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The Catalyst Leadership Circle (CLC) Fellowship has selected nine graduate students for its 2023 cohort. Partnering with ten townships across the state of Michigan, fellows will undertake a summer applied research experience in advanced sustainability projects.

This program is led by the Graham Sustainability Institute in collaboration with Michigan Green Communities and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The program is open to graduate students from across Michigan who are interested in working with local governments and industry experts to create sharable, sustainability-focused deliverables for communities across the state. Participants are chosen through a competitive application process.

Together with CLC mentors from host communities, as well as external technical advisors, CLC Fellows tackle complex projects to support host communities’ sustainability objectives. In previous years, projects have included Envisioning a Scalable Composting Program in Holland; a new deconstruction ordinance aimed to increase the diversion of landfilled construction and demolition waste in Ferndale; and Supporting Storm Water Management Initiatives for Community Resilience in East Lansing, among others.

This year, the cohort includes five School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) students, one School of Public Health student, and one Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning student, all from the University of Michigan, as well as a public policy student from Michigan State University.

  • Katelyn Heflin, an M.S. in Environmental Policy (SEAS) candidate and former Climate Corps Fellow, will be assessing the carbon impacts associated with recycling, composting, and tree canopies in the city of Holland, in partnership with Fresh Coast Climate Solutions—a grassroots collective from Northern Michigan leading hydrocarbon extraction facilities.
  • Audrey Wilfong, a Master of Public Health (SPH) candidate with experience in coastal wildlife preservation and environmental advocacy, will be working with the city of Lansing and Lansing Public Service to develop a city program to recycle fats, oils, and grease (FOG), which damage community sewer systems and can lead to public health and safety issues.
  • Natalie Britton, an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Geospatial Data Science (SEAS) candidate with experience in grassroots leadership and sustainable development for indigenous communities, will be collaborating with the U-M Program for the Environment (PitE) to support a green rental housing program to promote sustainable practices among Ann Arbor residents.
  • Sam Fleckenstein is an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Sustainable Systems (SEAS) candidate and former software engineer for companies such as XBOX and Amazon. Together with the Graham Sustainability Institute, Fleckstein will conduct an environmental education campaign for residents in Meridian Township on “lake-healthy” practices for Lake Lansing and other surrounding bodies of water.
  • Bridget Corwin is a dual degree master's candidate in SEAS and the Ford School of Public Policy with a background in policy analysis and environmental canvassing. In collaboration with GreenHome Institute, Corwin will develop residential outreach and education strategies to support climate action plan programs in energy waste reduction, electrification, and renewable energy in Traverse City.
  • Upasana Roy is an M.U.R.P. candidate (TCAUP) with a background in architecture in Kolkata, India. Together with Inclination Engineering, a mechanical engineering consulting firm in southeast Michigan, Roy will research how air-source heat pumps (ASHP) can support efforts to decarbonize and electrify buildings in East Lansing.
  • Nora Bundy, an M.S. in Sustainable Systems (SEAS) candidate, will bring her previous experience as project manager at a local building material reuse center in Baltimore, Maryland, to the city of Ferndale. There, Bundy will research best practices for a tiered sanitation rate structure to help Ferndale’s government approach waste disposal more equitably.
  • Megan McLaughlin is an M.S. in Geospatial Data Science candidate (SEAS) with previous experience in sustainable project development and program coordination. McLaughlin will be working to turn Canton’s tree planting program into a more robust and implementable urban forestry management program.
  • Graham Diedrich is pursuing an M.P.P. at Michigan State University (MSU) with experience in research design, policy analysis, and data management. Alongside Fresh Coast Climate Solutions, he will help Grand Haven and Rockford establish a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction plan by assembling a municipal operations inventory using a variety of resources.

The CLC fellowship includes weekly professional development workshops, travel to all of the participating communities, and a $7,500 award. Congratulations to all of the 2023 fellows!