Alumni Update: Alumni Talk About Careers in Sustainability



Casting Seeds Part 3

In these trying economic times, people want to know, “will investing in a sustainable design education make me more competitive in the job market?”

Despite the fact that “sustainability” is a buzzword, and although some may think it’s a fad, the impact of the graduates of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s Sustainable Design program will reach far into the future. Emerging market and trend-savvy companies want to build that future with talented, sustainable designers who have innovative ideas to “green” big and small businesses alike.

We caught up with a few recent graduates of MCAD’s fully online Sustainable Design program to see what they are up to and to learn how being in the program helped to boost their careers.

In Part 3 of the “Casting Seeds” series we’ll meet Susan Bast, an Environmental Scientist for the City of Burnsville, Minnesota, who graduated from the program with a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design. You can also read about other alumni that we interviewed for our Casting Seeds series: Rita Penrod and Rudy Ruggles.


Meet Susan Bast

Sustainable Design (SD): Was learning about sustainable design something you wanted to do, or something your job asked of you?

Sue Bast (SB): It was something I wanted to do, but it pertained to my job. The program was authorized and paid for by my employer.

SD: Why did you join the program?

SB: I liked looking at sustainability from a design aspect and I appreciated the ability of taking the classes online.

SD: How has what you learned in the Sustainable Design program at MCAD helped you in your field?

SB: The information gained from MCAD sustainability courses helped me write a sustainability white paper, facilitate the development of a Sustainability Plan, and implement strategies in the Plan.

SD: All in all was the program practical for you?

SB: The program had the right mix of conceptual, big picture, and information and specific practical strategies.

SD: How are you making a difference?

SB: I am educating city employees, residents and businesses on sustainable activities, promoting and implementing energy efficiency programs and systems, and measuring and documenting the benefits of sustainability initiatives.

Seed image courtesy of Flickr CC @Neal.

Cindy Gilbert / Former Director

Cindy is founder and director of Alula Consulting which specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects for educational institutions, non-profits, and corporations. Recent clients include The Lemelson Foundation, VentureWell, Green Building Research Institute, University of Montana, PBS, Silverback Films, and more. Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry.

Cindy was the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program for 7.5 years which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fostered a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. Before MCAD, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the professional certification program, annual education summits, affiliate and fellows programs, and design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana. Please contact her through LinkedIn.

Susan Bast

Susan Bast has been an environmental scientist for the City of Burnsville, Minnesota for over two decades. She develops, coordinates and implements environmental programs that promote sustainable practices with a goal to provide residents, businesses and employees with the information and the opportunity to make more environmentally preferable choices. She completed a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota and a Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design from MCAD in 2009. Susan is based in Minnesota.