Student from Yemen hopes to bring sustainability into humanitarian work

School of Sustainability master’s student Enas Al-Qershi recently had a bit of an epiphany while working towards her degree in Sustainability Leadership.

“I'm starting to think that sustainability is not something someone can choose to learn about - it is something that everyone must know about.”

Sustainability is for everyone. Anyone, from any background at any age or any walk of life, can benefit from learning more about what can be done to protect our future. 

Al-Qershi is completing her program from her home in Yemen via ASU Online. While her educational background and current career are in the realm of finance and banking, she is a great example of how someone with no prior experience in sustainability can benefit from and contribute to this ever-expanding field. 

The fully online format and course content made this program the perfect fit for what she hoped to gain from a graduate degree. A self-described workaholic, Al-Qershi said it was easy for her to strike a balance between her full-time job and the demands of the online program. She particularly enjoyed the group-work aspect and getting the opportunity to collaborate with other students that care about creating a more sustainable future.

Enas Al-Qershi
Enas Al-Qershi

“At the end of the day, sustainability is not something only one person, or one country or company can achieve. That’s why being in groups was really awesome and impactful,” she said. “Not only did I get to meet all these people from different backgrounds, people who work in sustainability and people who are just like me from different fields, but they all want to incorporate sustainability into their work. This is how sustainability work actually happens - people from different backgrounds come together and find solutions. I really love that aspect of this program.” 

Al-Qershi works in finance at a humanitarian aid nonprofit and hopes that sustainability initiatives can be incorporated into their budgets and programs going forward. She believes this may create a snowball effect. Al-Qershi has recognized how organizations can learn from each other; by setting a good example embedding sustainable practices into their operations, she hopes other organizations in her community will follow suit.

Due to an ongoing period of political instability and war in Yemen, many people there are focused on survival over everything else. In the humanitarian aid sector, organizations work hard to provide relief for people in need of food and housing. However, Al-Qershi has noticed this work has some unintended environmental consequences, such as excess waste. She sees potential in approaching aid through a more sustainable lens and hopes to use the expertise gained from the MSL program to develop solutions to help people while keeping sustainability in mind. 

“Now, we're trying to survive the aftermath of the war, but in the future, we might be trying to survive the aftermath of an environmental disaster,” she said. “Let's not create more issues to have to worry about in the future, let's just do it all at once.” 

When asked why she chose the Master of Sustainability Leadership program over other online sustainability programs, Al-Qershi explained how important it is for someone to take ownership of making these conscious changes, and how we need people who are willing to start this movement. She also wanted to stress that this program is welcoming to everyone, regardless of environmental experience. She said, “A word of wisdom is that your background doesn't matter. Even if you don't even know what sustainability is, just go for it. It’s really important to go for it and know that you will have something to add to the conversation.” 

Students who participate in the fully online ASU Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) program will graduate with valuable skills to advance social and environmental responsibility in their field. During the two-year program, participants will focus on strategy, global context, leadership, and communications, as well as organizational leadership skills through the lens of sustainability. For more detailed information on course requirements and learning outcomes, please visit the program website or contact the School of Sustainability.
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