Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Robin Aspman-O’Callaghan is an active counselor for the IEA and professor of Management at City University of Seattle, in Washington state. Her colorful demeaner is present both in and outside the classroom. I can only presume her lectures are served with a side of spunk. The beginnings of her academic career were spent at Huxley College of Environmental Studies where she remembers on the first day of Air Pollution class the professor asked her for a specimen of hair. “You see arsenic was one of the more common poisons people from Tacoma were exposed to”, she recalls. A native to Tacoma and eager to learn, Robin readily agreed and pulled out a single strand of hair, while the class proceeded to learn that arsenic stays in the body. Looking back at this smitten interaction with her professor, Robin says that it was Dr. Ruth Weiner and the other professors at Huxley that set her off on her current and unique path.
Dubbing herself as a systems person, her undergraduate degree in Ecosystem Analysis merged with methodology of systems and soon she found herself learning IT and administrative systems. She is grateful for finding an academic and subsequent career path that connects business, tech, human and natural systems as her current work uses this interdisciplinary approach with international students; making her job extremely fulfilling. Robin is consistently challenging herself and creating new outlets for growth. In addition to a professor, she is also a co-founder of a counseling business, Seeds2Success, with her husband Ian. The purpose of Seeds2Success is to work with individuals through personal sessions and ‘life’ sessions where community focused and sustainable life concepts are discussed and taught. Throughout her career, Robin has felt that some people need a baseline of information and values to understand the importance and power of living sustainably. By adapting a concept from Dr. Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset: the new psychology of success, Robin and her husband hope to reach their clients’ fullest potentials and help them realize disruptive or unplanned situations as opportunities for growth. She’s currently working on what she calls the ‘sustainable mindset’ which uses methods from the growth mindset to help her clients understand how their attitude affects their perspective on life. Her biggest motivator is to be what her dad taught her, and “to work alongside my family, and to make the changes needed so that future generations have a world to protect and respect”.
Much of her work recently has been related to the sustainable mindset. At last year’s International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment Robin presented the beginnings of this concept by focusing on problems of communication, specifically the four diseases of speech and how these diseases can be combated. Robin points out that the biggest misunderstandings that occur between groups of people stem from an inability to listen and a refusal to discuss new ideas. She refers to what Dweck calls a ‘closed mindset’ and believes that transitioning individuals from a toxic to a sustainable mindset will help meet the demands of the 21st century. Beyond her daily routines of teaching, creating, and living out a sustainable mindset, Robin enjoys hikes on her island, where Seeds2Success is based, and volunteering for outreach programs locally. She will be expanding on her work around the sustainable mindset at next year’s IICE in Mexico City.