and populations have to share and bring to the table when it comes to different parts of sustainability, including its environmental and social aspects. My hope is that such experiences, and being able to grow in united communities will allow us to walk forward together towards may goals. 

B.A. Earth and Environmental Studies | Minor Sustainability (Expected 2019) 

Tanvi Patel

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I am a junior double majoring in Sustainability and Supply Chain Management. I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for most of my life and have always been passionate about nature which brought me to sustainability. After studying in the School of Sustainability for two years, I decided that adding a degree in Supply Chain Management would be the best application of my sustainability knowledge. My interest in food started at the age of 13 when I decided to become a vegetarian for primarily ethical reasons. Over the years, I have learned more about how our current food system operates and my reasons for vegetarianism have expanded to environmental and health consciousness.

My research interest primarily lies in the sustainability of food system supply chains. Knowing where and how we get our food is important for both environmental and personal sustainability and I want to work toward implementing alternative food systems that are better for us and the environment. I am working to propose supplementary alternatives to the industrialized global agricultural system that is ultimately making us sick, polluting the environment, and using enormous amount of land, water, and energy. I strive to do so while considering how we can use food as a tool to simultaneously strengthen community connections and a healthier, happier future.

B.S. Sustainability (Expected 2019) | B.S. Supply Chain Management (Expected 2019)

Chloe SykesIMG_2151

I’m Chloe Sykes, and I recently graduated from Barrett Honors College with a degree in Sustainability and a certificate in Food System Sustainability. My interest in sustainability revolves primarily around food systems, food-related wellness, and creativity. Finding balance is a common theme in my life right now, and I strive to be mindful in my daily decisions.

For my honors thesis project, I explored human relationships with food and the impact these relationships have on cultural well-being in cities. I compared two cities, Aarhus, Denmark and Phoenix, Arizona, which are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to food culture. I highlighted strengths and downfalls of each, aiming to communicate the importance of balance in our personal relationships with food. I utilized a combination of art and science to effectively communicate food system sustainability solutions to all members of the public.

I am working as The Happy Lab’s Manager, which pushes me to think deeper about all
aspects of sustainability: Where do these issues stem from? How can we make a meaningful and lasting difference? The individuals involved in the Happy Lab act as strong support systems for me in my academic life, and I am thankful to benefit from their unique perspectives. Outside of class and work, I love to travel, cook, do yoga, eat food and pet animals!

B.S. Sustainability 

Jason TibbettsIMG_2182

My name is Jason Tibbetts. I am a senior undergrad in ASU’s School of Sustainability while simultaneously beginning a Master of Sustainability Solutions degree. My interests are many, but my primary passion is sustainable food systems, with an emphasis on healing communities through residential food production. I have 20+ years of experience in the landscaping industry and five of those in the nursery business. I currently own my own business doing custom productivity assessments and design for edible landscapes and teach gardening classes. I also serve on the board of the Arizona chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers to assist others in acquiring difficult to find plant material locally.

My research primarily involves comparing methods and techniques to achieve holistic sustainability through edible landscaping. My goal is to develop more tools to assist myself and others in creating holistic edible residential landscapes that are both highly aesthetic and productive. The existing aesthetic landscaping system and the local food movement is beginning to merge, but the transition is not very smooth because of the lack of tools effectively communicating possibilities in design and the difficulty in sourcing locally available plant material.

I appreciate the mentorship setting that the Happy Lab provides me as well as the opportunity that I have to provide assistance to others around me who are trying to follow a similar course of study. Outside of school I love to spend time with my wife and three kids, go camping, forage for food, and garden.

B.S. Sustainability (Expected May 2018) | MSUS (Expected May 2019)

Danielle VermeerIMG_2180

My name is Danielle Vermeer and I am a junior in Barrett Honors College pursuing a double major in sustainability and urban planning with a minor in Spanish Literacy and Cultural Studies. My love for the earth and for helping other people is what brought me to my majors. Making change on a global scale may seem abstract, but I believe that positive change to our environment and its inhabitants starts in our communities, our cities, and even our classrooms.

I hope to nurture the creation of greener cities through integrating sustainability with education. I believe that education can be a catalyst for sustainable change and am passionate about creating unique learning experiences that energize students to strengthen their relationship to the earth. My love for education has also inspired me to shape my honors thesis around transformative learning. This meaningful approach to education can help ensure long-term sustainable behavior over pure knowledgeable attainment.

In the Happy Lab last semester, I got to assist in a research project that explored river restoration efforts and their relationship to regenerative design. This research project was valuable to me because it helped me explore innovative approaches to establishing happy and environmentally conscious communities. This year, I am focusing on exploring how we can integrate transformative learning into sustainability education to create a more impactful and enriching learning experience.

The Happy Lab provides me with the resources and guidance I need to learn, grow, and experiment with research practices. I continue to explore within the Happy Lab to hone in on my future research interests and topics. After graduation, I aspire to serve in the environmental sector of the Peace Corps, work in a field I feel passionate about, and eventually pursue higher education. I am confident that the support of the Happy Lab will play an important role in helping me achieve my personal and professional goals.

BS Sustainability | BSP Urban Planning (Expected 2020)

Sarra TekolaIMG_2198

My name is Sarra Tekola, and I am a PhD student in the School of Sustainability. I am both an academic and environmental justice activist from Seattle.  I am the cofounder of Women of Color Speak Out, a group that works to help the environmental movement become more accessible to people of color. My activism has been featured in Democracy Now, CNN, Rolling Stone and I was named by Outside Magazine as one of the “30 under 30” in 2016. My undergraduate research was on the physical elements of climate change, where I interned and researched for EPA, NOAA and the Washington State Department of Ecology. Also, I worked as a legislative aide in the Seattle city council working on sustainability and justice policy. My dissertation research focuses on identifying the social causes of climate change as affected by colonization. Specifically, I consider how the colonial mentality still prevalent in Western society, which promotes individualism, consumerism, egotism and hegemony, prevents us from the just transition required to address climate change. I am conducting action research, seeing what happens when Western consumers build relationships of solidarity with the people directly affected by their consumption. Right now we are working with the Black Mesa community who is being displaced from their traditional lands due to coal that is used to pump water to our city.

My work is about creating the cultural change needed to successfully implement climate solutions, experimenting with decolonization as a climate solution.

PhD in Sustainability (expected 2021)

BethAnn MorrisonIMG_2160

I believe that connection is the road to a sustainable future for human society. Sustainability is harmony between all life forms and the earth itself — a vibrant diversity acting as one.  Connected, we live happily within our means, share freely and create a built environment that aligns with the earth’s resources.  

There is much work to be done for modern society to achieve that balance.  By connecting with each other and the earth, dominant culture may move away from consumerism and imperialism, learn to acknowledge and rectify injustice, heal historical trauma, and restore our natural systems and communities.

I arrive at the Happy Lab after decades of artistic exploration of space, shelter and intimacy. I studied Fibers and General Sculpture Studies at Maryland Institute, College of Art for my bachelor’s degree, which led me deeper into my fascination with connection and how it is influenced by our surroundings.

Deeply concerned about inequity, environmental degradation, isolation, and loss of species, I sought to bridge my art with efforts to make a positive impact. I spent a year at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, in a program I titled “Urban Sustainable Community Building.”  It quickly became clear that I would need to invest more time to gain a deeper understanding.

From New York I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Public Practice at Otis College of Art and Design.   There, I had the chance to become part of the conversations I had long been orchestrating in my sculptural environments.  Los Angeles oriented me to a sharper focus on social justice and identity politics.  I realized that working with people holds a great responsibility toward awareness and ethics, and that it is far too easy to become a pawn to the status quo.

I am now a member of the Happy Lab with a commitment to earning the privileges I was born with and using them to redistribute resources.  I am learning how to decolonize the Western mind.  I see the pain and fear that prevents us from connecting and addressing the hard questions of our time. It is my passion to lead people through these difficult conversations toward the co-creation of a sustainable future.

At the Happy Lab, this process of authentic relationship and healing will result in a shared vision of the Lab itself, as a space that promotes connection and wellbeing.  I will use my experiences of connection with each other and our extended communities as examples for others who strive for a more sustainable, inspirational way of life.

Bachelor of Fine Arts | Master of Fine Arts | PhD Sustainability (Expected 2019)

Mary Fastiggi

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This year, I am a second year MS student in the School of Sustainability. I am interested in a wide range of research questions related to enhancing communities in cities, through improving the built environment, integrating nature, and generally adapting spaces to be more human-friendly. Particularly, I am interested in resilience efforts which are holistic and community-centered. While an undergraduate at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, I developed a passion for outdoor education, community gardening and public outreach. After graduating with a BA in Environmental Studies and History in 2013, I worked to bring people closer to the natural world as an environmental educator. At ASU, I am excited be a part of the Happiness Lab, which is helping me to develop research and community connections with I am passionate about. After graduate school, I hope to work in a position working on urban revitalization centered on human wellbeing, ecological function and community.

MS in Sustainability (expected Spring 2019)

Brian Grant

I’m an Arizona native and have worked and volunteered with a number of organizations relative to sustainability around the Valley, such as St Vincent de Paul’s Urban Farm, No Más Muertes, and Recycled City. My undergraduate studies focused around human rights and social justice issues, specifically those continuing to unfold on the U.S. – Mexico border. Attaining a BA in Political Science and a BA in Religion and Applied Ethics, my original intent was to pursue Law School; however, in my years away from school I fell in love with plants and gardening. Growing food shifted my perspective on waste, water, and energy and implicitly introduced me to the principles of sustainability. The deeper I dug, the more I recognized the overlaps between sustainability and social justice, and decided sustainability was where I would focus my graduate studies.

I was accepted into the Master of Sustainability Solutions program in the School of Sustainability for Fall ’17. My impression was that a more applied program would be beneficial because I wanted to dive into the professional field instead of continue on in academia. But, as often happens, after my first year it was clear my path was leading toward more academic research and preparation for a PhD program. I switched to the Master of Arts program for Fall ’18 and am very happy I did. Currently, I am conducting qualitative research at a Waldorf school to uncover how adolescents connect to nature through the school’s garden program. I am using creative methods, such as Photovoice and other visual ethnography, to illustrate the potential of garden-based learning to connect children to nature. My intent is to share the results of this study with teachers and administrators to help further garden-based learning initiatives in public schools throughout Phoenix.

As I move into the PhD program next Fall, I intend to continue my research in education and develop a program between ASU and low-income public schools that helps implement and maintain sustainability education programs for children. My overall vision is to have undergraduate and graduate interns paired with schools where, after they are trained in the classroom, they can help teachers facilitate specific sustainability programs such as garden-based learning and mindfulness training that target both inner and outer elements of sustainability.

If we are to bring peace to the world we have to first find peace in ourselves. And if we are to shift values, beliefs, and behaviors toward the principles of sustainability, this should start with our children. They have inherited our wicked sustainability problems and, with increasing urgency, are forced to find solution pathways to ensure long-term viability and integrity for our species and all those on the planet. Equipping them with potential tools for the job, instead of perpetuating the same unsustainable behavior, should be our top priority.  

Master of Sustainability Solutions (Expected 2019)

Lauren Bell

My name is Lauren Bell, I’m a senior at the George Washington University studying Geography and Sustainability. I have many interests in sustainability but I like to focus on the relationship between sustainability and health. A sustainable lifestyle can create access to healthier and fresher food, cleaner air and safer living conditions. Most importantly, a life connected to nature can provide a happier life and more positive mental state. I strive to help people all over the world live healthier and happier. Sustainability is the start to a balanced, healthy life filled with kindness towards people and the earth. I am excited to be joining the Happy Lab as a grant writer for 2018! The Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness project that the Happy Lab runs in Tempe, Arizona is a project I am very proud to be a part of. Our work here can create social cohesion, access to healthier food, and an environmentally sustainable neighborhood. This is the kind of work I hope to be a part of throughout my life.

MS in Geography |Minor Sustainability (Expected 2019)

Susie Puga

I decided to study Sustainability on a whim of intuition. Upon arrival at ASU,  my passion for sustainability was cultivated and I grew immensely! But I didn’t know how I wanted to make my impact in the world until I reflected on my own happiness. I realized the reason I was so happy was because everyday I got to laugh, talk, and sit in companionable silence with my so many friends who I had come to love dearly. And in loving them I learned to love myself and my own uniqueness. Then, in loving myself I somehow loved others even more -I found myself learning to love and appreciate those who weren’t my close friends too.

I realize, in cultivating love for the self, I can cultivate a deeper sense of love and appreciation for others. In fact, I am driven  to cultivate a greater sense of love, expressed as understanding and connection, in our society. I want to support a reframing of institutions, governance, and business to be more sustainable out of simple respect for one other; I believe sustainability begins from within.

As a junior in the Happy Lab majoring in Sustainability with a minor in Psychology and certificate in Cross Sector Leadership, I am honored to have space to explore what happiness and love mean to different people and how those definitions have shaped our current world regimes! After my time in the Happy Lab and in the School of Sustainability, I hope to take time to cultivate another passion of mine, writing. I look forward to writing a novel that examines themes of love, human interaction, and other topics I explore in the lab! This semester I am doing a creative project for my honors thesis. I am working with Hayden Library on ASU’s campus to bring Biophilic Design elements to their new prayer and meditation rooms that will open in Fall of 2019.  

Outside of the Happy Lab, I still live and breathe love as intentionally as I can into all aspects of my life. Sometimes this takes the form of dancing in the middle of the night with friends in some random patch of grass, sipping tea as I read a good novel, creating decorative photo collages, holding a friends hand, or cooking myself a nice little meal after a busy day! 

B.S. in Sustainability (Expected 2020)