USF World News

USF Patel College of Global Sustainability attracts top talent from around the world

portraits of patel colleges of global sustainability students, Rida Ahmed, Daniel Blanco, and Julia Pastorek

TAMPA, FL (April 25, 2024) -- Rida Ahmed, Daniel Bianco, and Julia Pastorek agree: the Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) has offered them the opportunity to develop careers that can make a real difference in the world. The three international students are engaged in innovative class projects and team research that showcases their commitment to applied sustainability.

PCGS was founded at USF in 2010 and seeks to prepare students to address complex regional, national, and global challenges related to sustainability. By offering courses, innovative research projects, outstanding internship opportunities, and community outreach, PCGS aims to achieve sustainable development, both locally and globally. Students come from around the world to take advantage of the resources PCGS has to offer including two advanced degrees and 7 graduate certificate programs. The MA in Global Sustainability offers three concentrations: Climate Mitigation and Adaptation, Sustainability Policy and Sustainable Business, while the Master of Science (MS) degree in Global Sustainability is an interdisciplinary program that offers 5 academic concentrations in Entrepreneurship, Food Sustainability and Security, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Transportation, and Water Sustainability. Alumni of PCGS have gone on to become Sustainability Officers, Environmental Health & Safety Managers, Marine Aquaculture Specialists, and Disaster Coordinators, to name just a few of the roles they hold across many industries.

Rida, a Sustainable Business concentration student from Pakistan, embarked on a journey to PCGS with a vision to integrate sustainable practices within businesses globally. “My upbringing was deeply influenced by my mother's passion for nature and my father’s emphasis on an organic diet. Growing up in a rural area, I observed my mother dedicating her free time to our huge garden, often seeking guidance from a professional gardener on seasonal plant care. My mother's love for nature, involving plants, trees, water, and animals, left a lasting mark on me, and I attribute my keen interest in the environment to this familial influence. Our family routine included evening tea in the garden, where my mother imparted wisdom on the significance of maintaining a sustainable environment. It is through her inspiration that I cultivated my enthusiasm for nature and sustainability. Now I share my learnings with my mother and father.” 

Rida has a background in business operations & controls, audit, and accounting. She got interested in PCGS after learning about greenwashing, a deceptive form of advertising in which a company touts its green credentials but doesn’t make any substantial changes in their sustainability practices. “I recognize the importance of integrating sustainable practices into business operations and wish to play a role in fostering environmentally and socially responsible initiatives within the corporate sector.” Her area of focus is Environment, Social, and Governance, research methods and methodologies and tools used to improve business processes. Read more about Rida here.

Daniel expects to graduate this spring with a master’s degree in Global Sustainability with a concentration in sustainable policy. “I grew up in São Palo, Brazil,” he says. “I always remember sustainability being a part of my life when I was little (not exactly with this name "sustainability"), whether at home where we had a stronger behavior of recycling everything or at school where we learned about how important it was to take care of the planet. I always had a strong sense that taking of our mother Earth should always be a top priority in our lives. Later, when I was studying for my undergraduate degree in International Relations, I got my first job, as a Government Relations & Sustainability intern.” Then he worked as a Sustainability Analyst at Green Domus, a sustainability consultancy firm, helping companies to develop their sustainability reports and CDP questionnaires. Now Daniel works as a Sustainability intern at Greif, a global industrial packaging company. During his time at USF, he worked on projects Drs. Haldar and Ghebremichael. “The first one was funded by Publix, and our goal was to understand the environmental impact of grocery shopping bags. Currently, we're working on developing a greenhouse gas inventory and a Climate Action Plan for the Tampa Bay region.” Read more about Daniel here.

Julia Pastorek, a Sustainable Energy concentration student, was born in Leer, Germany. Julia relates how she has witnessed climatic changes in her own life. Her birthday is in December. “Growing up, I took it for granted that it would snow on my birthday but now my birthday hovers around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, during the summers, our family often swam in the Baltic Sea. However, about a decade ago, our parents forbade us to swim because there was blue-green algae, similar to the problems caused by red tide. This got me thinking about the changes in our environment. It raised questions about the warming climate in Germany, a place not traditionally known for its warmth, and made me think about the global impact on other countries. I realized that something was wrong. The shift in climate prompted me to reflect on the larger environmental issues we face.”

Julia’s work focuses on Renewable Energy, Renewable Fuels, Green Buildings. She has worked as a site manager in technical building equipment. Now she is assisting genCLEO, a youth empowerment movement funded by the CLEO Institute a Florida non-profit that works on climate change.

“It has become clear that we are contributing to environmental pollution, but there are solutions” says Julia. “One important approach is to prioritize clean energy and take action to reduce pollution to protect our planet.” Read more about Julia here.