Distinguished Awards Projects

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Fostering Environmental Stewardship in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil

Santa Marta is located in São Leopoldo, a city approximately 30 kilometers north of Porto Alegre, Brazil. São Leopoldo has a conglomeration of informal and formal settlements, which include regularized neighborhoods and public housing projects. Santa Marta faces a host of environmental challenges that result from trash dumping in public spaces, trash burning, animals opening trash bags, and inadequate sewage, water systems, and road infrastructure. These issues stem from systemic inequalities within the governmental structure that provides waste management and infrastructure resources, as well as the lack of public participation in the participatory budget process.

We propose a series of interventions that we will implement in the upcoming year with the support from the Dow Distinguished Award including:

  • pilot our community mapping program to provide local residents with the opportunity to produce important information about the community needs, such as determining suitable locations for new stormwater parks and trash traps and identifying which roads needs infrastructural improvements.
  • use public campaigns, under “Together We Make Santa Marta Home,” as a tool for sharing information, changing perceptions, bringing people together, and influencing behaviors, processes, and outcomes.

The community of Santa Marta has a history of strong collective action among residents and the capacity to re-envision and redefine what it means to be a proud resident of Santa Marta. We hope that our proposed interventions will not only be used as a learning and advocacy tool, but we also hope that they can help bring more community cohesion, inspire environmental stewardship across the different generations living in the community, improve strategic neighborhood infrastructure, and serve as an example for other informal settlements.

Fostering Place-Based Resource Sharing

Team Members

Spencer Harbo, Adam Nault


Victoria Bellotti


Raymond De Young

Project Summary

Overconsumption of the Earth’s natural resources is causing widespread environmental degradation and anthropogenic climate change. Future environmental sustainability may be fundamentally dependent on our ability to reduce current levels of consumption. One way to implement this much-needed societal change is by motivating individual and community participation in place-based resource sharing.

The success of place-based resource sharing may be dependent on our understanding of the needs of communities, including what motivates individuals to share resources, as well as the barriers to engaging in sharing. Currently, our team is coordinating a project through the Dow Master’s Fellowship to answer these questions within the context of Southeastern Michigan. Through interviews with leaders of sharing organizations and a survey of community members in four comparison communities, this ongoing project aims to capture motivations for sharing in order to help improve local sharing economies through a well-informed social marketing and urban design strategy.

The proposed project will build off of our ongoing work in two distinct ways: 1) in collaboration with the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), we will develop a cross-sectional qualitative assessment to better understand motivations for participating in local sharing economies among communities in the United States and abroad; and 2) we will provide consultation and support to computer-human interaction designers at PARC, Penn State University, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and leaders in the hOurworld timebanking network to improve the predictive functionality of a ‘smart’ mobile TimeBanking application currently under development, which will draw on our motivational interview findings to match community members with one another and encourage the sharing of resources and services.

Future Vehicle Sharing Service Design for Ann Arbor

Team Members

Namwoo Kang (Design Science), Panos Y. Papalambros (Professor, Mechanical Engineering), Fred M. Feinberg (Professor, Ross School of Business), Michael Gashaj (Industrial & Operations Engineering)


This project proposes a profitable future vehicle sharing service for Ann Arbor by considering an autonomous electric vehicle (EV) design, charging station design, autonomous transport planning, and marketing strategy. This service will contribute to solving environmental impact, traffic congestion, and parking supply problems in the conventional transportation system. Also, this project can help service designers and policy makers understand the relationship between product, service infrastructure, and consumers. It also makes it possible to identify optimal balance between the design decisions from different disciplines when they are coupled and have tradeoffs. Future transformation systems in Ann Arbor will be more green due to autonomous EV sharing service, and our decision-making approach will maximize the utilization of this service through holistic approach. For robust design, we will calculate sensitivities of our solution to changes in input parameters and assumptions.

Greek Life Sustainability Team: Big House, Small Footprint

Team Members

Carol Menessa (Civil/Environmental Engineering Professor), Ariel Turjanski (Art and Design), Jamie Foti (Business), Joshua Goyert (Program in the Environment), Louise Wang (Program in the Environment), Sarah Levine (Environmental Engineering), Siri Andrews (Program in the Environment), Adam Rosen (Informatics), Thomas Coto (Civil Engineering)


This initiative focuses on retrofitting fraternity and sorority chapter houses to reduce energy and water consumption. Greek Life accounts for as much as one-fifth of the undergraduate population at the University of Michigan, with the majority of students living in the chapter house at some point during their 4 years. These houses are commonly outdated, leaving many opportunities for energy saving improvements. This sector of student life has gone untapped by environmental movements put forth by the university. This provides an excellent opportunity to involve a large proportion of students as well as create change in a long standing establishment on campus.

The Greek Life Sustainability Team, (GLIST), intends to combine both the behavioral and structural changes into one system to maximize the program’s effectiveness and streamline the process to make it applicable to more chapters. Thus, we created a classification system similar to the LEED certification program and the University's Sustainable Workplace program.

The goal of the system is to ease houses into the energy saving process by letting them start with several small adjustments, such as changing light bulbs, to help introduce the chapters to energy savings. Our goal is that these projects will culminate in each house performing energy audits to improve energy efficiency on a larger scale. We intend to give houses reward packages to motivate the continued movement towards energy efficiency. The ultimate goal is to perform subsidized energy audits on chapter houses, with the agreement that the money we take off the initial energy audit price will be reinvested towards renovations suggested through the audit. Once the houses see the money saving capabilities of the small changes, they will be more willing to take on these larger projects.

Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the City of Detroit: Institutionalization and Spatial Analysis

Team Members

Rosina Bierbaum, Gregory Keoleian, Jill Carlson, Jenny Cooper, Marie Donahue, Robb De Kleine, Max Neale, Anis Ragland, and Melissa Stults


The City of Detroit, home to 700,000 residents, a growing number of corporate headquarters and small businesses, and an increasingly vibrant community of citizens working hard to improve the long-term sustainability of the city, is in the midst of confronting myriad social, economic, and environmental challenges. Climate change exacerbates many of these challenges, and comprehensive, collaborative climate mitigation and adaptation actions can have co- benefits that improve social, economic, and other environmental issues. In the face of the challenges posed by city planning and climate change, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ), a non-profit environmental justice organization, is collaborating with the City of Detroit, various departments at the University of Michigan, and other local stakeholders, to develop a Climate Action Plan for the City. The process that DWEJ created, called the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, aims to find cost-effective ways to reduce the city’s GHG emissions and increase Detroit’s resilience to climate change. In March 2013, a group of Master’s students from SNRE began to collaborate with DWEJ to develop the first comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions from the city of Detroit, a cornerstone of efforts to create an effective urban Climate Action Plan. The initial GHG inventory develops a 2005 baseline year and trend years 2010-2012, and it serves two critical purposes: 1) provides the baseline from which efficiency and emissions reduction targets can be created; 2) a baseline on which progress can be measured.

Greening the Dental Clinic

The project began as an extension of the 2016-2017 Dow Masters Fellowship project, see: Sink Your Teeth Into Sustainability. Building on the recommendations developed for dental professionals seeking to improve the environmental sustainability of their clinics, the initial phase of this project focused on a database to better assist dentists in their pursuit of sustainability.

Additional funding will support the analysis of a case study to recycle gloves at the University of Michigan Dental Clinic, open to faculty, staff, students and the general public. This effort alone has the potential to divert an estimated 2,000 lbs. of waste annually for the landfill. The team will also focus on conducting surveys of other dental clinics, and support and promote a website with recommendations and resources to improve the sustainability of their clinic.

To foster high-impact sustainability collaborations across U-M, Dow Distinguished Awards for Sustainability supports applied sustainability projects across all disciplines and includes students at all academic levels. Projects are student-led, faculty advised, and action-oriented, outlining a new product, service, or project to protect the environment and enhance the quality of life for present and future generations. Projects span the full breadth of sustainability topics, including but not limited to energy, water, communities, food, built environment, transportation, etc. The Distinguished Awards is part of the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan, supported by The Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

Hagley Gap: Technology for the Minto School

Project Summary

Hagley Gap is a student organized, faculty advised project team that is under the larger umbrella organization of BLUElab. This village is located in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and has about 5,000 community members, a large majority of whom are farmers. Due to its size, location, and the income level of its inhabitants, Hagley Gap gets little support from the government. A nonprofit organization, the Blue Mountain Project (BMP), was founded eleven years ago and has been dedicated to remedying these issues, among others.

The majority of community members in Hagley Gap are subsistence farmers. Each week, farmers rise in the early hours of the morning and make the over two hour trip down the mountain to Kingston to sell their crops at the market. The community often experiences a surplus in fruits (particularly mangoes), which results in piles of fruit being left to rot on the ground, Our vision for a large scale solar dehydrator originated from observations during trips and conversations with community members. We are working on scaling the initial dehydrator prototype for communitywide use. This technology would be incorporated as a business and be maintained by the community. Additionally, students at the local school will hopefully be able to use the solar dehydrator as a hands on learning experience about solar energy. One long term goal of this project is to incorporate a Maryland brewery into the business model as a source of income. BMP has made connections with this brewery, which could be a major purchaser of the dried fruit for use in their mango beer.

Haiti-DR Community Assessment and Border Initiative – Proposal for Funding

Team Members

Jeffrey Thiele, Vicky Koski-Karell, Michael Rozier, Jessica Carlile, Dr. Angel Valdez, Kailey Stutzky, Nicholas Gregory


Dr. Scott Stonington

Project Summary

During summer 2016 this project team conducted health assessments in four rural Haitian communities with support from their Distinguished Award seed grant. These health assessments sought to ascertain the conditions of several factors that contribute to the sustainability of a community’s wellness such as the health of mothers and their infants, nutritional status of infants, and households’ access to sanitation. Key findings show the need of community education around childbirth and postnatal care, nutrition, and environmental conditions such as latrine location in order to improve community health. Through mapping out communities near the Haiti-DR border, the project team explored and quantified the relationship between proximity to a latrine and child health.

The team is now working with governmental agencies and Haiti-based NGOs and is seeking support for training local community health workers to make regular visits to mothers, infants and children in these communities.

Health Enrichment Program for Kids

Project Leaders

Erin Moser and Kelsey Thome

Faculty Advisor

Peter Bodary

Project Summary

With a lack of preventative health knowledge, inaccessibility to means of a healthy lifestyle, and often limited role models for healthy living, children often lack a positive, permanent influence on their health, especially in such a critical time for habitual learning and growth. The goal of the Health Enrichment Program for Kids (HEPK) is to offer a holistic and interactive after school program that encourages a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for children at a young and malleable age. Our target group is kindergarten and first grade students, particularly of a minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged background.

Our goal is to improve the quantity and quality of nutritional education children receive, as well as to increase the amount of physical education instruction they attain in their developmental years. Healthy behaviors we hope to instill include finding fun ways to remain active throughout one’s lifetime (such as walking, dancing, and yoga), choosing healthier food options, and living a sustainable lifestyle (such as planting one’s own garden, buying more local produce, and buying fewer processed snacks).

HEPK works alongside The Peace Neighborhood Center, a local nonprofit whose mission is to provide programs for children, families, and individuals who are affected by social and economic disparities, and to help people discover options, enhance skills, and make choices that lead to self-sufficiency and positive community involvement. HEPK utilizes the organization’s facilities, general ideologies, and program goals when instructing and interacting with the kids. HEPK runs on a weekly basis, facilitating activities for kindergarten and first graders once a week at Peace Neighborhood. Each month focuses on one of four topics:

  • A Lifestyle in Motion (Exercise)
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Diet & Nutrition
  • Environmental Education
Integrated Assessment of Fresh Water Supply in Samara, Costa Rica

Samara is located in the northwestern region of Costa Rica that experiences seasonal challenges with water supply. A Dow Distinguished Awards student team traveled to Samara to conduct interviews, perform workshops and attend a town hall meeting with the local community to understand the water supply situation best. They obtained access to the community property to asses the well, pump, and water system infrastructure. The team identified areas for the organization Sustainability Without Borders to partner with the local community and recommended that they investigate the resources needed to proceed with project efforts and the initiative to form a long-term partnership with the Samara community.

  • Location: Samara, Costa Rica
  • Disciplines Represented: Environment, Engineering, Public Health
  • Project Team: Krutarth Jhaveri, Kelly Sun, Madeline Somers, and Calli VanderWilde (Team Lead)
  • Faculty Advisor: Jose Alfaro, School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Project Client/Sponsor: DondeJavi Tours Asosciacion and Administradora de Acuentos de Samara