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July 23, 2019

HeeJoo Min and friendsHeejoo Min had a pivotal moment when she realized that we needed to completely change our perspectives to include sustainability. This realization led her to ASU where she discovered the School of Sustainability.

“ASU was the only school that had a dedicated department for sustainability,” Min said (pictured top row, third from left). “I looked more into it and I thought it was very well-designed program. Other schools offered it as an environmental science degree, but I thought sustainability is so much more than just science.”

To Min, sustainability is a new way of thinking. Currently, Heejoo Min is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in sustainability with a focus on the economics of sustainability. In the following Q&A, read about her visit to North Korea at 10, the value of a multicultural experience and her internship in Prague, Czech Republic.

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

Answer: I am from Seoul, South Korea. A fun fact about me is that I have visited North Korea as a little kid when I was 10. It was a school trip organized by my elementary school. Back then we had a good relationship with North Korea so we were able to travel to certain parts of North Korea. People get surprised that it was a school trip and I visited North Korea as a South Korean because now we cannot visit North Korea anymore.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?

A: My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that we need to turn our perspective upside down in order to have sustainability in mind. This encouraged me to be interested in other disciplines as I recognized that every discipline needs to be integrated in order to solve a wicked problem. I also realize that understanding different cultures is very important as different stakeholder involvement is crucial for sustainability.

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

A: When I was researching various programs, ASU was the only school that had a dedicated department for sustainability: The School of Sustainability. So, I looked more into it and I thought it was a very well-designed program. Other schools offered it as environmental science degree, but I thought sustainability is so much more than just science. I loved how ASU’s sustainability program covers interdisciplinary topics including social science to even design. I also liked how they encourage the student to apply their knowledge by choosing our concentration area.

Q: Can you tell us about your internship?

A: I’m interning at a nonprofit organization called Fairtrade in Prague, Czech Republic. Fairtrade is an organization that helps producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions by setting the standards. Most of my tasks are related to marketing and it requires a lot of researching. My major responsibility is to find data for the team to use to analyze the European market for comparison. I also researched information for competitor analysis by looking at other fair-trade related organizations and worked on analyzing other Fairtrade’s social media accounts

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

A: The biggest learning outcome is that the workplace is very interdisciplinary. Even if certain tasks are assigned to people in certain positions, along the way we all need to learn something new for the project. Another big learning outcome is that although knowing how to work individually is important, knowing how to work in a group is just as important. Also, it is important to prioritize and manage tasks because no detailed instruction is given to you.

Q: Any general advice or “tips for success” for future sustainability interns?

A: My tip for success is to be open-minded about learning new things that are not necessarily related to your field. I feel like most of my internship experience was not only applying what I knew but also learning new skills and knowledge that were not related to my studies.

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

A: I see myself applying sustainability in every aspect of my future career because I feel like sustainability is not a specific skill but new way of thinking. I am passionate about the social side of sustainability so I would like to work on promoting sustainability focused on sustainable development and raising awareness in the society about sustainability.

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?

A: Sustainability to me is caring. In order to do so, sustainability students should learn how to switch our perspectives upside down to see things in a broader way. For instance, we are so used to wastes just disappearing at our sites as it leaves our hand and so we don’t even wonder where they go. It is very hard to imagine how much impact that can have on the other side of the world because we don’t see it or even know about it.

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

A: I believe that it is very important to have a multicultural experience especially for sustainability students as we have to deal with stakeholders all over the world in order to solve a wicked problem. It was very interesting to work in a foreign country. Interacting with them I saw differences, but also a lot of similarities, and this helped me to fear less about working in foreign country or with foreign people.