Search Google Appliance

Sustainability Scholars

The Sustainability Scholars program offers competitive awards of $5,000 for four consecutive years to incoming freshmen in the University Honors College who are interested in pursuing undergraduate research with a focus on urban sustainability. The 2014-2015 academic year welcomes the third cohort of Sustainability Scholars. These outstanding students are Aislinn Bunisky from Maryland, Jocelyn Rodriguez from Illinois, Shane Johnson from Oregon, and Shelencia Holmes from North Carolina.

Sustainability Scholars meet regularly as a group with their faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Olyssa Starry, to discuss, research, and implement ideas to make the Portland State campus more sustainable. They are encouraged to pursue sustainability-related internships, and agree to pursue a senior thesis on a sustainability-related topic.

Meet the 2014 Sustainability Scholars 

Aislinn (pronounced Ashlinn) Bunisky was born in Eugene, Oregon, but grew up mainly in Baltimore, Maryland. She plans to study environmental studies and sustainability, and hopes to eventually work at an ecological restoration company to help prevent plant and animal life from becoming extinct. She’s also interested in helping consumers and sellers better understand the lifecycle of products and increase reuse and recycling practices. She looks forward to traveling internationally, understanding the ecology of different places, and learning more about medicinal properties of plants. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, doing yoga, cooking tasty food, eating tasty food, experiencing live music, exploring, reading, traveling, and gaming.

Jocelyn Rodriguez is from a suburb of Chicago, Illinois and attended Lyons Township High School. She is majoring in environmental studies with a minor in geography. Jocelyn believes that in becoming environmentally conscious you also become conscious of yourself and that what you do as an individual truly makes a difference. You may seem small in this vast world, but your impact is not; and that is something many people seem to forget. Helping more people to become active in sustainable practices is something she strives for. In her free time she enjoys drinking tea, reading, exploring the great outdoors, and listening to music.


Lencia Holmes was born just outside of Seattle, Washington, but grew up in rural North Carolina. She is a freshman majoring in environmental engineering, while learning technical theatre on the side. She is intrigued by many facets of sustainability and environmental science and hopes to find her niche within the next couple years. Currently, her future plans include creating sustainable sources of energy and methods to transport energy. Her other interests include reading fiction, acting, technical work in theatre, listening to music, and analyzing media.



Shane Johnson grew up in the Portland metro area and thoroughly enjoys living in the Northwest. He would like to pursue a career where business, creativity, and science meet. Shane is starting as a freshman in the School of Business with interests in entrepreneurship and philanthropy, but is also interested in political science, film, music, and science. For Shane, sustainability is essential to success in business and more broadly modern life. His summer-long internship at Nike along with other political and civic activities has helped him understanding the importance of incorporating sustainability in all areas of business and urban policy. Shane also has had the opportunity to meet many Northwest Native American leaders, which has given him a unique perspective on the importance of our natural environment—urban or rural—and its relationship to many aspects of our lives. In his free time he enjoys playing the bass, listening to music, going to the cinema, watching comedy of all sorts, running, putting his sweet tooth to good use, and enjoying the Great Northwest!

Meet the 2013 Sustainability Scholars 

Clarissa Gaillardet grew up in the Corvallis, Oregon area and attended South Albany High School. She is double majoring in applied linguistics and German with a TESOL certificate as well. Clarissa is interested in many issues surrounding sustainability, but particularly sustainable community development, both urban and rural. She plans to volunteer and work abroad following graduation. Clarissa spends her free time reading, cooking, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors.


Dominic Galen is from Portland, Oregon and is studying environmental engineering. His interest in environmental engineering began during his time spent volunteering in Ladakh, India where he got a hands-on introduction to the field by working on low-tech sustainable projects with local students. Dominic plans on practicing innovative sustainable development in order to simultaneously improve quality of life and the longevity of communities. Eventually, Dominic hopes to work on the reform of waste-water management, water reclamation, and sustainable structure design in the U.S. and abroad. In his free time, Dominic enjoys camping, photography, cooking, traveling, and searching for his next favorite album. 

Orion Staples is from Los Alamos, New Mexico and is currently a sophomore at Portland State University. He plans to major in environmental science and pursue a career in sustainable water and land use management. He is interested in most aspects of sustainability, but specifically interested in sustainable water and land use especially concerning agriculture. In his free time he enjoys reading, playing guitar, writing poetry and learning whatever he can about protecting the health of our environment. During his "non-academic" time, Orion runs cross country and track for Portland State.



Jazzmine Allen is from Portland, Oregon and is currently a junior majoring in organismal biology and hopes to work with endangered species after she graduates. During her free time, Jazzmine enjoys working with animals, reading, acting, and playing sports.





Meet the 2012 Sustainability Scholars 

Amber Smith is from Salt Lake City, Utah and is currently a junior at Portland State University. She is majoring in geography, with particular interest in studying how humans interact with and perceive their natural environment. She is interested in using art and outdoor recreation to raise awareness about environmental and social issues. She is the president of the student group Tea with TED (watch a short video about the group here) and interns with the Honors College researching green roofs in Portland. Additionally, Amber works at the campus rock climbing wall and leads outdoor trips for the PSU Outdoor Program. In her free time she enjoys drawing, cycling, rock climbing, and volunteering with various community groups.  


Melecio Estrella is from Davis, California, and is in his junior year at Portland State University. He is majoring in environmental engineering and is looking forward to joining the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter this year. EWB is an organization that works with communities abroad to design and complete sustainable engineering projects. Melecio is interested in all aspects of sustainability but specifically sustainable design in engineering projects around the world, especially in developing nations. During his free time, you can find him reading, playing piano, rock climbing, or adventuring with his friends.

A junior in environmental science, Avarie Fitzgerald was inspired to enter the fields of ecology and environmental education when she attended a three week outdoor educational program in the mountains as a high school student. Now, four years later, she is interested in how she herself can cultivate a passion for the natural world in people of all ages and to help them share a desire for sustainability, science, and stewardship. Originally from Astoria, Oregon, she enjoys baking, backpacking, taking rainy urban hikes, and of course, watching The Goonies for the thousandth time.



Dale Herr grew up in San Francisco, California and graduated from Balboa High School. As part of the Public Leadership and Service Pathway at Balboa she developed her interest in sustainable policy. Dale is unsure of what she wants to pursue in the future, but knows that sustainable practices will always be a priority.