Blog

Student Spotlight: Ryan Schools

}

Jan 20, 2015

cit0j1vdn00kp24i5kmv7kwn8 schools ryan 14 15

What can an engineer learn by traveling to Europe? Ryan Schools (’17), a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major, thought that he had a lot to learn from Icelandic models of sustainability and renewable energy, and he was right! As humanity strives to untangle and address global environmental change, Ryan recognized that doing so requires experiencing and learning from other cultural and national models of sustainable practice and industry. We agreed, and gave him a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to travel to Reykjavik, Iceland. He recently wrote to us about his experience, and sent us some stunning photos!

It’s not often that one is faced with the opportunity to travel to the actual ends of the Earth in the name of research, adventure, and personal growth, but that’s exactly the kind of circumstance I was presented with over this past winter break. Thanks in part to the support of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies, I was able to travel to remote Iceland for 8 days as a part of the “Global Renewable Energy Educational Network”, otherwise known as the GREEN Program. The GREEN Program is an award-winning, experiential education and professional development program that strives to provide student leaders from around the world with an immersive and comprehensive look at the cutting edge of global sustainable practice and industry—a goal which tends to necessitate travel to some of the most unique destinations in the world.

cit0j1bd900kl24i5rbckjlqt schools ryan 14 15 7

The GREEN Program in Iceland partners with the innovative Reykjavik University School of Energy as well as leading Icelandic energy companies to deliver world-class education on renewable energy, first-hand. Whether it’s taking classes taught by actual Reykjavik University professors, touring some of Iceland’s state-of-the-art hydro and geothermal power plants, or even chatting with one of the humble Icelandic farmers that are pushing the envelope on sustainable agricultural practice, the GREEN program truly offers something for everyone and provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a way-of-life seemingly born of the future.

The program also prides itself on a strong commitment to adventure, cultural immersion, and unconventional education, and thus includes opportunities to participate in a series of unforgettable and “uniquely Icelandic” activities ranging from glacier hiking to hot spring swimming. 

cit0j0g2c00kh24i5vz39bcds schools ryan 14 15 6

I first became interested in the GREEN program because it represented a way to pursue my interests in the energy sector while also experiencing a part of the world that faces challenges very different from our own. As a chemical engineering major interested not only in the intersection of novel technologies with responsible and sustainable practice, but also in the idea of adventuring to the far corners of the world, GREEN was a perfect fit for me, and it lended itself wonderfully to the spirit of the Nanovic Institute’s break research and travel grants. 

cit0izbua00ke24i5cgmwasp3 schools ryan 14 15 5

One of the major components of the GREEN Program is a “green” capstone project that sees participants form teams to develop an idea or model incorporating the lessons learned throughout the program into a final presentation given at Reykjavik University. Knowing from the beginning that the capstone project would make up the majority of the research and application-based thinking I would do during my time in Iceland, I thought a lot before the trip began about how I might be able to shape the project to address some of my most fundamental questions about sustainability. Beyond simple thoughts I had about how geothermal power plants work or how the Icelandic public feels about hydrogen cars, I was interested more than anything else in exploring the factors that contribute to making renewable technologies feasible and preferable over other types of conventional solutions. In effect, I wanted to take from Iceland a better knowledge of how its renewable success story might be extended to other sites around the world, and of how that story might need to be adjusted and even overturned to meet the unique constraints and issues of those locales. 

Despite being somewhat limited by time and resources, each and every group on my GREEN program produced a capstone that targeted a meaningful and significant issue and proposed an innovative plan to move toward its solution. To use my own group’s capstone as an example, my groupmates and I chose to work with the relatively underappreciated problem surrounding lithium-ion battery recycling. Right now, there are approximately 2 billion lithium-ion batteries discarded every year by consumers of phones, computers, electric vehicles, and other devices around the world, and that number will only continue to grow in the coming years. Due to the expenses surrounding the delicate process of actually breaking down and recycling these batteries, it turns out there is virtually zero infrastructure currently available for their efficient and safe disposal, which leaves the vast majority of them to pile up in the hands of consumers, electronics retailers, and, regrettably, landfills.

In an attempt to remedy this problem or to at least control it before it grows to become an even more pressing environmental threat, our group produced a business model for a series of automated and versatile lithium-ion battery recycling centers that could feasibly overcome the current economic barriers to the U.S. market in the very near future. Bringing together knowledge on the finances and other nuances of renewable technologies, operations, and systems that we learned about through GREEN with my own, original intention to spread Icelandic-inspired sustainable solutions, the project was a huge success, and, to me, represented the culmination of what the GREEN program is all about: recognizing that the world really can be changed despite the status quo.

Overall, my experience in Iceland with GREEN was nothing short of unbelievable from start to finish. Not only was I given access to brilliant minds, world-class operations, and unforgettable excursions, but I was able to learn more about myself, my passions, and the world around me while working toward a very real piece of the renewable solution. Even beyond the academics of GREEN, the program truly encompassed so much more than words can describe. Participants in GREEN come from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings, but are intrinsically united by their curiosity and their care for our planet and society. As such, in only 8 short days, I was bestowed with 42 amazing new friends who compose a network reaching to the far corners of the world, and who all share in my hopes and passions for a greener tomorrow. All of these things—the memories, the experiences, the knowledge, the accomplishments, the friends, and more—I owe to the Nanovic Institute and to Notre Dame, and for that I’d like to say “þakka þér.”

See the original article here: http://blogs.nd.edu/europe/2015/01/20/student-spotlight-ryan-schools/

Read Another Article

How an Online Sustainability Program Helped Jaedyn Medrano Become an Intersectional Sustainability Advocate

This blog features the virtual Nepal Ethics of Sustainable Development Alum, Jaedyn Medrano who says, “this program taught me how to think about a project holistically, and it has guided me along the path to being a better cultured and inclusive young professional.” She is set to graduate with a double major in Renewable Natural Resources & Ecological Restorations in December of 2022.

read more

Defending Reproductive Rights in the Battle for Climate Justice

Reproductive Justice is Climate Justice. The GREEN Program stands to defend the reproductive rights of all women and people who give birth to access safe reproductive health care. We must do more to educate others and understand the interconnection between Reproductive Justice and the Climate Crisis. It’s important to draw the connections between climate change, pollution, and reproductive rights.

read more

An International Graduate Student Embraces Nepali Culture by Studying Abroad through Shine On Scholarship

On one hand, I believe that every student should be given a chance to study abroad at least once in their life, because it teaches us things that textbooks cannot: adaptability, resilience, curiosity, empathy, just to name a few. Whether good or bad, bursting our bubble and learning about our world will inspire us and open our minds. On the other hand, the people we interact with benefit from the diversity, because all of us bring unique perspectives to the table. Perhaps we share an idea that no one has thought of but could be key to solving a problem; we fuel the aspirations of someone who is facing similar difficulties; or help take down stereotypes.  

read more

Remembering Juneteenth and the Fight for Environmental Justice

n June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. It is on this day every year since that we celebrate “Juneteenth” as the end of slavery in the United States. It is a day that we celebrate ancestors and leaders who fought to be liberated. We celebrate their power, resiliency, and tenacity. 

read more

LGBTQ+ Leaders and Organizations in Sustainability to Know About this Pride Month

The GREEN Program loves to celebrate love, and there is no better way to do that this month than by recognizing a few LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations that are making a difference not just in their own communities but for our planet altogether. Read below to learn more about some people and spaces that are working together to promote a better world that focuses on inclusion and equality.

read more

Meet 8 AAPI Leaders in Sustainability: Across the Globe and At Home

The month of May is known to many as the end of classes and the start of Summer, but May is also known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Our team at TGP wanted to take a moment to recognize the contributions and influence of AAPI Americans throughout history, culture, and achievements both on a global scale, and from those who are a bit close to home. We also encourage you to learn more about AAPI Heritage Month and get involved through additional resources.

read more

From a Start Up to a Sustainability Study Abroad Program: How Patrick Applied his Passion for Renewable Energy in Iceland

When Fall 2021 rolled around and I saw the TGP scholarship opportunity, I thought I’d apply not expecting much. When I found out that I actually got it, I was like “I guess I’m actually doing this!”. I was a little nervous and anxious but also so excited for the opportunity! I was also grateful that the enrollment process was very smooth for me with no significant challenges along the way.

read more

Boston University Student Gains a Unique Perspective for Renewable Energy & Sustainability by Studying Abroad in Iceland

Global experiences have definitely shaped me into the person I am today through increased cultural awareness and sensitivity. Getting to really know a great group of diverse individuals from all over the world has not only shaped my perspective on current world issues, but has also allowed me to take a glance at certain topics from another angle and point of view.

read more

A Construction Science Major Turns Lessons into Opportunity after a Sustainability Study Abroad Program 

AJ Ewing spent his past Winter Break a little bit differently than most students, by studying abroad on our GREEN Nepal program. As a Construction Science major, AJ notes that he was nervous coming into the study abroad program having no prior experience in sustainability or electrical/solar grids, but he was excited and eager to learn. As soon as he arrived, all his nerves were gone as he was welcomed by our team and ready to dive in. Now, he can honestly say that when he thinks of The GREEN Program, he thinks of “family away from home.”

read more

How a Geologist Made His Sustainability Dream in Iceland a Reality through a Study Abroad Scholarship

As someone who is in a field with a limited representation of ethnic minorities, TGP created a neutral ground where there was a range of diversity on different levels. My GREEN Program experience in Iceland wasn’t just about the adventures and cultural immersion, but about the education too. I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures because I saw how passionate the different lecturers were about their work and research which is truly inspiring. As a geologist, learning more about the wonder that is Iceland in Iceland was definitely a dream come true.

read more

Get to Know GREENie: Maryam Aida Tidjani

Maryam Aida Tidjani got to experience a brand new kind of GREEN Program during the hard times the world was facing, a 100% Virtual and Online experience. Initially planning on traveling to Peru in 2021, the global pandemic continued to shift things around and we had to pivot all travel programs to Online experiences.

read more

Subscribe to The GREEN Program newsletter & updates

Loading...
Skip to content