SSAC Alumni

If you are an alumni member of the SSAC, we would love to feature a photo and bio update about you since you have graduated from Penn State. Please send us an update via our contact page.

ssac-2013

SSAC members in 2014.

Kayla Susko

photoBefore the SSAC, I thought sustainability was one dimensional and that problem solving was straightforward. Needless to say, I learned an enormous amount as Co-Chair from 2014-2016. The Council challenged me to think about sustainability outside of the typical environmental frame and taught me to maneuver the inner workings of such a big institution. Not to mention, I met so many genuine and inspiring people.
The Council also sparked in me a strong passion to pursue high-level change. I took an internship with Penn State’s Sustainability Institute and wrote my thesis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) at large, public companies in my senior year. After graduating, I joined the Public Affairs Development Program at The Dow Chemical Company. I’ll go through three 6-month rotations, my first one being in Michigan with corporate media relations. The best part of the job is how closely I get to work with the corporate citizenship team and tell Dow’s sustainability story. Where I’ll be for my next two rotations is still a mystery, but I’m certain that the end goal is to be in a CSR related field.
It turns out that Michigan is a really great place to go exploring too! I spend the majority of my free time outside, biking, hiking, or kayaking. To me, a big part of sustainability is community success, so I’m also beginning to volunteer as a tutor for youth and adults in the area.
The best wisdom I can offer (with all 23 years of my life experience) is two-fold: whatever you do, do it with a purpose and never stop asking questions. Keep up the good vibes, SSAC.     – Kayla Susko

 

Stefan Nagy

Stefan NagyAs the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of SSAC for one and a half years, I was lucky enough to see watch the amazing transformation and growth of this organization from a muddle of confusion and uncertainty about its identity and role within the University, to the flourishing organization that now drives some of the most important sustainability initiatives at Penn State. SSAC was, and certainly still is, home to some of the most enthusiastic and inspiring students at Penn State that were brought together by their shared appreciation of and devotion to this planet that we call home. To this day, my involvement with SSAC remains one of my proudest achievements.

Since I graduated, I’ve transitioned from pursuing environmental sustainability through participation in grassroots movements to working to shape regional policy, programs, and behaviors in New England as a part of the Energy Efficiency Program Strategy team at a corporate utility called National Grid. This has been a great experience so far. I’ve been exposed to everything from developing state Energy Efficiency plans and evaluation studies, to working on program implementation. I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to develop improved funding mechanisms for Energy Efficiency and Solar Distributed Generation programs through strategic participation in wholesale electricity markets. While the transition into the world of corporate sustainability has forced me to rethink the way that I approach many situations, I’ve made a large (and very successful) effort to maintain my core values in everything that I do.

In addition to my work, I continue to live my life with a love of the outdoors and devotion to the world around me. I’m an avid rock climber, skier, and hiker. I’ve also recently gotten into surfing in New England and have come to love that as well. The natural beauty that I experience in these activities reminds me every day of the need to be a steward of the environment and preserve this beautiful land.

To all of the current and past SSAC members: thanks for your tremendous dedication and work. You make a difference every day and will go on to do great things! Peace.   – Stefan Nagy

 

Rachel Passmore

SSAC alum Rachel Passmore is pictured posing with a school student in India.What have I done since I graduated? Let’s see…I graduated in May 2014 and moved to India in June 2014. I try to say that with periods, but really, it should be thousands of exclamation points — I LIVE IN INDIA!!!! (how many people from Penn State get to say that?!)Yes, so after three years on the SSAC, one and half leading the council as co-chair, I packed my bags and moved to the most polluted city in the world: New Delhi, India. Through the Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantship program, I teach a supplemental class entitled “Conversational English” to 6th – 9th grade (called “standard’ in India) at a “mixed income” (50% of seats are reserved for “strong income” students and 50% of seats are reserved for “weak”income students) school.My students are fascinated by my existence in their school, as I am usually the first “Westerner” that they have actually talked to – The only way they “know” of Westerners is through the television, in which they see a very stereotyped view that is quite negative, yet they learn to obsess about it because of the wealth and glamour. My goal is to deter their minds from these alluring alleys, and show that all humans are equal despite the “Western power” they see on television. In the USA, I was focused on environmental sustainability. Now, after realizing the vast complications that waste and pollution have here with gender relations and wealth disparities, which are over my head for my nine month stay, I have decided to focus more on the small realm of social sustainability in which I could have a positive impact.I try to maximize the social sustainability of my stay in two ways: First, by promoting an “exchange” of culture (as opposed to a one-way path). For everything I teach my students, I ask them to teach me something as well. I teach them a bit of English grammar, and they tell me a Hindi word. I tell them about an American holiday, and they tell me about traditions with their families. All the while, I partake in after-school Hindi classes while I teach English during the day. Second, by attempting to interact with “locals'” as much as possible (as opposed to just the expat community).At school, I attempt to interact with all of my colleagues, fluent English speakers or not. Outside of school, I have become best friends with Indian slum residents through a grassroots organization called My Angels Academy. Here, we bond over our mutual love of football (soccer) and love of learning about the world. Through My Angels Academy, I have learned more about the “reality” of life than I could have ever imagined.Living In India is amazing; My biggest piece of advice to current SSAC members and all those soon-to-be graduates of Penn State is to say “yes” to everything. Take that job half-way around the world. Take the internship in small-town USA. Indulge yourself into the given opportunity, and no matter your location, you will not have any regrets. – Rachel Passmore

Matt Barnes

matt barnesI was fortunate to serve as co-chair of the SSAC during its first two years from 2011-2013. I watched the group grow from uncertainty to the steadily grasping their role at Penn State. Members were, and undoubtedly still are, excited about improving the university’s sustainability through teaching, operations, and community engagement. Rarely could I find a more inspirational and intellectually diverse group of students than outside those bi-weekly meetings in the HUB. They are some of many fond memories at Dear Old State.

SSAC instilled leadership values and taught our collective responsibility to positively apply the academic skills all its members are blessed with. For me, this means appreciating and stewarding the incredible outdoors. I’m an active member of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh and local cycling community. Rock climbing, backpacking, and bike commuting reminds me everyday of good environmental practices. This year I have the exciting (and frankly frightening) opportunity to repel off Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh to clean its slopes from years of trash.

Until recently, my research was usually environmental related. After graduating Penn State, I started a graduate program at Carnegie Mellon where I apply the same analytical engineering skills to design algorithms for a different, but equally important domain, counter-human trafficking. We work with local and national law enforcement to help find, track, and rescue girls from inhumane situations. Some of these arrests made in LA using our tools will be featured in an upcoming 60 Minutes.

To all the tremendous people in SSAC: thanks for lending me your brains for two years. Your inspiration and ideas are still with me. Rock on.  – Matt Barnes

 

Will Mitchell

Will Mitchell -- meat delivery bikeIt is fascinating how such an unassuming question, “how have my passions for sustainability driven me since graduating Penn State,” could be so tricky to answer. As the original Dude would say, “a lot of ins, a lot of outs…” Sustainability for me has been transforming itself from being just an abstract planetary scale set of thoughts on carrying capacities and more to a deeply personal guiding force too. I’ve gone from fighting climate change to fighting my own burnout just as ferociously. And in that new definition, my past year and a half has been shaped. I’ve been working to build a meat distribution company in DC focused on pasture based farms. I’ve pursued growth and customers and potential investors for this business, I’ve written emails and built delivery trailers and prepared meat orders. But I’ve taken two month long trips out west to go snowboarding and to be with close friends. I’ve been getting good sleep and staying in shape and reading. I’ve taken countless weekend trips to develop deeper relationships with friends and family and myself. Am I doing it right? The concept of success constantly pops into my head. I feel pressures to quickly grow my brand, to increase my independence, to work over more people, to become more efficient…I have a feeling some of these pressures are misleading. After all, the world we live in nowadays certainly isn’t the most comforting and those tendencies have brought us here. I’m doing my best to balance abiding while building a better future, and to question the big trends in the world along with my own deeply held assumptions about it all. Freshman year, I figured sustainability would be a healthy way to work to understand the world. 6 years later, I’m happy with my choice, and those passions are indeed still driving me. Who knows where.  – Will Mitchell

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