I recently had an opportunity to speak with Shanna Ruyle who graduated with a Master of Arts in Sustainable Design in 2015.
Shanna teaches sustainability principles and design at Oregon State University and elaborates on how exciting it is when students have an “ah-ha” moment.
Q: What are you currently doing or working on?
Teaching, Designing and Art.
Q: What is the most exciting or inspiring thing you’re working on now?
Working with a team at Oregon State University to develop micro-credit courses (1-2 credits) in Sustainable Design for a new OSU multidisciplinary initiative called Engineering and Design for Society (EDS). It is in the pilot stage and we received a grant from VentureWell to help with the development. The classes will bring together students across the university—from multiple majors—to share their skills and perspectives to collaborate, innovate, and design toward a better future.
Q: What has been your proudest moment or project in sustainability or sustainable design?
Honestly, it has been when students in my classes have an “ah-ha” moment. When a sustainable design concept has just made sense and the student sees how it connects to what they want to do in the future. It is so exciting to see students be able to feel like they know how to do what they want to in sustainability—that they can see the path clearly. Everyone has their own perspective that they can bring to sustainability and the more
“ah-ha” moments each one of us has, the more inspired I become.
Q: How have you applied what you learned in the program?
The program gave me a mindset that I cannot separate from everything that I do. So, I suppose it has changed what I want to do and I gravitate toward the things that align with my mindset.
Q: What were the most important or useful things that you learned in the program?
Systems Thinking, and the skill of mapping and influencing systems, has been the most important—hands down. Everything else connects to that. Every other sustainability skill, from life cycle assessment to choosing materials to social change, it all starts with understanding the system and system thinking skills can help reveal what might be getting in the way of making the change you’d like to see (or be).
Q: What recommendations do you have for people considering a career in sustainable design?
There are jobs that are specifically for sustainable design, or you can start your own company for that very reason. However, sustainable design is just responsible design, and you can do that anywhere, with any team, client or company that recognizes this (and you can do sustainable design even without that, if you’ve got the moxie for it). If you are considering a career in sustainable design, that’s the first step (realizing this is something you want to do—at least it was for me) …next step, really, is to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to know and go in the direction of sustainable design.
Q: What will you always take with you from the program?
Friendships, the people I had classes with were all amazing and I learned so much from each person. That connection extended further after I graduated, and I connected with Alumni or those new to the program connected with me. Wanting to and trying to do sustainable design is something that is quite bonding, and I appreciate that it is such a supportive community.