New scholarship empowers students to take charge of environmental stewardship

hands appearing to hold a variety of envrionmentally-themed illustrations

Three Arizona State University students have been awarded the ASU Canon Solutions America Environmental Equity Scholarship.

Taylor Fisher, Kennedy Gourdine and Semhar Geberemaram were awarded the new scholarship established by Canon Solutions America, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., Inc., and the African and African American Faculty and Staff Association for demonstrating a strong interest in environmental protection.

The scholarship was established for ASU graduate and undergraduate students who are pursuing a major in environmental stewardship or share the university and Canon’s commitment to preserving the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.

Fisher, a civil, environmental and sustainable engineering doctorate student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering is working on a dissertation research project to use metal-organic framework nanomaterials to treat biological contaminants in drinking water. Through a two-and-a-half-month research exchange at the University of South Africa in Johannesburg, she worked with researchers on solving drinking water and wastewater concerns across South Africa. After becoming familiar with water concerns in nine South African provinces, her research goal is to develop a water treatment nanotechnology for use there and in the U.S.

“I plan to pursue a postdoctoral position at a university in Africa before pursuing my career goal of a tenure track position at a university in the United States,” Fisher said. “I believe it’s important to expand my global breadth of not just my environmental research but also life and culture outside of the USA.”

Gourdine, a junior in the College of Global Futures majoring in sustainability and minoring in urban planning, aims to use this opportunity to give back to underserved communities on the East Coast.

“I have seen firsthand how the lack of public transit, little access to green space, food deserts and car-centric communities have affected the people in the area I grew up,” Gourdine said. “I want to give back to my community by building affordable, walkable communities for everyone to enjoy.” 

While studying at ASU, Gourdine has been involved in numerous volunteer activities on and off campus that help her learn how to address poverty and inequalities in local communities.

“To me, sustainability isn't only about protecting the environment but improving the well-being of the community and addressing resource inequity,” she said.

Geberemaram, a graduate student studying global education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, plans to take the experience and education received from this opportunity to give back to the ASU community by promoting sustainability and equity in education. A first-generation American and mother of two, Geberemaram is returning to school through ASU Online to become a leader in global education. She seeks to incorporate sustainability practices and the impact of human activity on the planet into curriculum.

“I am deeply committed to education and environmental stewardship and believe that they are interconnected,” Geberemaram said. “Through my academic and career goals, I hope to make a positive impact by promoting educational equity and environmental sustainability.”

Kenja Hassan, a member of the African and African American Faculty and Staff Association, or AAAFSA, and assistant vice president of cultural relations in ASU’s Office of Government and Community Engagement, was instrumental in establishing the partnership with Canon Solutions America in early 2022.

“Environmental equity came up numerous times during our conversations, in part due to Canon’s positive stance on taking responsibility for the environment and human prosperity,” Hassan said. “That evolved into conceptualizing a scholarship that would support students who want to play a role in environmental protection and the protection of under-resourced communities.”

The partnership between AAAFSA and Canon Solutions America began as a response to the health disparities made evident by COVID-19. The idea was to create a scholarship to address the palpable issue of pollution and other environmental challenges, which are more likely to impact areas with a lack of financial resources.

“The best way for us to make a genuine, lasting impact is to provide for students who will one day be leading the fight for environmental safety,” said Krystal Bird, associate director of strategic partnerships at ASU. “The students who are focused on confronting environmental issues, especially those which impact marginalized communities, are those we want to award with this scholarship.”

The scholarship embodies Canon Solutions America’s perspective on environmental issues and its corporate philosophy of “kyosei,” a combination of two Japanese words that Canon uses to illustrate that all individuals and organizations should work together for the common good.  

Canon Solutions America feels a social responsibility to cultivate good relationships with customers, communities, governments and the environment. Establishing this scholarship is a way to raise awareness of their business efforts and encourage a shift in how students operate in their day-to-day lives for the future of our planet.

The scholarship also represents the university’s effort to spread awareness about the LIFT (Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach) Initiative. LIFT is a movement developed by ASU in 2020 with the goal of enhancing opportunities for Black undergraduate and graduate students, and Black faculty and staff.

Written by Richard Canas

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