I live in this interesting nexus of social justice, sustainability and geography. For me, sustainability isn’t cut and dried. It’s more about holistic systems. This way of thinking has informed my whole career.
The seeds of Nikki Sauber’s interest in the environment were planted at an early age. Simply put, it was spurred on by her surroundings.
“I grew up on a lake in Massachusetts, and always had nature in my backyard,” the Millbury native said.
When Ms. Sauber arrived at Bridgewater State, she majored in special education. However, after traveling to Tanzania in the summer of 2009 as part of an art class with former BSU art Professor John Hooker, she had new ideas about her future.
“That trip really changed my life,” she said. “It opened my eyes to other cultures and to the fact that social justice extended beyond my immediate world.”
Ms. Sauber became a sociology major with a concentration in social justice and minors in geography and communication studies. After graduating from BSU, she earned a master’s degree in environmental studies, with a concentration in advocacy for social justice and sustainability from Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire.
She came to realize that her interests were not only all connected, but also fell under the umbrella of sustainability. “I live in this interesting nexus of social justice, sustainability and geography,” she said. “For me, sustainability isn’t cut and dried. It’s more about holistic systems. This way of thinking has informed my whole career.”
Ms. Sauber’s work has thus far focused predominately on people and human systems. After earning her master’s degree, she worked for the Monadnock United Way in Keene, New Hampshire, where she evaluated the organization’s funded partner agencies to measure impact and to ensure they were sustainable. This involved making sure that the agencies had adequate resources and infrastructure to build and maintain meaningful programs that make a difference in people’s lives.
In March 2020, Ms. Sauber became project manager for the Behavioral Health Improvement Institute, which is housed at Keene State College, a short commute from her home in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Her work is similar to what she did at the United Way, but focuses more on grant-funded programs that predominately serve children and families through school districts and community- based organizations.
“There are lots of grants that support well-intended programs, but sometimes they end up not being
sustainable, due to problems such as lack of training for those involved or ongoing funding,” Ms. Sauber said. “And in the long run, if something is not sustainable how much can it help?”
Key to her job is thinking beyond the here and now and making sure programs will be there for future
generations. “My greatest satisfaction is helping people problem solve,” she said. “I would describe myself as tenacious. I don’t like to give up on problems. And a lot of community groups, nonprofits and schools have problems and are not given the resources or the time necessary to succeed.
“I help people learn about the impact that they’re making and help develop systems to allow them to flourish,” Ms. Sauber said.