Student Spotlight: Arnaud Irakoze

Arnaud Irakoze

As a sophomore, Arnaud is combining his sustainability studies with urban planning. He hopes he can become a helpful communicator between oil, gas, and alternative energy companies. Arnaud believes when we all work together, we can help alleviate the negative effects of fossil fuel consumption and pollution. Now living in Arizona, he wants to explore solar power at the School of Sustainability. "Phoenix is hot and sunny so we might as well have solar power," Arnaud says.

1. Can you share your experience making the big move from Africa to America? What was that like?

I was born in Burundi, Africa. When I was one year old, my family and I moved to Sweden. We lived there for six years, and then we moved to Georgia in the U.S. In 2008, we moved to Arizona.

Although moving to different continents was drastic, I embrace the opportunity I had to create and maintain new friendships and view different cultures first hand.

2. What made you interested in studying sustainable energy, technology, and materials?

In high school, I was very interested in math and science. I thought of a future major that I may be able to pursue that would complement my talent. I thought of engineering; however, I noticed that a major in it will not emphasize communication and collaboration within society. So naturally, I fell upon sustainability. One of my goals in life is to promote renewable energy, especially solar energy, around the world.

3. When someone asks you what you study, and you reply “sustainability,” how do they react? How do you explain to them what “sustainability” means?

When I tell someone that I study “sustainability,” they instantly have a confused face. They always reply, “What is that?” Honestly, I reply, “Sustainability is like environmental engineering with a strong social aspect.” They usually understand what the outer shell of sustainability is. In my own words, sustainability is a realistic balance between the environment, economy, and equity to ensure a good standard of living for future generations.

4. What global sustainability challenge concerns you the most and why? How do you plan to make a difference?

The global sustainability challenge that concerns me the most is the increasing dependency on fossil fuels. It concerns me the most because the pollution that is emitted into the air ultimately affects the whole world. The horrible effects of increasing pollution in water, air, and land are seen today and will continue as the years go on.

The way I plan on making a difference is by working and effectively communicating with oil, gas, and alternative energy companies. I believe in collaborating with oil and gas companies for a greener future.

Additionally, I will make a difference by convincing stockholders and investors to allocate their investments into alternative energy companies. The only way for this to happen is by having great alternative energy companies that are effective, reasonably priced, and well trusted.

At the end of it all, I know that I, by myself, cannot change the world. It will take everyone. Everyone. It will need students in grade school, teenagers, adults, and elderly from various cultures and educational backgrounds for the people of the world to understand the importance of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.

5. What is your favorite memory from your time in the School of Sustainability and why?

My favorite experience is when the School of Sustainability residential community went to play at Dave and Buster’s. We began with a great dinner and the food there was amazing. Once dinner was over, our group was split into four teams. We went to each game with a positive attitude and we all encouraged each other to perform our best. We were all very competitive, but we still supported each other when we did horrible. We joked around with each other and we laughed a lot. When the results came in, my team came in second place.

All in all, this is my favorite experience because it proves that we all work better when we work as a team. Additionally, tasks are easier to do when it is fun. In this day, people just want to be serious all the time and have only a limited time to have fun because it is the “mature” thing to do. You can still be “mature” when you are enjoying your time and getting things done with your teammates.

6. Some say sustainability is all about "saving the world." If you could be any superhero, which one would you be, and why?

If I could be any superhero, I would be Ironman. I choose Ironman because I can install solar panels as the main power source for the outfit. In all seriousness, I like the fact that Ironman is himself in all situations he faces. Everyone knows the man behind the mask when some other superheroes are hidden. In this day in age, I believe it is better to be an open book. The best always comes out when I am being myself with my friends, family, and others. Additionally, a superhero knows that saving the world from mayhem is a group effort. I wouldn’t mind having Superman, Wonder Woman, Hulk, Catwoman, Spiderman, and other superheroes as teammates to battle the troubles in this world.