Two MSI students chosen as Dow Sustainability Fellows

First-year UMSI students Alice Rhee and Rachel Jaffe were recently named Dow Sustainability Fellows. The program, established through a six-year gift from the Dow Chemical Company, supports full-time graduate students who are committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable and meaningful sustainability solutions on local-to-global scales.

As the first UMSI students to receive this fellowship, Alice and Rachel are among 40 master’s and professional-degree students at the university who were named fellows for 2015. They were selected from a group of nominees from 11 programs across the university. Each U-M school/college was asked to nominate up to 10 candidates, and this group marks the third cohort of Dow Sustainability Master’s/Professional Fellows at the university. The fellowship runs from January to December and the fellows will work on interdisciplinary approaches to an array of sustainability challenges related to water, energy, transportation, built environment, climate change, food, health, human behavior and others. The fellows each receive $20,000 for their studies. 

Alice Rhee, who specializes in human-computer interaction (HCI), is considering a possible career as a project manager at a software development company. In a project manager role, Alice hopes to infuse a sustainable ethic into the product development process. With previous work experience in organizations like the U-M Transportation Research Institute—where she focused on sustainable mobility and accessibility research—and the NYC Urban Field Station—where she researched the psychological impact of street trees in New York City—Alice believes that one area for sustainable change is in electronic waste (e-waste).

“As a Dow Sustainability Fellow, I hope to work on issues of behavioral sustainability, with an eventual goal of incorporating a more ecological and systemic view of the world into the design of products and services,” says Alice, who cried when she learned that she received the fellowship. “The Dow is an incredible opportunity for me to learn as much as I can from a cohort of amazing, committed fellow students.”

A dual-degree student in information and urban planning, Rachel Jaffe wants to assess how technology, policy and urban design can solve problems related to civic engagement, resource management, air quality and human health. As a former intern of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and the World Resources Institute, Rachel hopes to use her position as a Dow Fellow to encourage engagement between people and their city governments on sustainability issues. For example, Rachel wants to create a three-part system that would allow people to have a voice throughout the urban planning process. This would occur on their local government’s website where residents can vote and comment on a city plan; on their mobile phones where residents can track new improvements and additions in the neighborhood; and within the neighborhood itself where people can meet to discuss the plan.

“I am incredibly grateful to the faculty of the School of Information, who gave me a lot of help throughout my application process,” says Rachel. “The breadth of people in the fellowship are incredibly amazing and I’m excited to see all of the impactful projects students will be taking on.”

Posted January 26, 2015