Paul Prosser, a School of Sustainability Master’s of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS) graduate and current Advisor of the Happy Lab, was hired in March 2016 as the Sustainability Learning Projects Program Manager for the School of Sustainability (SOS). As a program graduate and SOS staff member, his role in the school is now to support MSUS students in planning and executing their culminating experience projects. He facilitates project development and management courses, develops and maintains clients for the culminating projects, and serves as a resource for MSUS students.
His culminating experience project for his MSUS degree focused on the Tonalea Chapter of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. He was asked to develop design guidelines for a new Chapter House since the existing building was condemned and a permanent space for administration and meetings was needed. Prosser and a team of researchers met with Tonalea Elders a few times to discuss their wants and needs for a new Chapter House. Prosser worked to develop the Traditional Ecological Knowledge 8 (TEK8) Framework, an approach that incorporates spirituality and culture into sustainable development and design. Prosser states, “We tend to think that Western science is the only definitive knowledge on ecology or environment, and the only way you can measure that is by looking at specific slices of environment or ecology, exclusive of spirituality and culture. By contrast, indigenous people tend to look at environment and ecology as a much bigger, broader framework and see a world where everything is connected, including culture and spirituality,” an idea that has helped him conclude that sustainability is simply about balance. He believes the TEK8 framework is applicable to any society and will help change global perspectives on sustainability issues.
He has recently been collaborating with Anne Reichman of the Sustainable Cities Network to launch the Sustainable City Year Program - a new program designed to provide cities with access to sustainable solutions through collaborative projects with ASU. Students in courses from a variety of academic disciplines will work together to create sustainable solutions for cities while gaining research and work experience. He is also partly responsible for re-launching the Sustainability Connect website, a resource for students, faculty, staff, and community members to become and stay connected to sustainability services in the area. Prosser likes to call these the “three halves” of his job and is looking forward to the next year of project and client development in his position.
One thing Prosser has learned through his affiliation with the Happy Lab is that “human emotion is the foundation of how we are connected. To ignore that foundation when working with people on sustainability challenges, is to dismiss the very thing that binds us together with nature and other people.”