December 16, 2018
Arizona State University student Danielle Vermeer has her optimistic and humanitarian outlook set on helping others. From making a difference in Phoenix to holding the title of a Peace Corps Campus Ambassador, Vermeer is serious about following through with her goals locally and globally.
"I can thank the School of Sustainability for lifelong friendships and for instilling a confidence in me that I can and will change the world," Vermeer said.
Currently, she is pursuing dual degrees in urban planning and sustainability, with a focus on economics and a minor in Spanish literacy and cultural studies. In her Q&A below, Vermeer explains the many opportunities to get involved in sustainability that she's taken advantage of, and what sustainability means to her.
Question: Why did you choose the School of Sustainability?
Answer: I chose the ASU School of Sustainability for the close-knit community. I adore being surrounded by so many passionate change agents who inspire me to follow my passions and shake up the status-quo. I am enticed by the promise of meaningful innovation that betters the world, our lives and the well-being of our future generations.
Q: What’s been your favorite class so far and why?
A: Because sustainability is an incredibly broad field, I love how the School of Sustainability gives me the opportunity to hone in on my interests. Sustainability electives and track courses have been my favorite opportunities to create my niche within the sustainability field. So far, my favorite course has been "International Development and Sustainability." This course exposed me to transformative learning approaches for studying international development. In this class, I was able to cultivate relationships with every single one of my peers and grow alongside the support of the community we created.
Q: Tell us about your internship experience.
A: I am currently interning with the City of Phoenix as its affordable and sustainable housing intern. This internship beautifully integrates my majors of urban planning and sustainability and my minor in Spanish literacy and cultural studies. As an intern, I get to represent the Hispanic community of the Edison-Eastlake Neighborhood by helping them develop a vision for the future of their community. On a weekly basis, I cultivate relationships with the residents and ensure their voices are heard throughout the neighborhood revitalization planning process.
Q: What is it like to be a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar?
A: As a scholar in the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program, I get to engage in an interdisciplinary research project and applied internship to help change the conservation arena in regards to diversity, inclusion, and environmental justice. For my summer 2018 research placement, I collaborated with a University of Michigan PhD student to develop, test and refine a role play simulation model aimed at enhancing long-term sustainability of coupled human and natural systems.
I had the honor of presenting my work and findings at the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Research Symposium. In the summer to come, I will get to apply my knowledge of sustainability to a conservation-related internship in Michigan. This program has transformed the way I look at the field of sustainability and has inspired my passion for promoting environmental justice.
Q: You’re a Peace Corps Ambassador?
A: Yes! I have been a Peace Corps Campus Ambassador for the past two years. For this internship experience I focus on international development, cultural exchange, service and community. I also help plan, market and attend campus events that promote diversity and integrate Peace Corps into the ASU community. As part of my role as an ambassador, I have been tasked with being the project lead for the Global Literacy Project. For this project, I help facilitate a school-wide book drive to collect and donate over 2,000 books to local nonprofits such as Refugee Focus and A New Leaf as well as internationally to fund literacy initiatives abroad in Nigeria and India.
Q: Are you involved in any campus organizations?
A: As the vice president of the Honor Society for Sustainability, I help foster a network of 50-plus sustainability scholars. On the executive board, I organize professional development workshops, run monthly chapter meetings, plan sustainability-related events, and facilitate discussions about complex sustainability issues. Each year I assist in planning the Conference of the Parties week events that brings awareness to the international climate summit. I also help coordinate the annual career mixer. By making connections with local potential employers in the sustainability field, I am able to help members build their professional networks. Finally, I also assist in planning the annual initiation banquet for new members.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to do any undergraduate research?
A: As a research assistant in the Happy Lab, I got to assist graduate research on regenerative design. For this research project, I paid special attention to the revitalization of the Kinnickinnic River and the Los Angeles River. On a weekly basis, I transcribed and summarized interviews, coded river restoration planning documents and synthesized regenerative design literature. I also reported significant findings, progress and work to a graduate student for inclusion in their final thesis project.
Q: What about volunteer work?
A: One of my favorite organizations I work with is Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees. As a COAR tutor, I help support locally resettled refugees in their efforts to rebuild self-sufficient lives. I volunteer on a weekly basis as a tutor to assist refugee students in improving their literacy and basic math skills. Not only do I serve as a mentor and tutor but I also build relationships with the refugees to be their friend. By interacting with these students and tailoring my tutoring approaches to their unique needs, I have the honor of helping promote their future academic success.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability is so beautiful because it is applicable to nearly every single aspect of our lives. When I think about sustainability, I think far beyond the scope of the environment. I also think about how we can sustain our happiness, well-being, health, quality of life, economy, political system, communities, cities, food systems and much more. I know that no matter where I end up, sustainability will have a role in my life.
Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?
A: In the future, I hope to apply my majors of sustainability and urban planning to foster the global development of environmentally conscious communities. Most importantly, I hope to incorporate an environmental justice lens. Not only am I passionate about cultivating the creation of greener cities, but I also strive to promote equity and inclusion in the spaces we create.
In addition to urban planning, I also have a love for education. 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 I am passionate about creating unique learning experiences that energize students to strengthen their relationship to the earth. I feel inspired to use transformative learning for ensuring long-term sustainable behavior instead of pure knowledgeable attainment.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: I cannot find the words to express my love for the School of Sustainability community. I can say with complete confidence that the School of Sustainability has changed my life for the better. Going through the School of Sustainability program has been a transformative experience and I am so thankful for my sustainability peers, professors, and faculty — never in my life have I felt so loved and supported. To me, the School of Sustainability experience has been much more than just a degree. I can thank the School of Sustainability for lifelong friendships and for instilling a confidence in me that I can and will change the world.