Dell student assistants learn sustainability hands-on

November 22, 2013

When you work in a field like sustainability, it’s not just what you know, it’s what you do that matters. That’s why Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability encourages all of its undergraduates to gain as much experience as possible – including at least one internship – during their course of study.

These students are learning new skills, applying classroom knowledge, and assuming professional responsibilities and substantive tasks. Hands-on experience is a key differentiator for sustainability graduates entering the job market. Download Full Image

One hands-on learning opportunity takes advantage of a unique relationship between Dell and the School of Sustainability. Students get to join Dell’s sustainability team as hourly student workers.

Students work from a shared office space in Wrigley Hall. There, they are coached and mentored by Bruno Sarda, director of global sustainability operations at Dell, and adjunct faculty at the school.

Sarda explains that the value of the program is in the nature of the work. Student sustainability assistants complete ongoing projects, collaborate with other Dell employees and juggle priorities in an intense, corporate sustainability environment. Future employers find that really valuable.

According to Sarda, students learn to be nimble and agile. They apply what they know, and they learn that productivity and initiative matter. “Students coming out of this program gain experience and skills that are highly marketable,” Sarda says.

That ability to market oneself paid off for Jaleila “Jill” Brumand. Brumand (class of 2013) is a Fulbright recipient, and her applied work with Dell helped strengthen her Fulbright application. “Jill was my point person on anything related to carbon,” says Sarda. At Dell, Brumand examined the emissions created through the company’s supply chain, employee commute and other sources.

“Different organizations want reports from Dell to understand their environmental targets and policies, and that was my everyday task,” says Brumand. “But I also had pet projects, like the annual carbon disclosure report for Dell. Through that task, I became familiar with the Carbon Disclosure Project in the UK and gained a greater understanding of multi-national scale emissions projects,” a familiarity that contributed heavily to the success of her Fulbright application.

Sustainability alumnus Kevin Zeck (class of 2013) has a similar story. He’s now a sustainability analyst for IO. Sarda says, “Kevin competed with dozens of candidates for that job. Many had experience, but Kevin had already done the kind of work they were looking for.”

Since the program’s inception two and a half years ago, more than 15 individuals have participated in the Dell program. The jobs, while not tied to semesters, have ranged in duration from one semester up to 18 months. Four to six students at any given time may be employed as sustainability assistants, and there are typically one to two openings each semester. Because salaries are paid by ASU and the students work on campus, international students are also eligible to participate.

Student sustainability assistants may get to interact with supply chain management teams in China, business teams in Latin America, employees from within Dell and people outside Dell, as well. “They do it well,” says Sarda. “These students are amazingly capable.”

“Bruno throws you in and supports you,” says Brumand. “It was a great experience for me.”

Michelle Schwartz

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


ASU poetry student embraces bright future ahead

November 22, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

Jacqueline Balderrama joined the master of fine arts in creative writing program at ASU this semester, with a focus in poetry. The former co-editor-in-chief of Mosaic, the University of California-Riverside’s literary journal, she was also a student of California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Jacqueline Balderrama Download Full Image

Balderrama decided to come to ASU for her MFA because, “the program really balances teaching and writing, unlike other MFA programs in the country where you are expected to do more teaching than writing.” Balderrama also cited the small class sizes and the flexibility of her program at ASU, such as her ability to take fiction and poetry classes at the graduate level simultaneously, even though her focus is poetry.

While in California, Balderrama took first prize in the Ina Coolbrith Poetry Competition, which made her more deeply consider her writing priorities. “I’d never gotten paid for my writing before,” said Balderrama. “It was really thrilling to begin thinking that my poetry was better than my fiction.”

For the competition, Balderrama submitted a number of poems, but was perhaps most proud of “Tour of the Golden Gate: An Epilogue for Kees,” a poem which deals with poet Weldon Kees’ mysterious disappearance and assumed death in San Francisco in 1955.

“I like doing research,” said Balderrama, “I like looking up poets I’ve never heard of ... when I traveled to San Francisco, I visited the places Kees frequented and tried to imagine myself in his state of mind. For pieces like (this one), it’s important to try to experience what the writer experienced and incorporate that into the poem.” Balderrama’s research paid off, as “An Epilogue for Kees” is forthcoming in the literary magazine Solo Novo from Solo Press this fall.

“I try to keep my writing as clear as possible,” said Balderrama, “My poetry is definitely narrative in its form, and it draws a lot from my fiction writing.” The young poet cites the work of Philip Levine and Larry Levis as influences. “Levine’s language is so clear, but there are also so many layers to his work,” said Balderrama, “and it’s something I try to emulate.”

So far at ASU, Balderrama has been most interested in writing about her family: “There’s a lot I don’t know about (my family’s) history ... my mother’s side of the family is white and my father’s side of the family is Mexican, but neither he nor I speak Spanish. I feel like I’m caught between two worlds.”

Recently, Balderrama interviewed her grandfather, who served as a merchant marine in World War II, for some pieces she’s been working on. “I want to explore the story of my grandparents on both sides,” said Balderrama. “They’re not going to be here forever, and I can’t let myself be deprived of that history.”

Now teaching, as well as writing fiction and poetry, Balderrama expected the transition from undergraduate student to teacher to be a tough one, but found she had a facility with it: “I expected to be nervous, but once I got in front of the classroom I was surprisingly calm. All of a sudden you realize that you do have a lot to offer the students; you are the teacher, and all of the other people in the room are there to listen to you speak. It’s an amazing experience.”

Balderrama’s advice to undergraduates and aspiring writers is: “Take it seriously. You might get an 'A' in the course, but if you don’t have that drive to improve and succeed, you won’t have a significant experience. Talk to your professors – take advantage of that wealth of knowledge, be open to criticism in workshops and remember to take your own advice; that is, remember the suggestions you give to your fellow writers for your own work, too.”

For more information on ASU’s creative writing program in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, please visit:

Written by Jake Adler

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English