Graham Sustainability Institute

Carbon Neutrality

Distinguished Awards

Dow Distinguished Awards Project Image - 2017 Deadline May 26Program Factsheet (PDF)Note: The Call for 2021 Distinguished Award Large Grant Project Proposals is on hold. This funding opportunity may be delayed until fall 2021, with projects potentially starting in January 2022.

Collaborative student teams manage high-impact projects supported through the Dow Distinguished Awards Competition. New in 2021, the competition is open to graduate students across the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus.

Beyond the Campus

The Dow Distinguished Awards competition supports interdisciplinary student-led projects that focus on compelling challenges external to the University. (See Planet for campus project support below.)

Project Proposals Guidelines

Currently, the Call for Proposals (applications) for Large Grants is on hold.

Distinguished Award proposals focus on applied sustainability projects at the local, national, or global level. Supported by the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program.

  • All proposals should be student-led, faculty advised, and action-oriented, outlining a new product, service, or project that seeks to protect the environment and enhance the quality of life for present and future generations
  • Program Focus: Sustainability, the circular economy, and climate protection
  • Teams are limited to five (5) total students that represent a minimum of three different disciplines
  • Student teams must identify/secure a client or organization as a project sponsor, and a U-M advisor before submitting a proposal
  • Teams develop and submit a needs assessment and a scope of work with a timeline of activities and a description of proposed deliverables
  • Project proposals in partnership with underserved communities are welcome
  • Active engagement with communities and organizations is expected and encouraged
  • All teams competing for a Large Grant will present proposals to a panel of experts in early December

Program Focus, 2021-2023: Circular Economy and Climate Protection. The intersection of a circular economy and climate involves managing resources — including air, land, water — and the production of physical products, by reducing or eliminating waste and working toward carbon neutrality. Climate Protection includes energy efficiency, renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction, carbon neutrality planning, and more. Note: Seed (small) Grant projects have been discontinued and will not be included in the Distinguished Awards competition.

Representatives from teams awarded funds will be required to engage in a series of seminars with the Dow Masters Fellows cohort, focusing on project management, community engagement, and other means of ensuring project success.

Also see: Guidelines


The Dow Distinguished Awards Competition is a component of the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan. The Dow Fellows Program is supported by the Dow Company Foundation. Dow contributes to sustainable communities by supporting strategic philanthropic investments addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. The Dow Company and Dow Company Foundation have generously supported the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan since it's inception in 2013.

Program Administration: The Dow Fellows Program is administered by the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan (U-M) on behalf of the U-M Provost.

Sustainability at U-M

The University of Michigan defines sustainability as a solutions-driven scholarship and practice that seeks to safeguard our life-support systems and planet and enhance the quality of life for present and future generations. The field is defined by the problems it addresses rather than the disciplines it employs. It draws from multiple disciplines of the natural, social, engineering, design, and health sciences; from the professions and humanities; and from practical field experience in business, government, and civil society.

Planet Blue Funding for Campus Projects: Competitive funding to support student-led projects focused on U-M campus sustainability is available through the Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund.