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October 16, 2022

SOS graduate student camp
School of Sustainability Graduate Student Camp

Arizona State University’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative (SPRI) is recruiting a new PhD student to begin in fall 2023. The student will work with Dr. Nicole Darnall and a team of SPRI faculty and students who are focused on assessing sustainable purchasing implementation, impacts, and transitions. The goal of this research is to create actionable knowledge about the conditions that enhance sustainable purchasing effectiveness. The deadline for applications is November 27, 2022.

ASU's Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative

SPRI is an international initiative involving scholars, students, and government and community leaders. SPRI’s goals are to produce actionable knowledge about SP, apply rigorous assessment tools to determine the ways in which organizations can advance SP more successfully, and partner with organizations seeking to advance SP. Its leadership spans ASU’s School of Sustainability, School of Public Affairs and Thunderbird Global School of Management. We coordinate teams of 19 international University Research Fellows (in Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Republic of Korea and the U.S.). Fellows have contributed data on 4,500 local governments’ SP activities to a shared database. Our practitioner partnerships, public reports, academic publications, webinars/presentations, blogs, and social media outreach assist practitioners in developing successful SP programs. To date, much of SPRI’s research has been relevant to the public sector, although, increasingly SPRI is focusing more on private sector concerns.

Candidate’s Responsibilities and Skills

The student will be responsible for conducting research examining organizations sustainable purchasing strategies drawing on interdisciplinary social science research and theories. Students will co-publish in high quality scholarly journals and practitioner outlets. Given the nature of the data, there are opportunities to develop cross-country comparative (quantitative) research, as well as qualitative assessments. The student will have a substantial opportunity to focus on topics of their interest within the broader research program, as well as to develop a dissertation that might specialize and/or branch out from the topic, although the degree of independence would be dependent on the student’s ability to obtain funding for their proposed project.

Students should be strongly self-motivated and self-directed, and interested in learning how to improve their research skills. The ideal student would have experience and training in conducting social science research, experience studying and/or formulating sustainability solutions, experience related to consumption and/or purchasing, and an interest in developing independent research focusing on the effectiveness of sustainable purchasing. Students who do not have all these experiences are encouraged to apply and describe the experience they do have. The student will be expected to be comfortable working with diverse stakeholders ranging from government officials, research faculty, practitioners, and students.

Arizona State University

ASU is a large, comprehensive, research university which has transformed into the “New American University,” one dedicated to the simultaneous pursuit of excellence, broad access to quality education, and meaningful societal impact. By our Charter and Design Aspirations, we center inclusion and success as values that drive the enterprise; adopt inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning as ways to address society’s greatest challenges; and develop innovative partnerships to produce master learners across the lifespan.

ASU's School of Sustainability

The student will be enrolled in the School of Sustainability’s (SOS’s) PhD program. SOS is the first comprehensive degree-granting program of its kind in the United States, and it is a global leader in sustainability research and discovery. Its leadership and faculty embrace ASU’s mission as being a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities it serves. We support and foster a culture of inclusiveness, tolerance, and respect that promotes equal opportunity and diversity among faculty, staff, and students and through our engagement with diverse communities within and beyond the University.

Students in SOS’s PhD program take courses and be trained in interdisciplinary sustainability science research and methods, particularly drawn from organizational studies and public affairs, as well as courses focused on their areas of interest. PhD students will be given preference, though research-focused MS student applicants will be considered if there is a good fit. Funding will be through a mix of Research and Teaching Assistantships and will be available for 3 years (based on continued high performance), with additional years dependent on progress of the student, the project, and the availability of grants. Assistantships cover tuition for graduate coursework, program fees, insurance, and a stipend.

Application Process

This position has a 2-stage application procedure. To apply, email the following in a single pdf file organized in the order below to Nicole Darnall ( by November 27:

  1. A letter of application of 1-2 pages explaining your background and qualifications, as well as your motivations for applying to this position and the research questions you would like to pursue in graduate school. The most important factor in this review of applications will be the way that you articulate research questions related to the proposed topic and how it connects with research being advanced by the Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative. The ability to frame research questions relevant to the broader topic is more important to me than background or experience, as it articulates “fit” with Dr. Darnall’s research program. You can learn more about Dr. Darnall’s research here and here.
  2. A 1-2 paragraph description of your research methods experience that details which class you have completed and what specific topics the courses covered.
  3. Your CV. For suggestions visit here.
  4. Copies of your English Language Proficiency, if required. See ASU’s requirements here. The School of Sustainability’ minimum requirement is the equivalent of a 100 on the TOEFL iBT for admission. Unofficial copies are acceptable.
  5. Names and contact information for 3 references, at least one of whom should be a university faculty member, and at least one of whom should be a person who has experience working with you in a professional context outside of a classroom (e.g., a job supervisor, your thesis advisor, etc.)
  6. In addition, some additional funding is potentially available from the university for students who bring diverse views and experiences to the graduate program and/or who come from diverse backgrounds (for more information, visit here). If you think you might meet the criteria for these additional funds, please send an additional statement of 1 page describing how you meet the criteria. Note that meeting these eligibility criteria are not a requirement of the research position, but a student who is eligible for one of these fellowships may receive additional funding so please include this if you believe you meet the criteria.

Selection Process

Students most likely to receive support will be identified no later than December 5 and will encourage them to make a formal application to SOS’s PhD program. The formal application deadline of the SOS PhD program is December 15. This application will require official copies of university transcripts and test scores, as well as written reference letters. As final admissions decisions are dependent on the admissions committee, funding availability, and decisions made by administrators. Students that are encouraged to apply to SOS’s PhD program cannot be guaranteed that they will be admitted to the graduate program.