Meet School of Sustainability Freshman Dustin Grief

Student Dustin Grief posing for senior photoThis is Dustin Grief’s first full week as a School of Sustainability student at Arizona State University, but he already has three credit hours toward a degree. While he was in high school in Mesa, Arizona, Grief participated in the Collegiate Scholars Academy, a program that allowed him to earn ASU credit for his AP Environmental Science class (which translates to SOS 110 - Sustainable World at ASU). The Collegiate Scholars Academy gave Grief the inspiration to pursue a sustainability degree. Every few weeks, School of Sustainability instructor Colin Tetreault would visit Grief’s AP Environmental Science class to talk about sustainability, energy and the environment. “I was mesmerized every time he came to speak, and so I knew that I wanted to continue down the path of sustainability,” Grief said. “After talking with Colin and doing some research and a tour of the university, I decided that ASU would be the best fit.” Grief answered a couple questions for us about his background and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. Question: I heard that you lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and have traveled around the world. How have these experiences influenced your aspirations or perspective on life? Answer: I lived in Mesa until I was eight years old. Afterward, my family moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for about two years. During this time, my family traveled the world, visiting many countries such as China, Spain, France, Peru, Ecuador, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and a few others.
Dustin Grief in 2010, posing with a panda in China
I was very young and did not pick up on every detail I would if I went today, but I still observed many different cultures. In the Congo, I witnessed tiny villages whose members lived in one-room dirt huts. I also saw about 100 students crammed into a room not much bigger than our dorm rooms. In short, the people were struggling and the conditions were rather poor. But, this experience has made me appreciate everything I have. There is also a part two to this experience in the Congo. And now that I am a School of Sustainability student, I have been analyzing it more closely. Traveling the world, I have seen many different systems in respect to sustainability. And so, this experience has given me the opportunity to see which systems and ideas work, and which do not. Q: Do you have any ideas about how you plan to apply sustainability to your future career? What do you envision yourself doing?
Student Dustin Grief holding a speared lionfish in Belize
Dustin Grief holds a speared lionfish, an invasive species in Belize. "While this may seem bizarre considering I wish to be a marine biologist, spearing lion fish is crucial for the coral reefs because lionfish eat the smaller fish that clean the reefs. So, scuba divers are encouraged to spear any lionfish they see."
A: While I love the idea of sustainability, it is not all that I wish to do. Now, I am only in my first semester of classes, but based on the descriptions, my classes will discuss sustaining cities, towns, etc. While this fascinates me, I would like to add biological sciences or earth sciences. For instance, I often dive in Belize which hosts the second largest coral reef in the world. However, I believe it is clear that the world is not doing its best to preserve sea life. And so, I plan to use my sustainability degree combined with an earth science degree to sustain animal populations. I am prepared to pursue the 4+1 Accelerated Master’s Program and further my education with a PhD. Sustaining animals and environmental areas is my passion as of now and is my current plan. However, after talking to some of the sustainability ambassadors, I am also excited to learn more about urban planning and development as well as sustaining cities.