The path to the doctorate began with a small planetarium and an introductory astronomy course

December 6, 2021

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

McCall Langford was introduced to the design principles of biomimicry at a young age. She learned to appreciate the intricacies of nature’s intricate systems, processes and forms through the work of her grandfather, Ray Anderson, founder of an eco-friendly, sustainability-focused textile manufacturing company. . Interface. Langford was influenced by thought leaders in biomimicry and sustainability with whom her grandfather worked closely to design products inspired by the regenerative properties of the natural world.

McCall Langford.
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After receiving her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Georgia State University, she channeled her passion for equity and sustainability into the environmental nonprofit sector, as Director of Development for One more generation.

The attraction to the natural world was strong, and she moved away from her corporate career to fully immerse herself in nature, spending over a year camping and hiking in the United States wilderness. United. It was there that she was able to observe how nuanced and special the harmonious nature of the biological world is.

Upon returning from his adventures, Langford had solidified his life purpose: not only to come to terms with nature, but to advocate for a global reconnection to the natural world in order to create a more sustainable and regenerative future. She subscribed to College of World FuturesMaster of Science in Biomimicry Program via ASU online, and she hopes to use her experience and her degree to continue to help bridge the gap between modern technology, innovation and the natural world.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the area you specialized in?

Reply: I was exposed to biomimicry when I was very young thanks to my grandfather’s work. He has become very active in the sustainable development community thanks to his mission at Interface. His organization worked with biomimicry consultants to create regenerative and sustainable designs.

During my undergrad I worked in nonprofit development in the area of ​​fundraising and donor management, then I was development director for a nonprofit organization of environmental education of young people and defense of endangered species. I also took some time away from the corporate world to backpack.

During this time, I was immersed in nature. I really began to observe the level of complexity and efficient productivity of natural processes. These natural systems filter water, sequester carbon, remove air pollutants, cool the soil, generate abundant nutrients, etc., without causing any of the problems or challenges that our human designs do. There are so many complex cooperative relationships in nature. The ecological systems around us perform all the functional tasks that the human race tries to accomplish, and they do it much more efficiently than we do.

Nature creates the right conditions for life because its sole purpose is to continue to survive. I realized the power of nature’s guidance, and biomimicry helps us formalize the process of asking, “How does nature do this and what can we learn from it?” We could solve a lot of wicked challenges that we are living through at this crucial time in human history. My big “aha” moment came to look around and see this whole space of very complex solutions where these answers already exist and to know that I wanted to tap into the library of solutions that the biological world is tapping into.

Q: What did you learn at ASU – in class or elsewhere – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: While I was in this program, it really struck me how well humans design. Obviously, we design buildings, infrastructure, products and a plethora of tangible things that provide us with modern conveniences. We also design much more than that. The human race also designs intangible processes and systems. Whether it’s how you’re going to spend your morning or how to engage a community, we’re constantly generating new ideas to optimize our lives. With biomimicry, we have the opportunity to bridge the gap between innovative human design and effective, nature-inspired design solutions.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: In the early 1990s, (his grandfather) Ray Anderson set out to identify sustainability leaders and change agents to help develop sustainable nature-inspired designs at Interface. Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, the co-founders of Biomimicry 3.8, were among these leaders, and I have followed their careers closely over the years. What I liked about ASU and its partnership with Biomimicry 3.8 is that the program has not only emphasized the importance of mimicking nature in design, but the ultimate goal is to create systems. ethical and sustainable that work in harmony with nature. ASU’s program instills the emulation of nature for a sustainable and regenerative future.

The holistic design methodology offered at ASU guides a holistic approach to mimic natural systems in order to establish a true symbiosis with the Earth. We can create the right conditions for life, just as our natural ecosystems do, and in this process we can re-engage in a deep relationship with the natural world.

In addition to the unique opportunity to learn from leaders in the field, ASU is recognized for its prestigious and well-equipped online programming. In my eyes, there was nowhere else I wanted to go other than ASU.

Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson during your time at ASU?

A: Dayna Baumeister is the backbone of the master’s program in Biomimicry. We also have a wonderful group of adjunct professors who uplift and support Dayna’s work while bringing additional knowledge and perspectives to the program. It’s so hard to pick a single teacher who made an impact. They have all played a major role in advancing my academic career.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?

A: My best advice is to go beyond what the courses require of you. Specifically, identify how you can advocate for the work you are doing here. The masters program is designed to be flexible for career professionals, designed to be accessible and achievable with this underlying implication that you can take it one step further and personalize your education and experience. It’s not about the grades on your transcript, it’s about learning everything you can, then using that knowledge and applying it to make the world a better place.

Q: Where was your favorite place to study power?

A: I really don’t see this just as an online program because we are called to go out into nature and learn from it. This program encourages us to be outdoors all the time, so I really spent most of my time in the field, observing and learning to see the natural world through a working lens.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate?

A: I officially practice biomimicry as part of my regenerative design career. I am currently working as a biomimicry consultant on a project bringing biomimetic design to an 18 mile stretch of test bed highway that has been seen as an innovation lab for regenerative design. The innovation lab initiative is interested in bio-inspired design to improve the regenerative qualities of our country’s transport systems. After graduation, I will continue to leverage biomimetic design to bring us closer to the harmonious place where I know we can come.

Q: If someone gave you $ 40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The School of Complex Adaptive Systems focuses on developing frameworks to guide the design of our systems, while highly technically incorporating these frameworks into social and conceptual designs. To do both, you have to have a crop change, so I would like that to encourage people to invest in biomimetic solutions by showing them how regeneration will improve their conditions. I would invest the $ 40 million in demonstrating the value of funding and implementing regenerative and efficient systems inspired by the natural world instead of many of today’s inadequate “solutions”.

We are getting there. Over the past decade, we have witnessed a massive cultural shift towards a more equitable and inclusive social mindset. We absolutely must address the economic and social perspectives before we can see the complex and massive systems change necessary to resolve these perverse problems.

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Arline J. Mercier