Graham Sustainability Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

What is unique about this program?

U-M undergraduate juniors and seniors from schools and colleges across campus explore their interests in sustainability leadership, interact with colleagues and external partners, and develop transferrable professional skills. Students learn to effectively solve complex sustainability challenges, based on the experience of top researchers, stakeholder engagement experts, practitioners, and methods that have been developed and refined over time.

Students participate in co-curricular activities, complete sustainability courses, and join a highly collaborative sustainability network of U-M students and alumni. Administered by the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute, this interdisciplinary program also supports the participation in unique field-based opportunities locally and globally.

Through this program, students have an opportunity to apply knowledge from the depth and breadth of academic courses and sustainability majors and minors offered at U-M, and build skills applicable in any workplace.

The Scholars program is complementary to many academic programs, including the Program in the Environment, the Program in Sustainable Engineering, and the Business and Sustainability Concentration.

What skills and experiences will I gain through my participation?

By nature, sustainability issues are complex, crossing geographic and topical issues, and include many disciplines and sectors (e.g., business, education, government, and industry).

The Program provides a unique opportunity for students to hone skills in leadership, project management, and group collaboration with other like-minded undergraduate students across interdisciplinary backgrounds. Students learn how to engage with stakeholders and apply sustainability solutions through team-based projects. Also, students have the freedom to expand and explore their interests in sustainability research and learn about practical solutions to real-world challenges.

The opportunities are designed to prepare students to be successful sustainability leaders in all fields, including but not limited to architecture and urban planning, art and design, business, education, engineering, environment and sustainability, information, music and performance management, nursing, pharmacy, public policy, and the social sciences.

What are some examples of field-based experiences?

Students may choose from a wide array of courses hosted in Michigan, the nation and around the globe. Courses must be sustainability-focused, interdisciplinary, and be three credits. An excellent place to begin exploring is the U-M Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS), see the Environmental Portfolio of Pre-Approved Courses.

Descriptions and reflections of courses taken by scholars in the past are available to current scholars to offer additional guidance in the selection process.

Students also may work with U-M faculty on an Independent Study project or may register for courses through another institution. These alternative options must be approved by a faculty member or an academic advisor in order to meet the field-based requirement and ensure schools and colleges approve credit for the course. Please allow a minimum of six months to develop and seek approval for an independent study plan, which must be signed by a faculty member and approved by an academic advisor.

What are co-curricular activities and what are some examples of these activities?

Co-curricular activities are designed to engage scholars with one another outside of a classroom environment. These activities include a fall retreat, an optional winter retreat, informal discussions, skill sessions, and social/networking events.

What are the requirements?
  1. Participation in seminars and skill sessions (Juniors and Seniors) and the Fall Retreat (for Juniors)
  2. A three-credit field-based course focused on sustainability locally or globally of the Scholar’s choosing (U-M or other university courses, and independent study projects). Participants receive some support for travel expenses and/or tuition.
  3. ENVIRON 391 (a four-credit practicum course), Sustainability and the Campus, offered only in the winter semester, or an acceptable alternative.
Can I study abroad during the program?

Yes, it is possible to study abroad for one semester while participating in the Program in order to complete a field-based course (one of the requirements of the Program). However, students are responsible for ensuring that participation in a study abroad program will not interfere with the completion of the other program requirements by contacting the Graham Education Program Manager to seek approval.

How can I get my field-based study course approved and receive financial support?
Students seek approval for field-based courses or course substitutions by completing the Graham Funding Request Form.
Am I eligible to apply?
  1. Students from all U-M Ann Arbor campus schools and colleges are eligible.
  2. The Program is open to sophomores and transfer students — students in their second year of undergraduate studies at the U-M Ann Arbor campus, having completed three full semesters by January. Special circumstances apply for students who have transferred or are in non-traditional/junior standing. You must be on track to graduate no earlier than December of their senior year.
  3. Students must also be on the Ann Arbor campus during their scholarship (exception is made for one semester of study abroad that incorporates field-based course).
  4. Applicants must also have a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0. Students with a GPA below 3.0 will not be considered.
  5. Scholars must successfully complete all program requirements to receive funding for field-based experiences and recognition on their transcripts.
What is the application timeline?
  1. The annual Call for Applications begins in mid-January. Applications close in mid-February
  2. All applications must be submitted online.
  3. Reference letters will be due shortly after applications close, are confidential, and submitted separately from the student’s application.
  4. Participation in the program begins upon the announcement of their selection to the program, (early April) with a welcome dinner and program introduction.
What application materials will be required for submission?
See the application page for details.
What will make my application stand out?

Applicants are selected based on a holistic overview of individual application items and references. Each item comprising the application will hold equal weight. Applications will be reviewed and rated on academic qualifications, previous experience related to sustainability, reference letters, sustainability leadership potential presented in personal statements, and diversity and interdisciplinary balance among the cohort.

Who reviews each application and makes candidate selections?

The selection committee is comprised of a four-person Graham Sustainability Institute leadership team. Each candidate is reviewed by at least three members of the review team.

When will I know if I am selected as a candidate?

Please be patient for selection announcements as it takes time to review each application. We will respond to every applicant by early April.