Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2021
Combining her passions for science and social systems, Claire Nichols found her niche in the environmental and resource management program at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
“ERM is a unique degree because it offers students a peek into the technical, social and political aspects of the environmental field,” Nichols says.
In addition to finding her academic calling, Nichols felt that ASU provided her with the optimal learning environment, where she was immersed in a new community of scholars.
“From the people to the challenging coursework, ASU has offered me so much more than I could have imagined,” Nichols says.
Nichols gravitated towards leadership roles during her undergraduate experience. She represented the Polytechnic campus in the Undergraduate Student Government, where she conducted outreach in first-year ASU 101 classes offering an introduction, “similar to the warm welcome I received at E2 when I first started at ASU,” Nichols says.
She also represented the Polytechnic campus on the Sustainability Advocacy and Advisory Board, where she drafted reports and offered suggestions on how to ramp up sustainability initiatives at ASU.
“Our suggestions were passed to the Council of Presidents, giving us a real-world example of how the process works,” Nichols says.
Nichols also co-led a sustainability report for the City of Peoria on styrofoam recycling. Through this experience, she had the opportunity to interact with city officials, recycling companies, ASU faculty and others.
In addition to consulting, Nichols co-authored a research paper in partnership with the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, a multi-year program focusing on diversity in the environmental field.
“The paper provided insight into food access in Michigan and included statistical and spatial analysis as well as interviews,” Nichols says. “This process was unfamiliar territory, so I was somewhat nervous. But with the support of my group, spatial analysis and interviews have become some of my favorite things to do.”
After graduating, Nichols hopes to apply what she has learned at a governmental agency to “help mitigate environmental issues for those who bear disproportionate impacts, much like those in Flint, Michigan,” she says.
Eventually, Nichols sees herself pursuing a master’s degree to further specialize her skills.
“All in all, I’d love to inspire others to love and respect this field as much as I do,” Nichols says.