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Hanley Sustainability Institute

Clarke first University of Dayton graduate to earn BA in sustainability

By Mark Gokavi

Nicholas “Nico” Clarke was lost on the University of Dayton campus when he found out he wanted to attend UD. Four school years later, Clarke will become UD’s first sustainability major graduate.

“After my visit, I went on a walk and kind of got lost with my family,” Clarke said. “And then, ironically, we ended up in U Lot, which is weirdly close to Old River Park.

“Looking back, it’s an interesting place to make a decision. I just really liked UD. I liked the feeling on campus.”

Originally a philosophy major, Clarke said a professor asked him to take an environmental ethics class.

“That got me really interested and more reflective about sustainability in general,” Clarke said. “I had been interested in it in high school, but it definitely got taken to the next level in college, I guess.”

Clarke joined the Student Activation Program (SAP) as a volunteer on the education team when he saw a “bunch of really cool people.” That spurred him to join the Hanley Sustainability Institute student leader and become a zero waste team member.

The professor who asked him to take the environmental ethics class told Clarke there was going to be a sustainability major at UD.

“I had never heard of it,” Clarke said. “So she put me in touch with (Sustainability Program Director Rebecca Potter) and we decided that I would be able to complete the major on time even though it wasn’t a major at the time.”

Clarke started taking sustainability minor classes and trying to line up courses that would become part of his urban sustainability bachelor of arts degree.

“It was still kind of raw and it was kind of a leap of faith,” Clarke said. “I’ll actually be the first one to graduate, which is pretty cool.”

For Clarke, his passion fell in line with his education.

“My interest in environmental ethics and environmental justice led me to choose UD’s sustainability major and the urban planning concentration,” he said. “The sustainability major and urban planning concentration gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in environmental ethics and environmental justice.”

Potter said there will be many for “firsts” for Clarke.

“Nico Clarke has been an innovative and engaged student who seized the opportunity to major in sustainability as soon as it was possible,” she said. “As the first student to earn a bachelor of arts in sustainability at UD he is headed for great success.”

Clarke is headed to Pittsburgh to earn a master’s degree in sustainability and work as a graduate assistant at Chatham University, like UD an institution that has been recognized nationally for its sustainability efforts.

“In my career I hope to work to create and implement sustainability solutions in communities. Through my undergraduate coursework, I have afforded the opportunity to work with various communities locally and globally from Dayton to Nairobi, Kenya,” Clarke said. “In doing so I have developed an enthusiasm for understanding contexts of diverse communities and cultivating appropriate sustainability solutions. In my career I hope to work to analyze critical environmental and social policy issues and create and implement equitable solutions.”

For more sustainability news and information, visit HSI’s news blog, the Hanley Sustainability Institute website and the sustainability program website. To sign up for HSI’s Sustainability Spotlight newsletter, register here.

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