Skip to Content

July 17, 2019

Student in graduation regaliaPaiton Upshaw was working at her previous job when she realized she wanted more. Motivated by her love for the planet, Upshaw decided to take the next step by attending the School of Sustainability online program through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.

“I knew I wanted to do something to help the world because I love the world,” Upshaw said. “I saw that Starbucks paid full tuition to ASU online and upon looking through the ASU online majors, I found sustainability! I thought that sustainability aligned perfectly with what I was interested in, and I've really enjoyed my entire time at the School of Sustainability through ASU online."

In the following Q&A, Upshaw goes into more detail about her background and her internship research project with School of Sustainability Dean Christopher Boone.

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

Answer: I'm from Dallas, Texas. I love to ski, and I am actually living in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the moment where I have had the opportunity to ski a TON this past year! I have traveled to Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Australia, and I can't wait to do some more traveling.

Something that was hard to overcome was when I got divorced back in November of 2017. I had just started at ASU a few months prior, and it was difficult to stay focused in school while also working full time at Starbucks (because I am in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan), but I did it!

Q: Why did you choose ASU/the School of Sustainability online program?

A: I was working as a body waxer at the time that I had looked into studying sustainability at ASU. I knew that I didn't want to spend forever as a waxer, and that I wanted to do something that helped the world because I love the world. I saw that Starbucks paid full tuition to ASU online (which I needed because I didn't have the money to spend on college, and I didn't want to be in debt), and upon looking through the ASU online majors, I found sustainability! I thought that sustainability aligned perfectly with what I was interested in, and I've really enjoyed my entire time at the School of Sustainability through ASU online.

Q: Can you tell us about your internship research project?

A: For my internship project, I am writing a 30-page research paper about using mushrooms in the bioremediation of oil spills under the supervision of the Dean of Sustainability at ASU, Dr. Christopher Boone! I am so lucky to get to work with him. I actually had the pleasure of meeting him at ASU spring 2019 graduation for the first time.

Since I am a fully online student, I didn't really get that close with any of my teachers throughout my time in school. For this research project, I was told that I needed a mentor to supervise my work. I couldn't think of any teachers off the top of my head, and I actually thought about asking Dr. Boone because we had had a nice conversation at graduation a few weeks prior. To my surprise, he said yes! We communicated once every few weeks through video conference and it made the research paper so much easier because Dr. Boone had so many tips and so much knowledge. In addition to my paper, I am also going to be completing a systems map, a table that includes the core competencies of sustainability, and a literature review.

Q: What are your biggest learning outcomes from participating in this experience?

A: I am learning a lot about bioremediation! This is super cool to me because it is something that I am interested in, and a topic that was not really covered at any of my classes at ASU. Bioremediation and mycoremediation are not very researched topics yet, and I am so excited and honored to be writing about this topic so extensively as an undergraduate.

Q: Do you have any general advice or “tips for success” for future sustainability interns engaged in a research project?

A: Be organized. Personally, I like to write down my goals and weekly deadlines in a planner. Putting something on paper allows my brain to relax, and then I can enjoy my life without feeling like I have "tabs" constantly open in my brain. I also look at my planner every night before I go to bed so that I can envision how the next day is going to go. This helps me be organized because it’s so hard to catch up once you’re behind. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who hold you accountable. The meetings with Dean Boone every two weeks help because I do not want to let him down or waste his time.

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

A: Honestly, I'm not sure yet! I have many interests, and I can see myself applying a sustainability degree in a lot of different ways. Ultimately, I want to do something that improves the planet around me. I also enjoy design, teaching, plants, brewing coffee, and more, so it is hard to narrow it down at the moment.

Right now, I am just focused on graduating and getting that degree because it is something that I have wanted for a long time now! I figure that everything that comes after this will be an adventure, and I know that I will have fun and be improving the welfare of the plant at the same time.

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?

A: I like the Brundtland Report definition the most: "Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

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

A: Good luck to everyone out there! Do what you are passionate about, and know that you CAN achieve anything you put your mind to. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. You do you, boo.