U-M Students Showcase Breadth of Sustainability Work

Nicole Berg
Release Date: 

2016 Dow Distinguished Award Co-winner, Condon Crow House Team MembersTwo University of Michigan student teams were announced as co-winners of the 2016 Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability during the third annual Dow Sustainability Fellows Symposium on Saturday, November 12.

These two teams, drawing members from six U-M schools and colleges, were each awarded $37,500 to continue work on their student-led, innovative, off-campus sustainability projects. They were selected out of a highly competitive pool of fifteen projects that were each awarded $5000 seed grants earlier this year.

“To foster high-impact sustainability collaborations across the University of Michigan, the Dow Sustainability Fellows program includes a competition for applied sustainability projects that cut across disciplines and academic levels, and involve U-M students at all academic levels,” stated Andy Hoffman, Chair of the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program and Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and the Environment, before announcing the winners.  

Condon Crow House, a co-winner, is a project effort establishing an urban settlement house as part of the community in a southwest Detroit neighborhood. The house remodeling process will serve as an opportunity to engage community members in developing vital home maintenance skills for successful and sustainable homeownership. In partnership with local non-profits, the site will also host ongoing sustainable life skill demonstrations and workshops on topics such as beekeeping, permaculture, vermiculture, and energy efficiency. Student project members include Marlena Hanlon, Michael Lin, Austin Martin, and Carolina Fernandez Maestri with support from faculty advisor, Joe Trumpey. Schools represented on this team are the Penny Stamps School of Art & Design, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Ross School of Business, School of Social Work, and the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning.

Kulisha, also a co-winner, is a project effort developing a sustainable, affordable fish-feed source for the rapidly growing aquaculture industry in Kenya. Kulisha will assist a significantly underserved population, support economic development in emerging markets, and create environmentally sustainable solutions to food insecurity. Student project members include Eric Katz, Mohammad Azimi, Jonathan Luthy, and Katie Matton, with support from faculty advisors Jim Diana, Carolyn Yoon, and Jesse Austin-Breneman and team members from Brown University. Schools represented on this team are the Ross School of Business, College of Engineering, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

The annual symposium event also highlighted the work of over 70 Dow Sustainability Fellows from across the university. This includes masters and professional fellows who have worked in interdisciplinary teams on eight applied sustainability projects, ranging from working with dentists to develop sustainable dental clinic recommendations, to addressing food insecurity in Mississippi, to working with communities in Detroit on the possibilities of investments in community solar.  Doctoral and postdoctoral fellows showcased their respective research after spending a year discussing connections with other students across multiple disciplines.

Amanda Edmonds, current mayor of the City of Ypsilanti, U-M alumna, and founder of Growing Hope presented a compelling keynote to kick-off the event. “It’s about us empowering people to make the change they believe in,” said Edmonds. “We can be that partner with others in our community.”

Made possible by The Dow Chemical Company, the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan supports full-time graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at the university who are committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable, and meaningful sustainability solutions on local-to-global scales. The program prepares future sustainability leaders to make a positive difference in organizations worldwide. We believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion are key to individual empowerment, and the advancement of sustainability knowledge, learning and leadership. See: http://sustainability.umich.edu/dow

Photo by Susan Shields. Left to Right: Andy Hoffman, Austin Martin, Carolina Fernandez Maestri, Michael Lin, Marlena Hanlon, and Connie Deford.