A cross-cultural learning experience in Hong Kong this summer helped Patricia Garland view sustainability problems and solutions from a new perspective.
“Culturally, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I had never been able to work with other cultures in this capacity,” said Garland, the 2014 spring recipient of the Dr. Adrian R. Lawler Exchange Scholarship. “It was fascinating.”
The Lawler Scholarship supports international study programs and is administered by the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation. Lawler, an Oak Ridge High School graduate and the second student here to participate in an American Field Service international program in 1957, established the scholarship in 2008 to offer students here similar opportunities to gain tolerance and understanding of people from other cultures.
Garland, 23, a 2009 ORHS graduate, studied abroad through a program at Arizona State University, where she is working on her master’s degree in sustainability. She received her bachelor’s degree in environmental science, with a concentration on sociology and anthropology, from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the daughter of Sid and Anne Garland.
She was among 15 students from ASU who completed an urban sustainability policy course at Hong Kong’s City University. She worked alongside local students throughout the course, attending lectures in the mornings and field trips in the afternoons.
Among her field trips, Garland observed research at a marine reserve in Hong Kong, where decreasing marine biodiversity is hurting the fishing industry, and she visited a landfill, learning about the huge waste problems facing the region with seven million people and the concerns about running out of landfill space.
“It was a very good experience learning about problems they are facing in terms of sustainability and about practical policies that we could put into place, knowing the political environment was very important in coming up with policy,” Garland said.
The students presented posters and policy solutions to the public in Hong Kong on the issues of land use, waste, energy, marine management, transportation, and water. They learned that the political environment can make policy solutions difficult to implement, Garland said.
“I am so appreciative that I was able to get funding,” she said of the Lawler scholarship. Part of the study abroad experience was covered by Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU, funded by the Walton Family Foundation, and the additional Lawler scholarship made the experience affordable for her.
Garland plans to pursue a career in sustainability, described by ASU as improving human well-being and ensuring social equity for present and future generations, while safeguarding the planet’s life-supporting ecosystems. She hopes to either work on sustainability on a university campus or in the private sector.
The Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000, provides funds beyond public tax dollars to ensure the highest quality of education for Oak Ridge Schools’ students. The Foundation raises funds through grants and private donations to invest in enhanced educational programming, innovative technology, and state-of-the-art facilities for teachers and students.
For more information or to make a donation, call Jessica Steed, Foundation executive director, at (865) 241-3667 or see the foundation’s website at www.orpsef.org.