Graduate Student Spotlight: Zachary T. Stephens, MS Environmental Studies

The University of Charleston, SC provides current graduate students with research, presentation, and professional development grants, allowing students to travel both domestically and internationally to enhance their academic experience. In addition to various other campus funding opportunities, Zachary T. Stephens, recently utilized his Graduate School Professional Development Grant to travel to Dubai, U.A.E. for the 2018 Future Cities Show and Conference:

As a student, I am extremely interested in sustainability practices both in business and applied to cities or nations. This is the primary reason I came to The College of Charleston, as our Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) is Sustainability Literacy. Being in a university where sustainability is both taught, experienced, and practiced is a wonderful thing. Throughout my coursework in my first year as a graduate student, I was able to explore the academics and theory of sustainability. As a result of my academic experiences and financial support from The College of Charleston Graduate School, I am excited to have had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Future Cities Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The conference was held in April and furthered my knowledge base while also providing me with invaluable networking opportunities.

The Future Cities Show was a global conference related to city systems thinking of sustainability and resilience. The conference covered a wide range of topics including: digital infrastructure, Blockchain applications, mass transit, smart transportation, big data use, Internet of Things (IoT), security, sustainable development, futurology, resilience, citizen happiness, renewable energy, waste management, Net Zero (carbon), smart cities and buildings, and urban planning with design for sustainability. The breadth of this conference was supported, in part, by being in close proximity to the Dubai (U.A.E.) National Economic and Investment Forum, as well as a tech startup conference. I was exposed to many areas of cutting edge investment, design, solutions, research, and working professionals in the public and private sectors, and was able to utilize some of this knowledge in a classroom assignment back here at the College of Charleston to close the semester.

I am very thankful for the funding I have received from the graduate school, the Masters of Science in Environmental Studies Program, M.E.S.S.A., and G.S.A. for without this overwhelming support the experience would not have been possible. I am proud to say that I have enhanced my understanding of both city systems and their sustainability, as well as knowledge of how industry is also rising to the challenge to meet the U.N. Sustainability Goals. Both the civic and business sectors are in my personal areas of interests, and the speakers at this conference did not disappoint with their targeted messaging and commentary on local to global solutions. Many topics discussed within the conference I have been able to start working with the Sustainability Literacy Institute, the Office of Sustainability, and the college’s upper administration to implement these ideas in various forms of function and practice throughout this campus’s physical and digital presence.

In short, this conference and experience was proven to be the wealth of knowledge I expected and, as a result, I was able to bring back and apply my new knowledge and experience back home here at the College of Charleston. I genuinely hope other students, graduate and undergraduate, will take advantage of the numerous funding opportunities The College of Charleston grants its students. Many topics covered in lecture and personal learning experiences here at the college can be further enhanced by attending a conference for your discipline.

About the Author: Zachary is a current graduate student beginning his final year in the Masters of Environmental Studies Program. He currently serves as the President of The Graduate Student Association, Graduate Assistant for Outreach and Communications for the Sustainability Literacy Institute, and Graduate Hall Director for Rivers Residence Hall.



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