Meet Our Alumni: Brendan Denker

Bendan Denker smiling with palm trees and mountains in the backgroundBrendan Denker is a Fall 2012 graduate of the School of Sustainability's Master of Science program. He also received a Bachelor of Arts in General Engineering, and a minor in French Cultural Studies from Johns Hopkins University. Denker works as an engineer at Salt River Project, where he's been employed for the last three years. He focuses on long-term planning within the Western U.S. electric grid, represents SRP’s interests with other entities, and is involved with tracking the water-energy nexus at SRP’s power plants. Why did you choose to study at ASU’s School of Sustainability? I had always been interested in sustainability. I grew up immersed in recycling, composting and having empathy for others – which I always assumed was a normal, second-nature thing. However, when I got to college, it was a bit of a culture shock, because doing those things was not the norm. Once I realized I wanted to explore these ideas further, I decided to turn them into a career. I started out doing engineering and received my bachelor's in that field, but wanted to build on it and add a social-science, sustainability-based focus. So, I looked into the School of Sustainability program. At the time, no other options were purely focused on sustainability, and this degree program intrigued me. I liked that we got the opportunity to mold our studies and provide feedback to help improve the program in real-time. The curriculum was fluid and allowed me to tailor it to my interests and needs. How are you leading the way to a sustainable future? Since I don’t work in the sustainability group at SRP, I strive to use sustainability thinking daily in my career. I insert it, when and where it is appropriate, to change the culture of our company. Larger organizations take time to affect change, and I have seen progress since I have been here. I do my part to keep that conversation going. It is encouraging to see progress, but there is still a lot of potential for the idea of sustainability to grow and be engrained across all sorts of organizations. I am also one of the leading experts in the nexus between water and power at SRP, so that enables me to work on sustainability-focused projects and keeps me involved across the organization with those issues. What advice would you give to prospective or incoming School of Sustainability students? Sustainability is a great example of a 1+1=3 situation. If you’re planning to apply sustainability in the real world, make it more manageable by finding a focus area and applying sustainability to it. The best way to do it is to dig into a specific issue. Have some other competency that you can use as a foundation and build sustainability onto it. It has the most value when paired with other things because you have a starting point to build off of and improve upon. Take pieces from different backgrounds and disciplines and mix them together in ways that will have a more positive impact. It is important to find the overlaps.