When O’Neill Sustainability Management and Policy major Jonathon Lewis stepped onto IUPUI’s campus, he knew he was ready to make a difference.
“I chose to study sustainability because I like helping people and the environment—sustainability lets me do both at the same time,” he explains.
He already plays an important role in the campus’ Office of Sustainability, part of a group of interns who lovingly refer to themselves as the Sustain Gang. His work there—which made headlines recently with the NCAA—and his efforts in the classroom earned him the attention of university leaders.
Even though Lewis isn’t expected to graduate until fall 2021, he was selected as one of this year’s Top 100 undergraduate students at IUPUI. Each year, the IUPUI Office of Alumni Relations honors 100 undergraduate students at the university. For demonstrating academic excellence, campus leadership, and community engagement.
We asked Lewis to weigh in on questions about how he arrived at the O’Neill School, adjusting to college during the pandemic, and what he has planned for the future:
Why did you choose to attend the O’Neill School?
“I chose to attend the O’Neill School because it felt right to me. I can’t describe it better than that. The O’Neill School offered a major in sustainability, the campus was right in the city which I thought was great, but overall when I visited the campus it just felt like this was the place for me.”
What advice do you have for students just starting in the O’Neill School?
“Always try your best in everything you do. There is no penalty for trying and failing. However, there can be great rewards for trying in general. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without trying new things and trying my best at them. Even when you fail and nothing good comes you should keep trying, as you never know if the next time will be the time you succeed.”
What has been one of your most memorable projects in O’Neill?
“One of my most memorable projects was the first project I did in my first class. My friends and I had to develop a sustainability grant project for a final project. It was my first semester and I was already doing real-world sustainability work. After the class, we applied for the actual grant and were awarded some funding for our project.”
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment during your time at O’Neill?
“I have done a lot during my time here that I am proud of but I think my biggest accomplishment so far has to be working with the NCAA to make this year’s March Madness the first-ever March Madness and Men’s Final Four operationally carbon neutral. To do real-world sustainability work and see the results of that work play out in such a big way is truly amazing.”
How have you managed your education amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic?
“It was difficult at first to adjust to online classes but after that first semester last spring I got the hang of things and have been doing well. That being said, time management and taking necessary breaks from work have been really helpful.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“I am currently a part of the O’Neill School’s Accelerated Master’s Program so after graduation I plan to attend graduate school here to get my master’s in sustainability. After that my current plan is to begin a career in sustainability where I can help organizations to be more sustainable.”