September 6, 2020
School of Sustainability student Sukhmani Singh aims to establish a career as an environmental lawyer. With several internships and extracurricular activities at Arizona State University already under her belt, she's on the right path. Learn more about Singh's experiences in the School of Sustainability and how internships have enriched her education in her Q&A below!
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Answer: My name is Sukhmani, I grew up in Phoenix and am now a senior here at ASU studying Political Science and Sustainability. I’m also minoring in Spanish and working towards a certificate in Energy and Sustainability. Last semester, I began my Honors Thesis in which I am analyzing the role energy portfolios play in regard to transitioning to carbon neutrality at higher educational institutions. Since my time at ASU, I’ve served as Director of Sustainability on the Undergraduate Student Government and as a Net Zero ambassador. Outside of school you can usually find me doing some kind of political advocacy. I’ve worked for congressional and local campaigns, as a page at the Arizona State Senate, and recently I’ve joined a grassroots organization called “They See Blue” where I’ve helped set up a chapter here in Arizona and mobilize South Asians to vote this November.
Q: Why did you choose the ASU School of Sustainability?
A: I had no hesitation choosing the School of Sustainability. I was first drawn in by the fact that ASU was the first to introduce a comprehensive sustainability degree program like this, as it indicated to me that ASU was the type of school to take sustainability seriously and not use it as a mere greenwashing tactic. But truthfully, the School of Sustainability has exceeded my expectations. The School of Sustainability has given me the opportunity to learn from and work with incredibly knowledgeable and inviting professors who’ve helped set me on the path to success that I find myself on today.
Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?
A: During my freshman year at ASU, I participated as an intern with the Undergraduate Student Government. I got to work with the then Director of Sustainability, Logan Miller, who was working on his initiative called “club composting.” Shadowing him was sort of my first exposure to sustainability and I fell in love with it. Composting, energy efficiency, reducing food waste, etc. were all things that just made sense. It baffled me that there wasn’t more of a push in our society to achieve those things. Who doesn’t want to live in a cleaner and greener future? Because of my work as a USG intern, I decided to take an introduction sustainability course my second semester. That’s where the dots really began to connect. This concept of sustainability, which was already so appealing to me, solidified into something deeper in my mind and I realized we as a society really cannot live without such ideas. I began to understand that sustainability is more than protecting the planet and fighting against climate change, it was also about advocating for social and economic equity in order to achieve our planet-saving goals. I knew that if I was going to be any bit successful in my future career and make an impact in my community, I needed to study sustainability.
Q: Can you tell us about your internship?
A: At the start of the summer, I began working as a Policy and Advocacy Intern with a nonprofit organization called Solar United Neighbors. Our goal is to help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights. As a Policy and Advocacy Intern my primary role has been engaging our network of solar homeowners by hosting a series of advocacy trainings where I explain what role they can play in advocating for strong solar policy at the Arizona Corporation Commission through various forms of grassroots lobbying.
Q: What have been your biggest learning experiences from participating in the internship?
A: I have a long list of new things I’ve learned and had the chance to experience because of this internship! First of all, having spent the past eight weeks with this organization, I have gained a much better understanding of the current state of solar in Arizona. Energy policy can be complicated and multi-faceted but thankfully I work with a group of people willing to help me learn. I’ve also been exposed to the innerworkings of the Arizona Corporation Commission, an important state government body that I had been somewhat oblivious to prior to beginning my internship. The Arizona Corporation Commission plays a huge role in utility regulations and ensuring whether or not Arizona adopts clean energy standards. I hope I can continue to share what I’ve learned with others even after my internship is over because energy policy is important and affects literally every single person.
Q: Do you have any general advice or tips for success for future sustainability interns?
A: I think if I could offer one piece of advice it would be, say yes to everything. These internships are really exciting opportunities so when you’re asked if you want to participate in an extra project, or meeting, or a training… whatever it is, do it even if it’s not required! Allow yourself to be immersed in as many ways as possible and don’t be afraid to go above and beyond.
Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?
A: After I finish my undergraduate degree, I hope to attend law school and eventually practice environmental law. But I do see myself remaining involved within the public policy sector. Whether I eventually run for office myself or help others on their campaigns, I know I want to see sustainable public policy passed and will continue to work on whatever I can to make sure that happens.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: To me, sustainability is best explained by the Haudenosaunee’s Seventh Generation Principle which, to paraphrase, asks that any decision we make today result in a sustained future for our world seven generations later. In other words, we need to leave this world better than when we found it.