July 12, 2018
Diane Trimble now has two degrees from Arizona State University, but the journey to those achievements wasn’t easy. Trimble dropped out of college in Nevada in the mid-1990s, but in recent years, she wanted to become a better role model for her sons and community. Thus, she enrolled in online classes at Arizona State University through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan partnership and earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership in 2016. But she didn’t stop there. This year, Trimble graduated from the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership (EMSL) program in the School of Sustainability.
We asked Diane questions about how her ASU education has changed her life for the better and what sustainability means to her.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: Throughout the admissions process I had several phone connections with both Jennifer Griffin and Bruno Sarda. Through each conversation I felt compelled and eager to learn more about the program’s vision and rich culture. The moment I knew this program was for me was the day I was sitting at Starbucks [at the location I managed] on a Monday morning, bawling my eyes out. Jennifer never judged me nor did she make any notion that I was not a fit for the program. Jennifer did the opposite — she consoled me and just listened, while asking me tough questions that I was afraid to ask myself.
My path crossed with Jennifer and the EMSL program at a time in my life where I felt conflicted not only in life but also with my career path. As a leader, I knew I wanted to be more and do more but I just didn’t know where to start. The empathy and concern that Jennifer showed me that day made it very clear that this was the journey I needed to be on. I knew I wanted to help others but needed guidance, and that is exactly what the EMSL team did for me.
Q: Why did you choose to go back to school after so many years away?
A: Maya Angelou once said, “What is fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself, the time you take up, and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.” This powerful insight resonated with me and guided me as I became a student again, 21 years after dropping out of college.
My education allowed me to challenge my views, beliefs and perceptions in a way that has opened my eyes to realities often overlooked. I believe education and social involvement is necessary for progress. The decision to continue my education was the first step in my journey. The second step was finding a program I could connect to: the EMSL.
As I continued to grow as a leader, the EMSL program made me realize that my [mission] as a leader in this day in age is not only to inspire people and instill and infuse hope in others, but it is also to influence my three young sons to be members of a society where there are many adversities. The program empowered me with the ability to teach them and others how to develop a deeper understanding about themselves. I also understand now that I am in control of my own thought process to foster and create innovation. The EMSL program armed me with the tools and resources needed for me to serve as a catalyst. I have learned how to initiate and develop better policies and tactics within my organization and in society.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: One thing that I learned from the program was how to find value in myself and in everything I do. The program taught me how to transition into an effective leader. I was taught how to link leadership behaviors and skills directly to organizational results. I was provided tools that empowered me with the knowledge to gain an in-depth understanding of my own leadership practices.
Q: How did the School of Sustainability prepare you, personally and professionally?
A: The EMSL online program consists of four learning threads: Global Context, Strategy, Communications and Leadership, and is designed to arm leaders with the tools and resources to lead change. I had the opportunity to learn and work with students (cohorts) and faculty from diverse backgrounds. I engaged in meaningful group discussions and had hands-on experiences tied directly to sustainability. The professors actively challenged us to think critically beyond our own capabilities and provided the opportunity to apply sustainability theories into real world scenarios. The EMSL program gave me the opportunity to study abroad and extend my own professional network with an International Immersive Workshop conducted in Amsterdam, which was a direct vehicle to make real world connections to sustainability leaders, projects and communities.
The program gave me the opportunity to see sustainability through the lens of others and build lifelong relationships both within my cohort and with staff members willing to support me. My experience allows me to help others have a healthy respect for the history of sustainability. I am empowered to share my own vibrant sustainability journey with others. My passion has been reignited to continue to be an advocate for environmental consciousness in my own community and organization.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I believe that our youth is an important piece of the puzzle to building a sustainable community. Our youth plays an integrated role in solving global problems, because they are an active, energetic, creative and enthusiastic part of our society. With $40 million, I would create a program that allows our youth access to an inclusive and quality education. This program will allow underprivileged youths from low developed countries and communities the opportunity to initiate ideas from their own isolated experiences.
My vision is a program that ensures inclusive and quality education that promotes lifelong learnings. Our youth is our future to building a society that builds a resilient infrastructure. An investment into our youth not only fixes the mistakes that have been made by the past generation, but also promotes sustainable industrialization and fosters innovation. The only contingency will be for the participants of the program to mentor and invest back into others that have a desire to make a difference. This contingency continues the investment of other individuals that are passionate about being a change agent for sustainability.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability provides a way for an individual to look at life from several different approaches. Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising our future generation’s ability to meet its own needs. Sustainability is about creating a community that resembles a living system where all resources are renewed and in balance.
Top photo: Diane Trimble stands with Dean Chris Boone at the School of Sustainability convocation as she receives her master's degree