What follows is the application essay Richa Agarwal, Class of 2008, wrote before beginning her studies at Pratt. The piece became an appropriate bookend when asked to reflect on her studies during her last class of the Design Management Program.
Translation: A mounted soldier capable of great victories also runs the risk of failing; whereas people who do not risk anything achieve nothing of significance.
Life, I have discovered, is more unexpected than my imagination. Often, when I am taking my biodegradable garbage to the composting heap in my backyard, the irony of the situation catches me off-guard. America, to me as a child, was the land of big-machines, automation, dishwashers, space-age and fast cars. Not in my wildest imagination did it occur to me that someday, in America, I would contemplate ways of recycling my garbage.
In India, we recycled everything because throwing things out equaled waste. Once a month, the Raddhi-wallah (a man who trades paper) would come to our house and buy the month’s newspapers and magazines. Concurrently, the Kabari-wallah (a junk-trader) would appear to buy tin cans and glass bottles. My mother bartered old clothing for steel utensils with the Bartan-wallah (utensil-trader). All this trading and bartering, kept our house junk-free and amounted to a sustainable recycling program. These days, I find myself contemplating every single buying decision judging where it ranks on the sustainability scale.
The seeds of sustainability were planted in me sometime during childhood. My parents belong to an NGO called Manavodaya, “an institute of participatory development.” (www.manavodaya.org.in). My cousin, who has an MBA, quit his lucrative job with India’s top multinational, the TATA group to start the NGO. One of the missions of Manavodaya is to introduce the concept of sustainable development at the grassroots level in rural India. Manavodaya also facilitates micro-loans for local artisans. As a child and then a teenager, I often accompanied my parents to Manavodaya seminars and workshops. All these interactions, over the years, have helped me assimilate not just the economic value of sustainable development but also its impact on human life.
At the Pratt Open House, when I heard Dr. Mary McBride, speaking about sustainable design and “creating a sustainable business advantage,” it genuinely resonated within me. In my life, I have been profoundly influenced by many people and ideas. One such experience occurred after I read the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we Make Things” by William McDonough. The spirit this book embodies can change the way we create, live and consume. In Cradle to Cradle, the authors provide many concrete examples of how being environmentally conscious achieves sustainability and ultimately leads to economic advantage for a company.
In “The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time,” the economist Jeffery Sachs, makes a strong case for how sustainable development will be a key factor in eradicating poverty by 2015, the deadline UN has set for meeting its Millennium Goals.
The Design Management (DM) program at Pratt is attractive to me not only because it has the unique distinction of being taught to design professionals, helping them integrate into the mainstream business operations of a company, it is also taught from a perspective of sustainability.
At this point in my career, the education from the DM program will give me a sustainable advantage within any corporation. Armed with a Pratt DM degree, I hope to influence business decisions while advancing the sustainability agenda. I have failed at adopting many practices that seem to be integrated into the mainstream fabric of society. I have realized that I never want to be a fiber woven into that fabric. I would rather be a recycled patch sewn with recycled yarn on the top. I do not wish to be a part of the culture of disposable convenience but a part of the equation of sustainability. So, those high school students can go ahead and laugh at me all they want, but one day when they are taking out their kitchen refuse to the composting heaps in their back yards, wearing their recycled clothes, it is I who will have the last chuckle.
About the Author:
Richa Agarwal is a seasoned fashion industry veteran. Her professional repertoire includes companies such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Richa’s education is a concoction of Design Management, Fashion Design, Apparel Production Management, and Electrical Engineering disciplines. This unconventional blend gives Richa a unique acuity of product design and production systems, which she is leveraging to promote the causes of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.