Q&A with Sonal Larsen
Clean Energy and Climate Change Policy
Graduation year: 2008
Q. What appealed to you about UNSW and your degree?
It was Scientia Professor Deo Prasad’s international reputation on sustainable buildings, cities and energy that drew me to to Sydney. What I enjoyed most about UNSW was the globally relevant staff. These were professors I could use as mentors. In five short years, she went from working as a sustainability consultant at the United Nations Environment Program in Bangkok to working with the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of President Obama. Sonal recently left the White House to join Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s sustainability office. She directs the Mayor’s commitment to a national initiative with 10 leading mayors to make American cities healthier and more prosperous through clean energy innovations. The initiative received national press and was praised by U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy during the announcement of the Obama Administration’s groundbreaking Clean Power Plan proposal.
Q. How have those relationships fostered at UNSW continued to grow?
Our team was able to meet with my professor from Australia, former UNSW School of Built Environment senior lecturer Peter Graham, and his work was relevant for leading energy experts at the White House Council. My Masters helped me transition as an engineer building green buildings to writing policy that affects the energy use of a whole city.