Meet sustainability master’s student Zoë Stein

Student Zoe Stein holds an ASU Pitchfork Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Leader. She is posing with Katie Ulmer, her academic advisor.
Zoë Stein and Katie Ulmer at the Pitchfork Awards ceremony
School of Sustainability student Zoë Stein is a go-getter. In April, she won an Arizona State University Pitchfork Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Leader. She is currently a master's student in Global Sustainability Science, a dual degree program that awards degrees from ASU and Leuphana University in Germany. Once she graduates, Stein plans to run for local office. “Zoë is going to change the world,” said Katie Ulmer, the School of Sustainability's academic advisor for graduate students. “She is the globally engaged Sun Devil! She will one day be a household name in the Phoenix area, synonymous for many great achievements.” With that in mind, we wanted to pick Stein’s brain about her experience as a sustainability student. Here are a few of her answers. Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? Answer: I knew I wanted to study sustainability long before I knew the word for it. I never really liked earth science but also wanted to study a field more environmentally focused than sociology. At the same time, thinking in systems was something that always came naturally to me. When I was researching colleges for my bachelor’s degree, I found the School of Sustainability online and fell in love. That was back in 2012. I have been here in Arizona and in the School of Sustainability ever since! Sustainability student Zoe Stein smiles, wearing an ASU baseball capQ: How has the School of Sustainability prepared you for your future, personally and professionally? A: My education from the School of Sustainability has prepared me in an unprecedented way for my work in politics. It has become clear to me and those around me that the core-competencies I have developed throughout the course of my education — futures thinking, systems thinking, strategic thinking, values thinking, and collaborative competency — have enabled me to work productively and gain the support of many around me, in a space where actors frequently face gridlock. Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or that changed your perspective? A: While at ASU, I have been able to take a sustainability lens to both “access to reproductive health in the U.S.” and “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” From this work, I have learned that we as people of the world have so much more that unites us than divides us. So often, when people disagree or feel divided on issues that can be described as sustainability problems, what is really happening is that they are not communicating clearly on problem analysis and therefore cannot come to consensus on a resolution. When we start to hear each other, we can find the best intervention points and begin to produce solutions together. Q: What does sustainability mean to you? A: Happy, healthy people on a happy, healthy planet, today and tomorrow.