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Underlying contributors to serious health and environmental challenges often don’t receive the attention they deserve. Two examples are toilets and cookstoves, which may not readily come to mind when contemplating global health issues. Yet these two household amenities, which many of us take for granted, facilitate the spread of disease, cause countless preventable and premature deaths, endanger the lives of women and children, pollute waterways, contribute to deforestation, and degrade the quality of life for billions of people. This fact sheet provides a summary about the development of better cook stoves and toilets for people in India and elsewhere.


Keywords: Cookstove, composting toilet, co-design, Dow Sustainability Fellows, University of Michigan, Dolatpura, India, BLUELab, Engineering, Setco Foundation

This summary provides an overview of a project to support Indian Farmers. For generations, agriculture has been the primary means of employment for over half of the population in Telangana, India. But climate change, the increasing frequency of drought, a lack of irrigation access, and volatile market prices for popular cash crops have left many rural farmers deep in debt. These changes, coupled with complex political issues, have led to high poverty and farmer suicide rates; more than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1995, and over 60 percent of those farmers were from the semi-arid states of Maharashtra and Telangana.

The U-M project team, supported by a Dow Distinguished Award for Interdisciplinary Sustainability, proposes to establish big data frameworks appropriate for small farmers in Telangana to inform the best management practices and proper risk management for Indian farmers.


Keywords: Dow Global Impact Series, Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, University of Michigan, Telangana, India, Farmers, poverty, suicide

This summary provides an overview of a project focusing on Slum Redevelopment in India.

Today, 65 million people in urban India live in extreme poverty. Most inhabit squalid and overcrowded urban areas, known as slums, without proper sanitary infrastructure or access to drinking water. To address this pressing need, India recently proposed an ambitious new program, Housing for All, designed to provide every person living in slums with access to adequate housing by 2022. The Dow Fellows student project team developed recommendations to ensure the successful implementation of the Housing for All program through the analysis of previous housing policies in India, and the study of city-wide housing schemes.


Keywords: Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, University of Michigan, Slum Redevelopment, Housing for All, affordable housing, clean water, adequate sewage disposal, Mumbai Santa Marta is a community in São Leopoldo, Brazil, which faces a number of socio-environmental challenges. These challenges include trash build up in public spaces, difficulties with waste management infrastructure, inadequate water, and sewage systems that can lead to flooding, and deteriorating road infrastructure. An interdisciplinary team of graduate students, supported by a Dow Distinguished Award for Interdisciplinary Sustainability and a Ford College Community Challenge grant assessed the Santa Marta community needs and designed strategies that addressed several key community goals. This is the complete report for this project. Also see the project summary:


Keywords: Santa Marta, São Leopoldo, Brazil, infrastructure, Dow Distinguished Award for Interdisciplinary Sustainability, University of Michigan

Vila Santa Marta is a community in São Leopoldo, Brazil, which faces a number of socio-environmental challenges. This factsheet provides an overview of these challenges, including trash build up in public spaces, difficulties with waste management infrastructure, inadequate water, and sewage systems that can lead to flooding, and deteriorating road infrastructure. The local government employs a municipal budgeting strategy that provides the public with the opportunity to decide how to allocate resources and determine the city’s public budget allocation for specific initiatives and capital improvements. However, issues of poor communication have historically led to limited involvement of Santa Marta residents in the participatory budgeting process.

Keywords: Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, Vila Santa Marta, São Leopoldo, Brazil, socio-environmental challenges, infrastructure participatory decision-making, global impact series

The concept of transforming otherwise underused, vacant spaces into indoor farms is quickly becoming a popular medium for sustainable agriculture in urban communities. Examples include “The Plant” in Chicago, Illinois and “Growing Underground” in London, England. In these cases, a former meat-packing warehouse and forgotten WWII tunnels were repurposed into spaces for productive urban agriculture. These models provided the inspiration for establishing Black Pearl Gardens (BPG) located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Dow Fellows student project team worked with Christy Kaledas, founder and developer of BPG, to assess and enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the indoor farm, and suggest possible avenues for a 17-acre future expansion.


Keywords:  Local food, urban agriculture, sustainability, indoor farm, indoor crops, Dow Sustainability Fellows, global impact series

This fact sheet provides a summary about the Michigan Journal of Sustainability (MJS), see: MJS is managed by graduate students, affiliated with the University of Michigan Dow Sustainablity Fellows Program. Contributing authors translate scholarly research, field work and sustainability problems into useful formats for practitioners and policy makers. 

Authors are encouraged to publish in this peer-reviewed journal targeted toward sustainability practitioners interested in applying innovative research to address complex challenges. This is an opportunity to communicate how research results are relevant to real-world applications.


Keywords: Sustainability, Michigan Journal of Sustainability, MJS, sustainable ecosystems, livable communities, climate variability and change


The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program supports graduate and postgraduate level scholars focused on interdisciplinary sustainability. The program prepares future sustainability leaders to make a positive difference in organizations worldwide. The program is comprised of master’s/professional degree, doctoral, and postdoctoral fellows, who engage with one another within and across cohorts, thrive on collaboration, learn to employ interdisciplinary thinking, experience diverse stakeholder perspectives, and implement projects with significant potential for impact on local-to-global scales.


Keywords: Fellowships, sustainability, interdisciplinary, leadership, scholarship

This report, Creating Global Leaders in Sustainability, highlights activities and impacts of Dow Fellows at the University of Michigan. The program was launched in 2012 with a visionary $10 million gift from The Dow Chemical Company. The goal was ambitious: create interdisciplinary leaders capable of generating innovative, concrete, actionable solutions to the big sustainability challenges of our time.

Major program components include cohorts of fellows at the master’s/ professional degree, doctoral, and postdoctoral levels, as well as a Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability competition that supports high-potential sustainability projects. Projects focus on compelling and actionable efforts to advance sustainability at the local, national, and global level.

Work on sustainability is, by definition, something that will involve many generations. The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program has trained four cohorts of researchers at all levels, and their work will have a critical impact on the students who follow them into the field. — Martha E. Pollack, University of Michigan Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Program leaders believe that diversity is key to individual empowerment, and the advancement of sustainability knowledge, learning and leadership.

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Nationwide, farmers have experienced a rising demand for locally grown foods. Consumers are beginning to realize what farmers have long known: eating farm-fresh food, carefully grown by members of their own communities, spreads tangible benefits for public health and local economies. Small farmers are more likely to employ low-impact and conservation-oriented agricultural practices than large industrial farms. At the same time, small farmers face a host of economic challenges, including access to markets, loans, and start-up capital.

This fact sheet provides a summary of how the Dow Fellows student team explored USDA farm census data to identify unique areas in Washtenaw County, and locations that fit the national and statewide trends.