Denning Global Fellows in Sustainable Development

The Denning Global Fellows in Sustainable Development Program supports field research for current Columbia undergraduates studying sustainable development, either as a major or as a special concentration. This field research may take the form of actual fieldwork, unpaid research assistantships, study abroad opportunities*, theses, senior seminar projects, or independent studies. Funding will only be awarded for activities that explicitly fulfill degree requirements, and/or further an individual’s studies in sustainable development. Ideally, fieldwork should provide an opportunity to conduct research and hone practical skills in data collection, analysis, and project management. Awards will vary in amount according to individual project needs. Current full-time Columbia students in the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development are eligible, provided they are in good academic standing. Learn more about previous Global Fellows below.

*Please see additional restrictions regarding study abroad eligibility of the application.

Fall 2021 application deadline: TBD*
Spring/Summer 2021 application deadline: TBD*

*Travel is currently suspended, pending updates on Columbia's International Travel Policy

Please review the sample budget before completing one. Grants may be subject to taxation, and/or affect your financial aid package. We recommend you follow up with your financial aid office and/or tax advisor if you have questions.

Before Submitting an application:

  1. Log into the Undergraduate Travel Web App and review the Undergraduate International Travel Policy.
  2. Submit for approval a School Sponsorship application to the Undergraduate Travel Review Committee, no later than 4 weeks prior to departure
  3. Schedule a site-specific travel health assessment with Student Health Services (appointments fill up quickly, especially before spring and winter break)
  4. Confirm you will have adequate health insurance that covers routine and emergency care for the duration of the proposed travel (travel insurance is also recommended).
  5. Review travel information and country-specific travel warnings.

If selected for funding, students will be required to:

  1. Register with ISOS and complete any additional requirements per the University’s Undergraduate International Travel Policy.
  2. Attend a pre-departure meeting at the Earth Institute and complete all required paperwork.
  3. Draft a post about their experience for the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog.
  4. Participate in a presentation of their research at the annual spring Earth Institute Student Research Showcase.

Previous Fellows

Carla Singson, a Columbia College Class of 2020 Sustainable Development major, aimed to understand the socio-political nature of urban green spaces. She surveyed people in parks of New York City in order to learn whether, for example, they associated these spaces with the wilderness or urbanized nature, and ultimately how human connection to nature should inform policymakers in charge of these spaces.

Sara Obermajerova, a Columbia College Class of 2020 Sustainable Development major, traveled to Jordan to learn more about resource management issues as part of the SEE-U program. Jordan is the third most water scarce country. There, Sara explored the interface between science and sustainable development and learned firsthand about Jordanian sustainability issues such as freshwater resource management, desertification, biodiversity conservation, and deforestation. Hannah plans on building upon the knowledge she gathered in Jordan to design her senior thesis.

Johanna Nelson, an intended Columbia College Class of 2021 Computer Science major with a special concentration in Sustainable Development, traveled to Iceland to fulfill her interest in renewable energy and sustainable energy practices through SIT Iceland.  Iceland is a model of environmental and economic success from renewable energy, as well as innovation in energy efficiency. As a Computer Science major pursuing a special concentration in Sustainable Development, Johanna was intrigued by the intersections between technology and achieving sustainable development goals — notably the use of microgrids and smart grids in Iceland.

Elise Gout, a Columbia College Class of 2019 Sustainable Development major, spent the summer in Brooklyn, interviewing elderly residents of Community District 13 about how they perceive their risk of flooding. She focused on residents ages 65 and older, both to consider the effectiveness of New York City’s current disaster preparedness and address the gap in research on the way the elderly population perceives flood risk.

Hannah J. Friedman, a Columbia College Class of 2019 Sustainable Development major with a special concentration in Visual Arts, researched the feasibility of an internal carbon pricing (“carbon charge”) for Columbia University. Carbon pricing internalizes the future social costs of carbon dioxide’s impact on climate change in the present in order to motivate the requisite behavior change. Hannah assessed the current state of Columbia’s GHG emission, interviewed experts and determined the options for implementing a carbon charge inside the school.

Grace Hwang, a Columbia College Class of 2020 Sustainable Development major, traveled through the New York City urban area with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates program (SEE-U). In the program, she studied all parts of the urban farming process, from growing to harvesting to processing to packaging to marketing to consuming to waste disposal. Grace is interested in the intersection of environmental sustainability and food justice, and envisions becoming involved in the rights-based food movement after she graduates. She hopes to establish an indoor urban farm in Chicago to make fresh, nutritious foods available to low-income communities.

Naomi Hoffman, a General Studies Class of 2020 Sustainable Development major, traveled to Brazil with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates program (SEE-U). Naomi conducted environmental fieldwork at the Center for Conservation Biology at the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, and learned about agro-ecosystems and community-based conservation in Bahia.

Chelsea Jean-Michel, a Columbia College Class of 2019 Sustainable Development major, traveled to Iceland over the summer of 2018 to study with SIT Iceland. She focused on renewable energy technology and natural resource economics. Chelsea plans to use her summer fieldwork experience as a springboard for her senior thesis research.

Lemlem Baraki, a Columbia College Class of 2018 student majoring in Psychology with a concentration Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Switzerland, Croatia, and Italy with SIT Study Abroad. Lemlem will be examining food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and GMOs. She will investigate the link between these factors and sustainable development.

Estrella Castillo, a General Studies Class of 2019 student majoring in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Sociology, will be traveling to Jordan with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. While in the program, Estrella will be studying the basics in ecological science and applying this knowledge to conduct research on climate change related issues faced by local Jordanian ecosystems and its inhabitants.

Sam Goldberg, a Columbia College Class of 2018 Sustainable Development major, traveled through New York State for her senior thesis entitled, “We Call Them Polimigra: Crimmigration, Disciplinary Power and New York State Farmworkers.” Sam interviewed farmworkers about how immigration enforcement affects their living and working conditions. Her research interests include food systems, climate change, and environmental justice.

Nicholas Kirby, a Columbia College Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Peru with Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Nicholas plans to develop a project management structure to replicate the organic composting facility that Stumptown co-funded and built in a region where soil health has been identified as a critical concern. His research will contribute to his senior thesis entitled “Sustainable Soil Solutions for Coffee Production.”

Abhinav Seetharaman, a Columbia College Class of 2018 Sustainable Development major, traveled to India to conduct research on Tibetan refugees for his senior thesis. His research interests include global health and public policy. Other research projects cover: connecting Information-Communication-Technology (ICT) and healthcare in Ghana, and oral health and dental hygiene in rural Ethiopia.

Jesse Thorson, a Columbia College Class of 2018 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Nicaragua to conduct a research study “Light for the World: Investigating Electricity Access in Nicaragua.” Jesse’s research objective is to investigate the sociopolitical, geographic, and climatic factors that contribute to electrification rates in Nicaragua compared to neighboring countries.

Julia Armstrong, a Columbia College Class of 2018 student concentrating in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Brazil with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. Julia will be conducting agro-ecosystem research and environmental fieldwork at the Center for Conservation Biology at the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas.

Joelle Boxer, a Class of 2016 student enrolled in the Dual B.A. Program between Columbia University and Sciences Po majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Bangladesh over Spring Break for her senior thesis project. Joelle’s research, “Investigating Suboptimal Access to Deep Tube Wells in Araihazar, Bangladesh,” aims to explore the government process behind deep well allocation in several upazilas of Bangladesh, as an aspect of the government’s arsenic mitigation plans. Her main goal is to ensure that safe water, free from arsenic, is available to all inhabitants of Araihazar.

Molly Engel, a General Studies Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Nicaragua on her second trip as a Global Fellow in Sustainable Development. Molly’s project will deconstruct the sustainability of the coffee supply chain with an analysis of the unintended consequences of sustainability initiatives in the forms of agrarian land-use transitions and urban social landscape transformations.

Cristina Mihailescu, a General Studies Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Jordan with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. Cristina will focus on exploring the climate change challenges and the enactment of global environmental policies, in particular the deployment of sustainable water management.

Austin Perry, a General Studies student in his third year majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Jordan with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. Austin will conduct an ongoing project that will seek to alleviate or solve a local, regional or global sustainability issue. By the end of his program, he hopes to have a better understanding of resource and biodiversity sustainability while giving back to the people of Jordan.

Kethan Rao, a Columbia College Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to India for his senior thesis project. Kethan’s research will explore how solar enterprises, businesses that balance profits with social impact, can successfully deliver solar technology to rural communities that do not have a consistent source of energy. He will study the factors that enable or inhibit their ability to deliver solar technology.

Sophia Rhee, a General Studies Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Tanzania for her senior thesis entitled “Understanding the Development Challenges affecting Decommissioned Mines in Tanzania.” Sophia will be analyzing the link between extractive industries and social stability in sub-Saharan Africa. She hopes to shed light on specific resource governance challenges and their impacts on peace and sustainable development.

Elana Sulakshana, a Columbia College Class of 2017 student studying Sustainable Development and History, will be traveling to Alaska during the summer to begin her senior thesis research. Sulakshana’s thesis will be a culmination of three years of study in the Sustainable Development program. Specifically, her research will focus on climate-induced displacement of Alaskan Native communities.

Sarah Al-Khayyal, a Columbia College Class of 2016 student studying Sustainable Development, will be traveling around the United States for her senior thesis project entitled “Placemaking for Sustainability.” Sarah’s research will explore the potential for placemaking to create economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable public spaces. Her main focus is how the design and activation of public space can contribute to equitable economic growth, climate change mitigation, and community building.

Juliet Brooks, a Columbia College Class of 2017 student majoring in English and concentrating in Sustainable Development, will be researching in New York City. Juliet will analyze the feasibility of New York convenience stores carrying healthy foods at reasonable prices.

Declan Devlin, a General Studies Class of 2016 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York with Professors Kevin Griffin and William Schuster. Declan’s senior thesis research will focus on assessing landscape level resilience to inform the decision-making process for land conservation efforts.

Molly Engel, a General Studies Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia with SIT working on IHP Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy. Molly’s study abroad experience will be the foundation of her senior thesis about tropical agriculture and women.

Read Flusser, a Columbia College Class of 2017 student majoring in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies, will be traveling to China, Thailand, and India for his senior thesis research entitled “Carbon Neutral Bamboo-to-Biofuel Feasibility Study.” Read is attempting to establish feasibility of a biofuel infrastructure based on high yield bamboos, which are primarily grown in Asia.

Lorenzo Gibson, a Columbia College Class of 2016 student studying American Studies and Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Western Ghats, India with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. Lorenzo will use this opportunity to see some of the possibilities for the integration of complex natural systems into human environments. He will use this research to advocate for food insecurity in urban space and agricultural development.

Iliana Salazar-Dodge, a Columbia College Class of 2016 student studying Sustainable Development and Mathematics, will be traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina during the Spring Semester through the SIT: Regional Integration, Development and Social Change Program for her senior thesis. Iliana’s research will investigate the social and economic impacts of the cooperatives on communities that The Working World (TWW) serves. TWW is a non-profit based in Argentina that provides investment capital and technical support for worker cooperatives.

Elisa Mirkil, a Columbia College Class of 2016 student studying Sustainable Development and Portuguese, will be traveling to Brazil with the Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates (SEE-U) program. Elisa’s research will focus on understanding the complexity of urban sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.

Noeleen Advani, a Columbia College Class of 2015 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Swaziland from December to January with ICAP at Columbia: Safe Generations Study for Senior Thesis. Noeleen’s research will evaluate the impact of integrating HIV treatment with maternal care on patient outcomes in low resource settings.

Grant Gutierrez, a Columbia College student majoring in Anthropology with a special concentration in Sustainable Development will be traveling through parts of Chile from June to August to conduct research towards his senior thesis which focuses on environmental anthropology. Grant’s research will explore Chileans’ relationship with the environment, and the political and cultural history of the Mapuche people with development and how renewables play a part in this discourse.

Khristopher Nicholas, a Columbia College Class of 2015 student majoring in Sustainable Development, will be traveling to Myanmar in January under the direction of Jessica Fanzo, PhD of the Institute of Human Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics. Khristopher’s on-site data collection in Myanmar will be carried out as part of his thesis project. His research will contextualize Burmese food systems using on-site resource bases and contacts of his research adviser. He will also utilize the ArcGIS Collector application to collect spatial data. He hopes to use this data to develop a framework of sustainable diets that can systematically analyze global food systems to address food sustainability issues in developed and developing nations.

Olivia Landsdale, a Columbia College student pursuing a major in Sustainable Development and minor in Creative Writing, traveled over winter break to the southwest to conduct her ethnographic research of environmental activists in Arizona, specifically focusing on the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club. Olivia explored how activists in the area relate to their natural environment and how the perceptions of their place in nature influence how they organize and expand their organizations.

Alyssa Menz, a Columbia College student majoring in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology, received her second award to travel to several regions in Kenya from January April 2014 on a tropical biology and sustainability focused Field Semester Abroad Program in Kenya. Alyssa is conducting research that compares productivity, diversity, and ecological processes in the farming systems in Kenya and examining how people and wildlife interact, with specific regard to the bushmeat/poaching crisis.

Shayna Orens, majoring in Political Science with a special concentration in Sustainable Development, traveled over winter break to Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of the School for International Training (SIT). As part of the program, Shayna conducted research on the expansion of the soy model and its benefits and vulnerabilities.

Noleen Advani, a Sustainable Development major will spend this summer in Amman, Jordan this summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Specifically interested in finding the solutions to the environmental challenges that result from climate change and rapid population growth, Noleen will focus on the ecological, economic, social and political consequences that result from the severe diminution of fresh water sources in the Middle East.

Joshua Arky, a Sustainable Development major, will conduct a comparative study, this summer, on nitrogen dynamics within rooftop farming mediums, receiving synthetic and organic amendments. While rooftop farming has the potential to be successful and sustainable, there is not a lot of research done on it. Joshua aims to experiment with nitrogen dynamics on effectiveness of growing Swiss Chard on a rooftop farm.

Abigail Bates, majoring in Sustainable Development, will be in the Dominican Republic this summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. While Abigail will be exposed to many aspects of biology and biodiversity during her time in Punta Cana, she is specifically interested in the health of the coral reefs and the impact that the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry has on their ecosystem.

Morgan Christopher, majoring in Political Science with a Special Concentration in Sustainable Development will be traveling the Dominican Republic this summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Morgan will conduct field research in a variety of environments as part of the SEE-U Program, from the tropical scrub forest and freshwater lagoons of Punta Cana to the mangroves and saltwater lagoons and of Miches.

Sharene Hawthorne-Rene, a Sustainable Development major and Spanish language concentrator, will be studying ecology and biology this summer in Amman, Jordan as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Sharene will have the opportunity to study deforestation, overgrazing, desertification and limited freshwater resources and assess how each sustainable development challenge affects the community, both socially and economically.

Alyssa Menz, majoring in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology will be in Amman, Jordan this summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Alyssa will supplement her biology students by examining Jordan’s unique and varied biodiversity stemming from the depletion of natural freshwater resources, deforestation, overgrazing of land and desertification.

Derek Nelson, Columbia College Class of 2012 holding a BA in Evolutionary Biology of the Human Species with a Special Concentration in Sustainable Development traveled to Bangkok in March with the Columbia Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL). Derek had the opportunity to collaborate with the Mekong River Commission and, through his research in partnership with CCCL students and commissioned by the Earthrights International organization, contribute to a livestock emissions study that the United Nations will consult as it addresses livestock production globally.

Aaron Simon, majoring in Human Rights with a Special Concentration in Sustainable Development, is traveling to Udaipur, India this summer as part of The 2012 Global Engagement Summer Institute Program conducted by Northwestern University and the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Aaron will focus on the community health and development of Udaipur.

Rebecca Smith, a major in Sustainable Development, will be conducting analyses of malaria data with relation to climate and environmental data in Madagascar this summer. During June and July, Rebecca will work in the Ministry of Health in Madagascar, evaluating the influence of climate on the impact of malaria control measures and then developing a malaria prediction model integrating climate predictions by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).

Jiawen Tang will travel Amman, Aqaba, Dana and Ajloun in Jordan this summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Jiawen will expand her understanding of ecology and environmental sustainability over a five-week period, through the comprehensive, multidisciplinary and global lens that is the SEE-U Program.

Tal Lee Anderman, a Sustainable Development graduate with a minor in Anthropology, interned at Millennium Promise, an organization that works to end poverty in rural Africa while minimizing threats to the continued healthy functioning of the earth’s ecological systems. Tal focused on the political and social context within which challenges of poverty alleviation and environmental degradation inevitably meet.

Olivia Burke, Columbia College ’12 holding a BA in Anthropology with a special concentration in Sustainable Development, traveled to Mexico in the winter to explore the problems with and social implications of the use of Genetically Modified seeds. Olivia’s research, Genetically Modified Maize as a Critical Node in Arguments for Cultural and Ecological Diversity in Southern Mexico, explored the ecological and cultural significance of maize in Southern Mexico.

Sarah Chang, majoring in Sustainable Development and minoring in Business Management, was in the Dominican Republic in the summer as part of the Summer Ecosystems Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U) Program. Sarah was excited to explore issues of sustainability as it pertains to the local economy and society of Punta Cana, while building on her knowledge of biology.

Jacob Goren, a recent Columbia College ’12 graduate earning a BA in Architecture with a special concentration in Sustainable Development, traveled to Chandigarh, India in November. Through his project, Territorial Imperatives: Sustainable Modern Planning in Chandigarh, India, Jake examined the design and operation of new town planning and used his research to develop sustainable and practical solutions to the world’s current urban problems.

Brendan Lim, holding a BA in Architecture with a special concentration in Sustainable Development from Columbia College’s class of 2012 was able to delve into sustainable Modernist city planning during his trip to Chandigarh, India in November. His project, Territorial Imperatives: Sustainable Modern Planning in Chandigarh, India, explored paradigms of spatial relation and ownership which led to a critique of traditional architectural representational tools, and ultimately an intervention-catalog for Chandigarh’s parks.

Carolyn Matos, Class of 2012 Columbia College graduate with a BA in Urban Studies and a special concentration in Sustainable Development, traveled to Puerto Rico in the winter with concerns about environmental conservation and sustainability with regards to over-development. Her research, Competition for Land on a Small Island: Wetland Conservation versus Development in Puerto Rico, investigated whether wetlands on the island of Puerto Rico are truly conserved, and at what cost.

Paul Rabino, a Sustainable Development major with a minor in African Studies interned with Kopali Organics, a USA FairTrade certified company providing quality organic products to consumers. On the Sales and Marketing team at Kopali, Paul was committed to a product with nutritional value that has a positive impact environmentally and socially through organic means and fair trade. He analyzed food practices and market outreach to better inform clients on sustainable food choices.

Richard Sun, an Economics major with a special concentration in Sustainable Development interned with the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Sustainability in the City of Newark, NJ. Richard conducted a budget analysis of sustainable urban development while assisting in the allocation of federal stimulus monies towards sustainability and green technology initiatives in the City of Newark.