Dow Sustainability Fellows Making a Difference in Michigan and Beyond

Collaborations between the public and private sector, academia and NGOs must be developed.
Neil C. Hawkins, Sc.D.,
Corporate Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer

For some low-income Detroit residents, just getting to a supermarket or health clinic can be a challenge. Riding the bus or walking may take up to 30 minutes and can mean passing by abandoned buildings. And while many residents own a car, the cost of insurance in certain ZIP codes can be five times the national average.1

That is why a group of University of Michigan Dow Sustainability Fellows have partnered with the Detroit nonprofit Focus: HOPE to bring a ridesharing service to the low-income neighborhood of HOPE Village, offering affordable transportation to residents of this area. By increasing access to mobility, they hope to help low-resource families gain better access to healthy food options, quality medical care and employment opportunities.

Since 2012, students in the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan have implemented sustainable solutions for food systems, cities, infrastructure, mobility, consumption and energy systems from Michigan to Sub-Saharan Africa. A new $3 million gift from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation to the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program will enable Fellows to continue to tackle sustainability challenges. The gift supplements Dow’s initial $10 million donation that established the program and secures funding through 2020. This new gift extends funding for graduate fellowships and co-curricular experiences and The Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability.

Currently, Fellows are exploring sustainability solutions on four different continents. In addition to the Detroit ridesharing service, projects include:

  • In Telangana, India, a team of Fellows and other students used data science to inform best practices for farming in rural India. The team established the first-ever computer network in two villages, designed a data collection system and hired field managers to survey farmers.
  • In Ann Arbor, a group of Masters Fellows partnered with the School of Dentistry to develop a sustainable dentistry toolkit that identifies reusable materials and energy-saving opportunities that dental clinics can implement. The team then partnered with Practice Greenhealth to distribute toolkits across the country.

The Program has funded 48 projects in 12 countries, and students have participated from 17 out of 19 of the University of Michigan’s schools. It is designed to bring together unconventional fields of study – from social work and business to the sciences and arts – to address real-world sustainability challenges.

“As a Company, Dow realizes global challenges are not solved in silos. Collaborations between the public and private sector, academia and NGOs must be developed,” said Neil Hawkins, corporate vice president and chief sustainability officer. “The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program’s Interdisciplinary approach helps inspire game-changing collaborations that transform the way research is conducted, drive change across sectors and help transition to a sustainable planet and society.

Read more about the HOPE Village ride-sharing initiative.

1“Assessing Barriers to Carsharing and Ridesharing in HOPE Village,” Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Final report, December 2016.