ANN ARBOR (WWJ) — Four teams of University of Michigan graduate students were recently selected to receive Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability totaling more than $135,000.

Three of the winning teams are pursuing projects in Southeast Michigan, and the fourth is investigating water management issues in India.

“As part of the Dow Sustainability Fellows program, the Distinguished Awards are intended to spur multidisciplinary collaborations that seek to develop sustainability solutions on local to global scales,” said Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, which administers the program on behalf of the university. “We are excited to see what this year’s inaugural winners can accomplish through their projects.”

A dozen teams entered the competition, and winners were selected by sustainability experts including UM faculty and external practitioners from business, government and civil society.

“It’s very exciting to grant the first of the Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability at the University of Michigan, enabling the winning teams to pursue projects that drive sustainability here at home and around the world,” said Neil Hawkins, Dow’s vice president of global environmental health and safety and sustainability.

The winning proposals, project team members and their schools are:

* “Enabling energy efficiency in rental properties.” This pilot project seeks to overcome disadvantages that members of the residential rental market (landlords as well as renters) face when seeking to finance energy-efficiency projects in their units. Students on this team are: Cassie Brown, Ford School of Public Policy; Alicia Chin and Amy Eischen, Ross School of Business; Efrie Friedlander, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; and Emily Taylor, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. All team members are Dow sustainability master’s/professional degree fellows.

* “Greenhouse gas inventory for the city of Detroit: Institutionalization and spatial analysis.” For this project, students are compiling the first comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in Detroit, using protocols specified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the faculty direction of Rosina Bierbaum and Gregory Keoleian of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, project team members include: Jill Carlson and Jenny Cooper, Dow sustainability master’s fellows; Marie Donahue, Robb De Kleine, Max Neale and Anis Ragland, SNRE; and Melissa Stults, Architecture/Urban Planning and a Dow doctoral-level sustainability fellow.

* “Retrofitting Ann Arbor: The living building challenge.” A team of master’s and doctoral students is overseeing the retrofitting of a 112-year-old house in Ann Arbor so the home will meet parameters of what’s called a “Living Building,” meaning that it is self-sufficient and self-sustaining in energy needs and water resources. The project team includes: Derya Ayral, Devki Desai and Emily Herbert, College of Engineering; Alexandro Bazan and Sarang Supekar, SNRE and Architecture/Urban Planning; and Alexander Chow, Architecture/Urban Planning. The faculty adviser is Steven Skerlos from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

* “Water demand management for improved adaptation by small farmers in semi-arid India.” This project team is investigating how water-demand management in the semi-arid region of Rajasthan, India, can help small farmers, poor households and communities in the region to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change and variability. Project team members include: James Erbaugh and Heather Huntington, postdoctoral research fellow, SNRE; Ajay Shenoy, Department of Economics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; and Hope Thompson, Ford School of Public Policy. The faculty adviser is Arun Agrawal, SNRE.

For more information about the Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability, visit the UM Planet Blue website at


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