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ASU emeritus sustainable planning professor receives lifetime achievement award

David Pijawka

November 24, 2020

David Pijawka, professor emeritus of sustainable planning in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, is the 2020 recipient of the Arizona Association for Environmental Education Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Arizona Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) supports formal and informal educators across the state and works to advance environmental literacy and civic engagement to create a more equitable and sustainable future.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest AAEE honor, awarded to those who have spent more than two decades in the environmental education field, have contributed significantly to the field in Arizona, and have been involved in both mentorship and service.

“David is one of the founding leaders in the field of sustainability planning,” said Deirdre Pfeiffer, associate professor and associate director of planning in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “He has played a key role in his career in defining what it means to plan in a sustainable way and is a tireless advocate for social justice.” 

“David is a rock for students and our planning programs. His door is always open, he is never too busy to help students grow in their learning and always lends a hand to make the planning programs the best they can be.” 

For more than 30 years, Pijawka has been a key figure in advancing sustainability initiatives within ASU. He created and taught one of the university’s largest courses, Sustainable Cities, now with more than 1,000 students per year and taught by two of his colleagues. 

Pijawka helped lead the development of the undergraduate and Master of Urban and Environmental Planning programs, assisted in the establishment of the PhD program in urban planning, and as an adviser helped usher more than 30 PhD students and many master's degree students through their efforts.

“What has particularly impressed me with David as a colleague is how generous he is with his ideas and his time,” said Elizabeth Wentz, interim director in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and vice provost and dean of the Graduate College. “He would chat in the hallway and brainstorm about visions for the school and how to support junior faculty and students. He’s been instrumental in securing the Master in Urban and Environmental Planning accreditation and creating a platform for student success.”  

Pijawka is also a prolific author, having written one of the leading textbooks on sustainability in the nation, “Sustainability for the 21st Century,” with co-author Bjoern Hagen, currently being used in more than 20 universities across the U.S. and now in its third edition.

“This recognition has considerable significance to me as the award comes from an organization that is dedicated to environmental education to students, the public and governmental agencies,” Pijawka said. “Looking back at a long career, I recall ongoing efforts at producing a successful newsletter on recycling that went out to the public, developing ASU’s first undergraduate course on urban sustainability, building a textbook with outstanding environmental teachers across campus, and giving lectures to senior citizens, the military, Arizona communities, and many other groups.” 

Pijawka is a leading authority in environmental justice research for Native American nations. Much of his work in the last decade focused on resolving big societal issues through the development of emergency plans, land-use plans and housing. Additionally, he taught both in the areas of Indigenous planning and tribal community planning and says that developing and implementing environmental education programs for American Indian communities in Arizona and seeing the results in practice, “holds special value” to him.  

For Pijawka, this recognition is especially meaningful as a symbol of the impact environmental education has had on the lives of his students. 

“Seeing a student years after graduation saying, ‘Thanks for teaching this course; it made my career,’ that is significant, and that is why this lifetime education award means so much to me.”

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