Program allows students to become sustainability scholars

By Chelsea Hoedl, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 13, 2013

The maize and blue faithful have a chance to go green through a special interdisciplinary sustainability program offered to a group of qualified University students.

The Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars Program is an 11-credit, interdisciplinary study dealing with sustainability and leadership development. It was created and funded by the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Andrew Horning, the director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, said sophomores can apply to the program online this month. Interested students are asked to submit an essay, resume, transcript and two recommendation letters by January 25.

Each year, about 30 students are selected to participate in the program. Horning said those selected are representative of “all corners of the campus.”

“It’s a competitive program open to students throughout the university in any school or college, but they have to go through a rigorous, competitive process to apply,” Horning said.

Engineering junior Diana Bach, who was selected for the program last year, said she has always been interested in sustainability initiatives and was enticed to apply.

“This was just a really good way for me to get more involved on campus and be able to connect with a lot of other students who are also interested in sustainability,” Bach said.

Selected scholars complete two seminars, a “Sustainability and the Campus” course, pre-approved elective courses and a field-based course. The Graham Institute grants each scholar up to $3,000 to complete his or her field study.

The field-based course allows students to look at the “big picture,” according to LSA senior Marie Tysman, who completed her field study requirement in Iceland last May.

“We looked at the sustainability, how people lived and the geothermal energy that they have there,” Tysman said. “There are a lot of geothermal plants and hydrothermal plants that we visited. We also did a lot of hiking to see the natural habitat and what they are doing to try and conserve it.”

While there are pre-approved field study programs, scholars may create proposals to complete their requirement elsewhere. Students have traveled all over the world, with some staying within the United States and others going as far as Brazil, Kenya, Germany and China.

Tysman — a former writer for The Michigan Daily — said the program allowed her to connect her experiences and interests with her courses in sustainability.

“It’s a real-life experience where you’re learning about how the environment interacts with what you’re interested in, whether that be politics, the food industry, whatever you’re studying,” Tysman said.

Tysman added that the program is not only capable of changing how you make small decisions, but also decisions that are life changing.

“It’s really shaped how I view the world,” she said. “It’s changed how I view everything, how I want to live my life after college and even how I travel and what I purchase.”