Dow Sustainability Fellows Global Impact Series

The Dow Global Impact Series provides a glimpse into the interesting, and often rewarding work of graduate students engaged in the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, including projects led by fellows and distinguished scholars. Each summary in the series is based on a report produced by student teams and highlights key issues, their approach and project outcomes. Videos provide student perspectives about the Fellows Program.

Flexible Transit



Flexible Transit

The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) partnered with a University of Michigan Dow Sustainability Fellows team to explore the potential for a public-private partnership that could supplement and enhance the current public transit system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The team researched the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of different ride-hailing public-private partnership models to determine which model could best be used to cover under-used bus routes and connect riders to transit stops.

​​​​​​Team Members:  Jim Gawron, School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and Ross School of Business; Jack Kramer, Ford School of Public Policy; Omid Bahram, College of Engineering; Bob Kraynak, SEAS and Ross School of Business

Read the Summary (PDF)  /   Video coming soon.





Living Informally and Sustainably

Ocupação Anchieta started four years ago in Grajaú, a city district on the southern periphery of São Paulo, on land owned by the nonprofit organization Instituto Anchieta Grajaú (IAG). Over 800 families now live on the land, negatively impacting the Mata Atlantica forest and natural springs on the site. Currently, AIG and the residents are collaborating on a solution that balances a right to safe housing with environmental health. As part of this ongoing process, an interdisciplinary team of University of Michigan (U-M) students and faculty is working with residents, IAG, and local architectural and engineering firms to create an environmentally and socially sustainable community.

​​​​​​Team Members:  Michael Amidon, Taubmann College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP); Ashish Bhandari, TCAUP; Olaia Chivite Amigo, TCAUP; Laura Devine, TCAUP; Kayal Hunter, School of Public Health;  Jiayang Li, School for Environment and Sustainability;  Erika Linenfelser, TCAUP; Bruna De Souza Oewel, Stamps School of Art and Design; Yao Tang, TCAUP

Read the Summary (PDF)  


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Get Free: Understanding the potential for Community Solar Power in Highland Park

The concept of energy democracy is for people and communities to have control of their energy supply, like choosing whether it comes from fossil fuels or renewables, infrastructure considerations, and other options. Energy democracy focuses on poor and working class people of color, often most impacted by energy purchase decisions. In the case of Highland Park, the city has a majority African-American and Black population, with nearly half of residents living below the poverty line. Approximately 40% of the population reported difficulty in paying their energy bills, and multiple people reported illegal shut-offs, all of which suggest a high and possibly unjust energy burden on the population. These were some of the findings from the community survey on which Soulardarity and the Dow Fellows team collaborated.

​​​​​​Team Members:  Caillin Buchanan, School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and College of Engineering (COE);  Tyler Fitch, SEAS; Benny Jeong, COE; Anna Lenhart, Ford School of Public Policy

Read the Summary (PDF)  /   Video coming soon.





Pedaling with Solar Power

Yuan’s trip to Ghana centered on market research for the Solar-Powered Mini Electric Vehicle (EV) Project. The project originated as a collaboration between a start-up driven by MIT adjunct professor Dr. Christopher Borroni Bird (Afreecar), and the University of Michigan School of Engineering. The overall goal is to a) create a solar electric bike trailer to be used for transportation and as a charging station, and b) demonstrate that such a vehicle can improve quality of life for urban and rural populations in developing countries and impoverished communities.

​​​​​​Team Members:  Sydney Forrester, School for Environment and Sustainability; Yide Gu, College of Engineering (COE); Usmaan Jafer, Research Assistant for Solar-Powered Electric Bicycle Trailer; Tim Yuan, School of Business; Ziyang Zhong, COE

Read the Summary (PDF)  


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Documenting and Illuminating Non-Economic Loss and Damage

When we talk about the impact of climate change, we often discuss monetary value —how much money will fluctuating water levels cost Great Lakes coastal communities? However, many impacts cannot be monetized, like personal relationships with the land, lost species, land-based stories and customs, and spiritual and community values. These are all examples of non-economic losses and damages (NELD) associated with climate change and other environmental stressors.

​​​​​​Team Members:  Stephanie Dooper, School of Education; Katie Proudman, School of Social Work;  Adam Osielski, School of Law; Sarah Swanz, School of Information; Ansha Zaman, School for Environment and Sustainability

Read the Summary (PDF)  /   Video coming soon.


Ride sharing



Ride Sharing in Motor City

As you enter the city, Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City is readily apparent. With wide streets and long blocks, Detroit is a city made for cars. In many places, it is difficult to access amenities – fresh food, jobs, healthcare – without a vehicle.

Team Members: Kenneth J. Fennell Jr, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (SPP); Diego Garcia Montufar Garcia, SPP; Maureen Lackner, SPP; Benjamin Morse, SPP and School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS); Selin Nurgün, SEAS

Read the Summary (PDF)  /   View Video, top right


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Sink Your Teeth Into Sustainability

In healthcare, the main priority is always the patient. “Being green” just isn’t at the forefront of practitioners’ minds. However, the U-M Board of Regents approved a redesign of the School of Dentistry in September 2016 using sustainable design elements.

Team Members: Mary-Catherine Goddard, School of Public Health; Shivani Kamodia, School of Dentistry; Robert Meyer, College of Engineering and School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE); Sean Pavlik, School of Business and SNRE; Megan Schmenk, Law School; Elizabeth Yates, School of Medicine

Read the Summary (PDF)  /   View Video, top right


first video



Converting Food Waste to Energy with a Biodigester

A Dow Sustainability Master's Fellows team investigated the feasibility of installing a biodigester on campus to reduce food waste and capture gas to use for energy. Achieving U-M’s goals requires eliminating 5,300 tons of landfill waste and 170,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year. A new biodigester could be one way to achieve multiple goals.

Team Members: Micaela Battiste, Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment; Seth Buchsbaum, Law School and School of Natural Resources and Environment; Andrew Eberle, Law School; Harry Wolberg, Ford School of Public Policy

Read the Summary (PDF)  /  Read the Full Report (PDF)  /  View Video, top right

Kulisha Fly larvae

Black Flies Can Be A Good Thing

With a $5,000 seed grant from the Dow Distinguished Awards competition, a U-M student team conducted a study to determine the demand for a black soldier fly feed production facility, and how this might contribute to an emerging agriculture and waste management industry. 
Team Members: Mohammad Azimi, Ross School of Business (RSB) and the College of Engineering (COE); Eric Katz, RSB; Katie Matton, COE; Jonathan Luthy, COE. View the document below for a list of all project team members.
sustainable dentistry

Detroit’s Crow House – Updating the Urban Settlement House Tradition

To address both the need for energy efficient housing and access to healthy food, a University of Michigan team of graduate students interested in urban socioecology developed the Crow House project.
Team Members: Marlena Hanlon, School of Social Work and Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning; Ross School of Business, and School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). 
local food

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Shaping the Future of Food in the Mississippi Delta

“A major barrier to achieving a more food secure future is that it’s difficult for people who are concerned with the many issues of poverty to devote time to community organizing,” says Bengston. Another is the amount of food being exported.
Team Members: Lee Taylor-Penn, School of Public Health and Ford School Public Policy; Anna Bengtson, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP) and School of Natural Resources and Environment; Grace van Velden, School of Public Health (SPH); Kathleen Carroll, Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment; Sarah Ladin, Law School
Read the Summary (PDF)  /  Read the Full Report (PDF)  /  View Video, top right

U-M students Samantha VanDyke, Erin Barton, and Geneva Langeland contributed to the development of these summaries. We are grateful to the Dow Master’s and Distinguished Awards students and project partners who reviewed content and provided additional resources for this series.