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Michael Aper

Current City: Charlotte, NC

After graduation, Michael Aper is heading to Charlotte, N.C. “I’m excited and honored to say that I recently accepted an internship working with the Centralina Council of Governments, which is headquartered in the wonderful city of Charlotte.”

Q: What led you to pursue a M.A. in Sustainability?

A: My mother. She was an assistant director within the department that oversaw my undergraduate program in Community Development and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University (NAU). She was also an alumni of NAU and, obviously, an energetic proponent of the program. The field of sustainability had always been inherently appealing to me, but her support and encouragement was the final and perpetuating catalyst for pursuing an M.A. in sustainability.

Q: Who at the University encouraged you along the path to your degree? 

A: I’ve always felt a warm encouragement at Wake Forest. Ashley Wilcox, program assistant for the Master of Arts in Sustainability, went above and beyond to not only inquire closely about my interests in the program, but also as a mentor ensuring that the application process went smoothly for both of us. Since I’ve been here, Dan Fogel has been an opportunity creator. Just sit in on one of his lectures and you’ll see that Pro Humanitate is a mindset and a motivation. Lastly, my cohort, which have been a continuous and sometimes surprising source of knowledge, support, inspiration and laughter.

Q: What class did you enjoy most and why?

A: That’s an unfair question because all  classes have been great. With that being said, the Applied Sustainability class was my favorite. Although the expectations were clear, and the feedback critical, we were given a lot of autonomy during projects. There was room for individual initiative and curiosity. Students had the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of people in the community and around campus.

Q: What is the most dramatic change you’ve undergone during graduate school?

A: I think that I’m moving away from transformative changes. I’m 26, but I’ve been working since I was 16-years-old. I turned 19 in Korea and 21 in Afghanistan. I made it here against personal adversity. I’m pretty well grounded in who I am. It’s a game of nuance for me at this point. I’d say that’s where the real challenges are.

Q: What will you remember most about Wake Forest?

A: Memory, to me, is like a smooth blending of the aggregate over time. It’s a combination of smells and sounds. It’s the feeling of the sun or the humidity. The lighting. The darkness. I think rather than have a favorite memory, I’d like to remember some of the smells or the feeling of the sun here. I’ve noticed that as I get older one of the best gifts is getting a scent or feeling that reminds you of some distance, fond place or intriguing world that you had been in another time.

Q: What does earning this degree mean to you?

 A: This degree means realizing the beliefs that so many have had in me for so long.