Sustainability Summer Fellowships for Graduate Research Partnerships

ISE and Office of Graduate Education Announce the First Cohort of the Sustainability Summer Research Fellows

Congratulations are in order for the eight Mason graduate students selected for the inaugural cohort of Sustainability Summer Research Fellows. Unique among summer research opportunities, this fellowship pairs Mason doctoral or masters students with organizations engaged in applied and impactful research on a host of sustainability, resilience, and environmental justice initiatives. In Summer 2022, students from a wide array of programs and backgrounds will co-create and conduct research activities with partner organizations that are making a positive impact on our world:  
    • Arvind Geetha Christo, PhD student in Sociology (CHSS), will be working on conservation and environmental justice in South Asia in partnership with the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.
    • Ashton Rohmer, PhD student in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (Carter School), will be researching sustainability aspects of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill with the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation
    • Stacy Lynn Yike, MS student in Environmental Science and Policy (COS), will investigate solid waste reduction strategies in the context of Fairfax County’s climate action plan in partnership with the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.
    • Sri Saahitya Uppalapati, PhD student in Communication (CHSS), will study heat-related illness in Virginia with the public health advocacy organization Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.
    • Blake Vullo, PhD student in Sociology (CHSS) and Bradley Gay, PhD Student in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences (COS), will work on complementary aspects of Future Earth’s Global Food Program: Blake will tackle cultural aspects of land use change, while Bradley will study innovations in global remote sensing data analysis.
    • Shawn Smith, PhD student in Environmental Science and Policy (COS), will be conducting applied research on air/water pollution, environmental health, and public policy, in partnership with the Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter.
    • Dhruv Deepak, PhD student in Sociology (CHSS), will be developing research on globally-diverse forms of community-level sustainability paradigms as part of Future Earth’s Program on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production.
Collaboration and co-production are the key tenets of these fellowship experiences; while networking with partners, students will gain valuable experience in developing urgent and translational research alongside organizations that are making an impact. Upon completion of their summer activities, these graduate student fellows will be able to leverage their research findings in their dissertation or master’s thesis work. To allow students to focus exclusively on their work, fellows will receive stipends furnished by Mason’s Office of Graduate Education. 
The Sustainability Summer Fellows Program is sponsored by the Institute for a Sustainable Earth and Mason’s Office of Graduate Education, and plans are underway to expand this program in Summer 2023. Mason graduate students and faculty advisors who would like to learn more about the program and how they might participate in the future should contact Dr. Jeremy Campbell, the Assistant Director for Strategic Engagement at the ISE (jcampb30@gmu.edu).
 
Program Description
Co-sponsored by the Graduate Education Office and the Institute for a Sustainable Earth, the 2022 Sustainability Summer Fellowships for Graduate Research Partnerships program provides financial support and professional development to graduate students who will work with partner organizations on applied research projects. This opportunity is designed to connect students with organizations making a positive impact on our world. Together, fellows and partner organizations will identify research and action priorities for the period of the fellowship, allowing students to gain valuable experience and organizational access. Participants in the Sustainability Summer Fellowship program will then be able to leverage this research partnership in their dissertation or master’s thesis work.
Fellow stipends of $6,000 for master’s students and $8,000 for doctoral students will support this collaborative research. Please see below for more information about specific partnership opportunities. To apply, upload a cover letter, CV/résumé, and a brief statement of support from a faculty advisor to Handshake by February 15 (check out the ISE Handshake site here, and/or the specific opportunity links below). 
Please contact Dr. Jeremy Campbell at jcampb30@gmu.edu if you have any questions.

 

Partnering Organizations and Opportunities

Sierra Club of Virginia

Sierra Club of Virginia: We are a grassroots-driven organization that advocates for a Virginia where all people may enjoy our natural treasures, access clean air and water, and thrive in a healthy community. At over 20,000 members strong, we coordinate action to promote climate solutions and oppose projects and policies that put the interests of corporate polluters above the needs of communities. We know a cleaner, more equitable future in the commonwealth is possible if we fight for it together. In Summer 2022, we are seeking a graduate-level researcher who will work with Sierra Club staff to research any one of the following areas:

The permitting process: Most industries require permits to pollute. These permits are given by different local (city or county) and state departments, but the current process does not account for the input of directly impacted communities. In order to improve the meaningful engagement of directly impacted communities, we aim to research the following: How do other states or the federal government address the permitting process? Where is it necessary to include, and how is it best to engage, directly impacted communities during this process?

Environmental Justice: We are committed to advancing environmental justice in Virginia. Research on this front could include assessing what other states and the federal government are doing and suggesting ideas that could be applied here in Virginia.

Gas: Extracting natural gas from landfills and pig lagoons is increasing lately (it is considered a renewable energy source). We would like to conduct research on the advantages and disadvantages of this energy source (cost-benefit analysis), such as how much it pollutes, its financial impact, and its impact on public health and the environment.

Open topic: Suggest your own idea, as we are open to work with you on research topics related to environmental justice and energy. Learn more and apply here.

Woodrow Wilson Center

The Wilson Center, a non-partisan, non-advocacy think tank mandated by Congress to connect policy, practice, and research, seeks a graduate researcher in the fields of environmental policy, the social sciences, or the humanities, to produce research in partnership with the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP). ECSP works to connect issues at the intersection of environmental change, population, and security to foreign policy and development. The work will include, but may not be limited to: coordinating research and producing a policy brief on an agreed-upon topic at this intersection of issues; drafting articles for ECSP’s blog, New Security Beat; and attendance at private roundtables and workshops. Learn more and apply here.

US Department of Transportation

The US Department of Transportation seeks ​​a talented Sustainability Fellow to support the administration’s priorities related to climate change and sustainability and the implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)). The Fellow will interface with senior DOT political appointees and career staff, as well as with other Federal agencies such as Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, Interior, EPA, and others to harmonize and coordinate federal efforts to successfully implement IIJA. Learn more and apply here.

Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action

Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action (VCCA) is an organization consisting of a broad array of health professionals from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Mission of VCCA is “To build a network of clinician leaders advocating for climate change solutions that protect the health of our patients and communities.” VCCA’s advocacy work is nonpartisan, and we know that climate policies should consider factors related to social justice and be sensitive to the needs of underserved communities who too often bear a disproportionate burden of negative health impacts due to climate change. In Summer 2022, VCCA seeks a graduate-level researcher who will work with a GMU faculty member and VCCA health professionals to develop information on heat-related illness in VirginiaHeat-related illness occurs when temperatures, and sometimes humidity, are high enough to overcome the body’s ability to deal with the heat and medical problems that occur in people. The high heat can be indoors or outdoors; and can affect workers, athletes, the elderly, and infants. Other factors can also increase the risk of heat-related illness.

 The researcher will compile and summarize literature on health issues of increasing temperatures experienced in Virginia. Components of the report will focus on specific observational studies of trends in extreme heat events in Virginia, who gets sick during extreme heat events, where it is most severe, and differences noted across urban and rural areas. Determinants of vulnerability will be evaluated, including adaptive capacity. Other state-level reports, along with federal public health data sets and guidelines, will help inform this research. VCCA expects that the Summer Fellow will be able to integrate this research into their ongoing studies and commits to continued collaboration as appropriate. Learn more and apply here

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, an interfaith local nonprofit, requests the assistance of an advanced George Mason University Environmental Science graduate student, to work with FACS, the Fairfax Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES), the Northern Virginia (NOVA) Regional Coalition’s Waste Management Board, and other NOVA community groups and businesses on a project to develop evidence-based plans for reducing Fairfax County municipal solid waste-associated greenhouse gas emissions.

For Summer 2022, we hope to collaborate with a graduate-level researcher who will:  1) synthesize scientific evidence in support of a small number of strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Fairfax County’s solid municipal waste streams; and 2) work with FACS staff and partners to formulate communication strategies to promote and implement the emissions reductions strategies identified in the first part of the project. FACS expects that the summer fellow will be able to integrate this research into their ongoing studies and commits to continued collaboration as appropriate. There will also be opportunities to engage the ongoing efforts of the Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). Learn more and apply here.

Future Earth: Global Land Program Cultural Aspects

Future Earth’s Global Land Program seeks a graduate research fellow to develop a framework for the role of cultural dimensions in co-production processes and transdisciplinary research (TDR) in a variety of cultural contexts. The fellow will be hosted remotely at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with Prof. Narcisa Pricope and collaboratively supervised by the coordination team of the GLP working group “Co-production of land use systems”. Partners are Dr. Jana Zscheischler (ZALF, Germany) and Dr. Isabelle Providoli (University Bern, Switzerland). The principal scope of this fellowship is to develop a framework for the role of cultural dimensions in co-production processes and transdisciplinary research. Secondly, the fellow will develop a framework to apply it on different TDR and co-production cases with the fellow supervisor and facilitating partners in Europe in different cultural settings on three continents (e.g., co-production projects from Africa, Northern America and Europe). Learn more and apply here.

Future Earth: Socio-Ecological Land Systems of Latin America

Future Earth’s Global Land Program project on Latin American land systems seeks a Fellow who will build a collaborative database and prepare a database management plan in line with FAIR data accessibility principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). The fellow will be mentored remotely by the following team: Dr. María Piquer-Rodríguez. Geography Department, Freie University, Berlin, Germany (coordinator of GLP Working Group Socio-Ecological Land Systems of Latin America, LA-SELS). Ms. Lucía Zarbá. Institute of Regional Ecology, National University Tucuman, Argentina (coordinator of GLP Working Group Socio-Ecological Land Systems of Latin America, LA-SELS), and Prof. Dr. Eugenio Arima at the University of Texas at Austin, US. 

The main tasks of the fellow to develop a collaborative data catalog (database) would be: 1) Contact WG members and enquire about datasets used that could be shared and included in such data catalog; 2) Prepare brief descriptions of the included datasets; 3) Gather metadata, permits and rights, and comments by the contributor (optional); 4) Facilitate the detection of key data gaps among WG members; 5) Screen public sources to incorporate complementary datasets; 6) Explore options for developing an Internal digital data repository. Learn more and apply here

Future Earth: Systems of Sustainable Consumption & Production

Future Earth’s Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production Knowledge Action Community seeks to recruit a Fellow to play a key role in a major project documenting emergent and heterodox frameworks for sustainability including degrowth, post-growth, post-work, next systems ideas, buen vivir, and notions of a pluriverse. The fellow will also take a lead role in developing an action plan to enhance their visibility on global, national, and local policy agendas. 

The fellow will be hosted by Dr. Maurie Cohen at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, remotely. The fellow will conduct bibliographic searches, write analytic memos, develop literature reviews, and contribute to an edited book currently being envisioned. The fellow would desirably have customary skills using the Microsoft Office Suite, Google documents and spreadsheets, and understanding of basic statistical methodologies. The project team will be organizing a session at SRI 2022 and developing the content for a soon-to-be proposed edited book (prospectively to be published by Edward Elgar in response to an invitation). It is also likely that this initiative will spin off several peer-reviewed journal articles. Learn more and apply here.

Future Earth: Analysis, Integration & Modeling of Earth Systems

introductions to science concepts and methods as well as a podcast series interviewing researchers Future Earth’s Analysis, Integration & Modeling of Earth Systems Program seeks a Fellow familiar with earth system science, climate change, and experience with audio-visual media to produce a series of short video introductions to science concepts and methods as well as a podcast series interviewing researchers working in different disciplines. The fellow would be hosted remotely by the AIMES leadership: Natasha MacBean (Indiana University, USA), Mark Rounsevell (KIT, Germany), and Hannah Liddy (Columbia University). The fellow would work closely with the supervisors to design a sequence of introductory videos and a limited (~5-10 episode) podcast series on relevant topics and methodologies used in the Earth system sciences. The fellow would then synthesize research about each topic, reach out to experts in the field to participate and facilitate their recording or video and/or to conduct interviews for the podcast series (in conjunction with members of the AIMES SSC), and then edit the content for public distribution.  Learn more and apply here.

Future Earth: Remote Sensing & Ground Cover Fellow

Future Earth seeks a graduate researcher familiar with remote sensing and big data to contribute to sensitivity analysis of gross primary production (GPP) of vegetation, tracking different atmospheric, soil, and water indicators. The fellow will be hosted remotely by Professor Jinwei Dong, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resource Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This work aims to (1) improve GPP model by constructing new water stress response function under droughts and (2) produce the global GPP product for 2021 based on Google Earth Engine. The fellow would have the following desired skills: remote sensing, big data, land use modeling, experience with GPP models, ability to work in a highly international and collaborative environment, and Chinese speaking. The outcomes of this research include an improved GPP model and the global GPP product for 2021. Learn more and apply here

 

Eligibility Criteria
Applicants must be Mason doctoral or master’s students that are listed in university records as being in full-time status during spring 2022 and plan to return as a graduate student in fall 2022. Applicants are responsible for confirming that the appropriate forms have been filed with the Registrar’s office so that their enrollment status is appropriately recorded.

 

Award and Expectations

  • Fellowship amount: $8,000 for doctoral students; $6,000 for master’s students for full-time fellowships. 
  • Term of award: Summer 2022, for a minimum of 10 weeks between May 25 and August 24, 2022
  • Fellows must agree to a scope of research, schedule, and deliverable work products with the partner organization prior to the start of the summer term (ISE will facilitate this process in Spring 2022). Fellows will have support for developing their own research agenda in addition to the particular research goals that are co-identified with the partner organization. 
  • Enrollment in summer coursework beyond dissertation or thesis credits must be approved in advance by the Associate Provost for Graduate Education.
  • Selected awardees should concentrate on fellowship research during the award period and should not accept any additional fellowships, internal assignments nor outside employment
  • Fellows must also participate in a biweekly professional development seminar series hosted by the Mason Institute for a Sustainable Earth.
  • Students will keep their faculty advisor informed of their summer research activities, and these advisors will be invited to engage directly with partner organizations. Advisors: please see below for more information.
  • Fellows must submit a summary of the work produced by September 1, 2022.
  • Doctoral students are expected to apply to compete in Mason’s 2023 3MT™ after completion of the fellowship. Master’s students are expected to present a poster or make an oral presentation in the 2023 Mason Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference after completion of the fellowship.
How to Apply
All fellowship opportunities will be posted on Handshake; each will be labeled clearly with the partner organization’s name and the Sustainability Summer Fellowships for Graduate Research Partnerships title. 
For each fellowship opportunity, applicants must submit the following three items via Handshake by February 15, 2022, at 11:55 pm
  • A 1-2 page statement that explains how the research opportunity and/or connection to the partner organization fits with their research and professional goals.
  • A current C.V. or résumé.
  • A letter of support from the student’s graduate advisor (thesis or dissertation advisor, preferably). The advisor should share this letter (or email) with the student so that the student can include it with their application.  
Students may apply for as many of the fellowship opportunities as they wish but will be limited to receiving only one fellowship in Summer 2022. Applicants should be available in early February for Zoom- or phone-based interviews with staff from the partner organization and Mason’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth. Fellowships will be announced by March 4.

 

Expectations and Information for Faculty Advisors

The Sustainability Summer Fellowships for Graduate Research Partnerships program provides financial support and professional development to graduate students who will work with partner organizations on applied research projects. To ensure optimal student success, the Fellowship Program depends on the input and support of the student fellow’s Mason faculty advisor. 
We hope that students interested in this opportunity will engage their faculty advisors early to explore how the specific research partnerships in the Fellowship Program align with the students’ academic and professional goals. Furthermore, we hope that the faculty advisor will continue to support the student as they engage in a research partnership with an external organization. 
Many partner organizations have research needs that extend beyond the priorities they have identified in the position descriptions. One of the Fellowship Program’s goals is to seed ongoing research partnerships between Mason students, faculty advisors, and external organizations working on sustainability challenges. Student fellows should be able to leverage their Summer research in their dissertation or master’s thesis work. In addition, students’ faculty advisors may wish to more deeply engage the partner organization to form a sustained collaboration. The Institute for a Sustainable Earth will provide support throughout the Fellowship period, and beyond, to ensure that student and faculty collaboration with non-Mason organizations is optimal, equitable, and productive.