Christopher Boone, the new dean of the School of Sustainability, did not always plan on following this career path. He majored in a study that would lead him to digging pits.
Boone, the newly instated dean, majored in geography at the University of Toronto. In graduate school, he took a different geographical route than his original soil plan.
“I ended up doing a lot more work on Latin American studies, more of the human side of geography” he said.
It wasn’t until he began working with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a project that aims to understand the interactions between ecosystems and social systems, that he became interested in sustainability.
“Basically, we know people are affecting the world,” he said. “But how does that give us feedback to do the things we actually wanted to do?”
This question, which was one that was focused on in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, was important to his future.
He said it changed his mindset from the way humans destroy the planet to how the impact on the planet affect humanity.
This project brought him to Phoenix, and specifically, to ASU.
When the school opened its doors in 2006, Boone began as its first graduate director.
“I helped establish the graduate programs, the master’s programs. … Two and a half years ago, I started as the associate dean,” he said.
In addition to these roles in the office, he has taught courses on many forms of sustainability, including methodology, urbanism and justice. He also said that he has directed theses and dissertations.
“Everything … you would expect of an academic,” he said.
Boone went to Washington for a year before returning to ASU.
The former dean, Sander van der Leeuw, left his post earlier this year. Boone was hired as interim dean on a provisional basis.
“There’s nothing that was laid out specifically,” he said.
He described it as a chance for him to interact with the other deans, the president and the provost.
“I think what any dean needs is the ability not only to look after what happens internally,” Boone said, “but also an ability to work with external clients.”
This includes groups like the International Finance Corporation and other World Bank groups.
“My faculty actually presented (the IFC) with a short course on climate change in sustainability and investment risk,” Boone said.
Boone credits staff, faculty and students for success that the school has seen.
“We’ve managed to attract world-class faculty, our students are excellent,” he said. “We’ve had an amazing board of directors.”
He praised ASU President Michael Crow’s efforts in the school, calling him a “champion of sustainability.”
“He’s decided to actually walk the talk,” Boone said.
This has resulted in true respect from his staff and faculty.
Program manager for executive master’s for sustainability leadership Glenda Whetten praised Boone’s efforts to directly relate to students and help the staff with a hands-on approach.
“He was very supportive,” she said. “Everything we bring to his attention, he finds a way to help us resolve.”
Meredith Simpson, chief of staff at the Global Institute of Sustainability, echoed this.
“He’s definitely brought a new energy to this school,” she said.
Simpson also said he has worked to improve enrollment and revise the curriculum.
“We can expand the breadth of sustainability at this school,” she said.
The school has been working to incorporate sustainability as a minor around the ASU campus to send out a message to more students.
“How can we intervene, or make changes to the dynamic system, so it leads to desirable outcomes and better futures?” Boone said.
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