Nadine Halabi and Yash Shah, two U-M Dow Sustainability Fellows, will graduate from ISD’s Energy Systems Engineering program this December. Both have spent the last year working with other fellows on team projects devoted to collaborative sustainability.
Dow Fellows receive a $20K stipend and are supported by programming including monthly seminars and workshops. Only 40 fellows are selected each year, making the Dow Fellowship highly competitive.
Fellows are split into groups of four to six students from across U-M. Represented schools and colleges include the College of Engineering, the Ford School of Public Policy, the Law School, the Ross School of Business, the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the School of Social Work. Both Yash and Nadine appreciate the interdisciplinary aspects of the team projects. “It has given me perspective,” says Nadine. “It is interesting to be thrown into an environment where your group members are knowledgeable on topics you never considered.” Yash agrees. “The knowledge sharing that takes place in these projects is extraordinary. It gives a new lens to a particular problem.”
Yash’s team addressed a problem in India, where the government has built free housing for residents in a Mumbai slum. Upon moving into the new spaces, residents are confronted with electricity bills, which many have never dealt with previously. Yash’s team has developed a plan to install solar panels onto the new buildings that would allow the residents to receive sustainable and affordable electricity. With the crisis of global warming combined with the challenge of electricity access and the development of solar panels, Yash sees perfect timing for this project. “All of the puzzle pieces are there,” he says.
Nadine’s team tackled a broader challenge related to the organization of sustainability groups and their leaders. Using the Competitive Values Framework, which was developed at the Ross School of Business, she and her team members assessed competing values in sustainability organizations. Nadine says their goal was to “better understand how the different approaches can complement one another.” Her team organized their findings into four major approaches to solving sustainability challenges, through the lenses of environment, technology, regulation, and prosperity.
For both Nadine and Yash, their interest in interdisciplinarity is what drew them to ISD. Energy Systems Engineering boasts a curriculum of classes from across the disciplines of engineering, business, natural resources, public policy, and others. Upon graduation, Yash plans to seek an analyst position in the solar energy sector where he can combine his engineering and energy knowledge with his business skills. Nadine also plans to stay in the field of renewable energy, perhaps in wind turbine manufacturing or energy consulting. Wherever they end up, it’s safe to say Yash and Nadine are well prepared to study and lead sustainability initiatives for decades to come.