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ASU grad finds a way to do a little bit of everything while making the world a better place


headshot of elizabeth quigley smiling with foliage behind her

“If you had asked me as a high school senior what I thought I’d be doing now, I would probably have said something with design, and definitely not anything related to policy or international issues,” Lizzie Quigley said. “A few months ago I was at the U.N. headquarters in New York meeting with world leaders, which just goes to show that a lot of change can happen during your college experience.”

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April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

According to Lizzie Quigley, sustainability is the perfect field for people who want to do everything.

Before starting at Arizona State University, she was interested in exploring a variety of fields — from architecture, design and film to computer science and engineering. She tried a few different majors on for size and eventually settled on business. Its versatility and relevance to a variety of career pathways were appealing, but she still felt something was missing.

A volunteer position with ASU's Changemaker Central as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals coordinator gave her the opportunity to build friendships with other students who shared her passion for changing the world. The experience led her to realize that sustainability was the field she was looking for, one that gave her the freedom to explore a little bit of everything while actively working to make the world a better place.

“If you had asked me as a high school senior what I thought I’d be doing now, I would probably have said something with design, and definitely not anything related to policy or international issues,” Quigley said. “A few months ago I was at the U.N. headquarters in New York meeting with world leaders, which just goes to show that a lot of change can happen during your college experience.”

Quigley is a student in Barrett, The Honors College graduating in May with dual majors — supply chain management from the W. P. Carey School of Business and sustainability with an emphasis on international development from the School of Sustainability housed within the College of Global Futures. After graduation, she plans to take a year off for reflection and professional development before returning to school to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning and design.

“I am hoping this year will help me determine what I still need to learn and improve upon to ensure that I am dedicating myself to making the greatest impact possible.”

Read on to learn more about Quigley’s experiences at ASU in her own words.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: My “aha” moment didn’t occur until halfway through my freshman year, when I held a volunteer student leadership position as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) coordinator with Changemaker Central. I was tasked with creating programs and campaigns to educate the greater student body about the goals. Through that experience, something clicked for me.

The SDGs are a great framework for understanding that sustainability is much more than recycling and planting trees — rather, it is the complex web of sustaining our ecological, social and economic systems in an equitable and just manner. Ultimately, it meant that sustainability applies to everything, which is exactly what I was looking for. I realized that both my passion for doing good and for doing a little bit of everything could be met through this field, leading me to add sustainability and the international development track as a second major. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: Something I learned while at ASU is how important learning outside of the classroom is. While classes and grades are important, I would estimate that 80% of what I learned while at ASU was outside of the classroom through leadership opportunities, volunteering, travel and work. Essentially, I felt I was self-directing my education based on the skills and knowledge I needed at the time. Classes are important for being introduced to the basics of new topics, but through my other experiences I gained the actual knowledge and opportunities that have made me who I am today. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: Professor Iveta Silova, one of my mentors, taught me how important it is to support others and share success. Dr. Silova has always shared the story of how her mentor would share opportunities and support the growth of their students, which inspired Dr. Silova to do the same. As someone who has greatly benefited from this generosity, I now try to do the same for those I work with. Sustainability and change-making are meant to be collaborative and supportive fields, not competitive. From my experience with Professor Silova, I learned so much about the importance of lifting others up whenever possible.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school? 

A: Go beyond your education. Grades are important and don’t miss class, but if you have goals or something you want to accomplish, or if you want to end up doing work you are truly passionate about, you need to pursue opportunities outside of the classroom. Take on leadership roles. Join clubs. Go to events and conferences outside of school with the sole purpose of meeting new people. Learn about what they are doing, and determine how you can do it too. Classes are a great place to get started, but most of the opportunities, relationships and experiences that will benefit you most in life will come from the efforts you take to go off the beaten path and pursue them. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: This is a really hard question. If I had to choose one thing, it would probably be improving access to quality education that exposes people to new ideas, encourages compassion and empowers people to have the skills, knowledge and resources they need to pursue creating change around the issues they are passionate about. I think if people had access to the resources, skills and information they need to solve the challenges that they face, as well as compassion for others and the environments they live in, many of our planet’s issues would be solved. 

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