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HSI Graduate Fellowship Program

Sustainability graduate students wanted

The Hanley Sustainability Institute at the University of Dayton has launched a graduate fellowship program for the 2022-2023 academic year to attract high-quality students with sustainability interests to UD through an internationally-advertised fellowship competition.

Applications are invited for the five specific opportunities listed below, each of which consists of a research project mentored by a faculty member and complementary programmatic efforts within HSI.

Applicants also must apply (separately) and be accepted to the UD graduate program of their choice. Successful candidates will receive financial support in the form of tuition and a stipend, guaranteed for the 2022-2023 academic year and renewable for an additional semester or academic year pending satisfactory progress.

To apply, please send a cover letter describing your interest and relevant experience (including an indication of which opportunity), a curriculum vitae, and an unofficial transcript to For full consideration, please submit your application by February 11, 2022.


Five research opportunities

Two of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals include clean water and sanitation and climate action, which are of significant relevance to communities, industries, and government entities. Likewise, the US Environmental Protection Agency defined twelve principles for green chemistry, emphasizing preventing waste, using degradable chemicals or renewable feedstocks.  Thus, access to clean water is a critical aspect of sustainable development that fosters human health and well-being, a healthy environment and climate, and equity and socio-economic progress.

This HSI Graduate Fellow will join a multi-disciplinary research team collaborating on a sustainable, environmental chemistry and engineering research project. Research will involve synthesizing and characterizing nanocomposites from renewable feedstocks and assessing their performance for water purification using state-of-the-art instrumentation. The fellow will receive mentorship from three diverse faculty and conduct research in laboratories within the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

This work will follow sustainable research practices while integrating and promoting sustainability for the common good.  The HSI fellow’s research will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at local or national technical conferences related to materials engineering, water and wastewater treatment, and/or environmental technology.

The successful HSI fellow will have experience with wet chemistry techniques and analytical instrumentation and follow laboratory safety protocols. Candidates will also exhibit strong organization, project and time management, excellent oral and written technical communication, problem-solving, curiosity, and teamwork skills. Students may apply to any graduate STEM program at UD, but preferred applicants are encouraged to consider Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, or Bioengineering.

The Project builds on a decade-long implementation of behavioral activation (evidence-based practice) to provide residents at a homeless shelter (Dayton, Ohio) with opportunities to engage in productive activities that yield response-contingent reinforcement (feeling of reward), which improves their productive behavior, sense of mastery, mood, and cognition.  Research outcomes include improvements in (a) psychosocial functioning of residents and (b) civic-related development in undergraduate assistants.

In collaboration with The Ohio State University Extension (Montgomery County, Ohio), a Shelter Farm was established at the Gettysburg Gateway Shelter for Men (food desert location) to enhance shelter nutrition.  Preliminary research indicated decreased anxiety for shelter residents who volunteered on the Shelter Farm. 

We plan to expand the Shelter Farm (and utilize hoop houses) to extend the harvesting season, which could further enhance shelter nutrition as well as facilitate additional research, such as examining (a) civic-related outcomes (e.g., environmental attitudes, self-efficacy to advocate for sustainability) in undergraduates assisting on the Shelter Farm; and (b) benefits (physical and mental health, vocational development) for shelter residents volunteering on the Shelter Farm.  In addition to assisting with the above work, the Graduate Fellow will continue the behavioral activation inside the shelter to enhance residents’ psychological functioning, contribute to sustainability education on campus, and assist in expanding our network of community partners.  Research is expected to yield professional conference presentations and/or publications in journals related to community psychology or experiential learning.  Students may apply to any graduate program at UD.

Urban ecology has been showing that urban environments are not biological deserts: there are suites of species that are well-suited to live in cities. To ameliorate the negative effects that cities might have on the environment, and in some cases, to help ameliorate inequalities that exist in cities, governments, private companies, and NGO’s are doing things like using green infrastructure (e.g., green roofs), and developing vacant as habitat (e.g., prairie restorations) or for use as urban farms.The MS student funded by HSI for this project would work on better understanding the insect communities that live in these urban areas by using Dayton and neighboring cities (like Columbus and Cincinnati) to look at how these sustainable practices in cities affect these higher trophic levels. Student's in Dr. Prather's lab can develop their thesis questions based on their individual interests, but a thesis might answer one of the following questions: Do insect communities on green roofs differ from insect communities in other green spaces in cities? Are more sustainable urban farms attracting a diverse native pollinator community? Can insect restoration in constructed prairies in urban areas be sped up?

Will we ever be able to stop using and abusing the Earth’s resources until they are gone? Can we stop burning coal, eating beef, depleting fisheries, burning forests, pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere that climate change continues unabated? What can we do to stop these trends, to achieve real change? 

This project explores all these questions under the umbrella of a problem known as the “Tragedy of the Commons” (TOC). The problem addresses a renewable resource (the Commons, e.g., fresh water, fisheries, forests, clean air, etc.) subject to human use. When the resource usage is too high, the resource inevitably crashes, either temporarily or permanently, which in turn robs the human population dependent on it of its capacity to thrive. The problem is called a “tragedy” because no single human user wants the resource to collapse and all users depend on the resource’s health. However, all the individual short-sighted self-interest and lack of cooperation end up aggregating and harming everyone, particularly hurting vulnerable populations. 

The TOC problem plays a large role in helping us understand and achieve sustainability and sustainable development. Mathematical models of the TOC exist, but there is a clear need to improve the quality of these models and to apply them using any available real-world data. In this project, you will:

  1. Perform an extensive study of the literature to find all relevant available research in mathematical modeling of the TOC problem.
  2. Develop more sophisticated models with enhanced predictive power, and apply them to available real-world cases.
  3. Research policies that could help prevent or ameliorate the occurrence of the TOC via mathematical analysis using nonlinear systems theory. The focus will be on policies that promote social and environmental justice.

This project is centered on the next steps in the development of a business waste assessment program, to complement UD’s energy-focused Industrial Assessment Center. This program’s major goals are to develop and provide assessment skills for industrial solid wastes, expand opportunities for student experiential learning, and strengthen partnerships with regional solid waste districts. 

Depending on the successful candidate’s interests, the work would include a combination of revising assessment methodology; conducting informational research on local practices and other options for reduction of waste generation or alternative options for final fate; participating in at least one business assessment; or initiating a risk/benefit-assessment approach to site ranking tool, as a method of selecting future areas of waste management education potentially providing the most diversion for a solid waste district. 

This project is expected to lead to publications in journals such as Solid Waste Technology and Management and Resources, Conservation, and Recycling. This HSI Graduate Fellow would also engage with HSI and UD’s Facilities Management team on campus waste reduction planning and efforts. 

Students may apply to any graduate program at UD, but are encouraged to consider Civil/Environmental Engineering, Engineering Management, or Mechanical Engineering.

Sustainability education at UD: An interdisciplinary process


Graduate Student Success Stories
Sustainability 09.29.20

Hanley Sustainability Institute graduate assistant Jack Rees was part of a team that used temperature setbacks in most UD buildings this past summer to save energy. Along the way, he and UD energy efficiency and renewable energy manager Matthew Worsham learned things about the building systems that have made them more operate more efficiently.

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Sustainability 10.07.20

Hanley Sustainability Institute graduate assistants Lauren Wolford and Meg Maloney are leading the University of Dayton’s resilience assessment as part of UD’s Second Nature climate commitment to plan for climate resilience. They talked to 50-60 community stakeholders about resilience planning in and around Dayton. “Because of what we’re all currently living in, it was really easy to have these conversations specifically around the pandemic,” Wolford said. “It was inspiring to hear from different organizations.”

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Sustainability 09.18.20

City of Dayton Sustainability Manager Mark Charles prefers the term sustainability specialist when it comes to Meg Maloney, a Hanley Sustainability Institute graduate assistant who is working with the city. “She’s not just following me around,” Charles said. “She’s actually got her own responsibilities and activities. She helped me with the final touches on the overall sustainability strategy.”

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Sustainability 09.09.20

Before University of Dayton students migrated back to campus during a pandemic, Hanley Sustainability Institute graduate assistant Christopher Baldasare saw the need for more composting. “With the emphasis on not going out, I expect more students to be cooking in their residences,” Baldasare said. “This will also give us a chance to pilot online composting education, which was planned in the spring to potentially expand the composting program by making it easier to reach all students that would want to participate.”

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