Mason students help the environment with sustainability summer fellowships

woman answers questions on video
Mason doctoral student Sri Saahitya Uppalapati takes questions following her virtual presentation on her work with Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action.

George Mason University doctoral and graduate students helped the environment, nonprofit organizations and the local community with summer projects through the Sustainability Summer Graduate Research Fellowships. This summer marked the first time Mason’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE) has offered the fellowship program.

Thanks to a unique collaboration between ISE and the Office of Graduate Education, eight student fellows received funding to research a variety of topics, including solid waste reduction strategies and helping Fairfax County’s goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A video presentation of their final projects can be found here.

“Our students were able to offer organizations and the community their cutting-edge research skills,” said Jeremy Campbell, ISE’s associate director of strategic engagement. “The students benefited from the fellowships by getting real-world experiences early on in their graduate careers and seeing their research make a difference.”

Campbell emphasized the importance of the partner organizations participating in the program and said that he planned to continue the summer fellowships, as well as further develop partnerships with local government entities, nonprofit organizations and other outside groups. He also said that students participating in the fellowship program were able to network in their field of interest.

All of the participating students except one are pursuing doctorates. The students came from a variety of study areas, including sociology and conflict analysis and resolution.

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A chart from Mason doctoral student Shawn Smith's presentation.

Sri Saahitya Uppalapati, who is pursuing a PhD in communication in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, worked on building communications materials for Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action about the impact of the climate crisis on health in Virginia.

“It was inspiring to be surrounded by such dedicated and committed folks who truly care about the intersection of climate and health,” Uppalapati said.

Bradley Gay, a doctoral student in earth systems and geoinformation sciences in the College of Science, partnered with Blake Vullo, doctoral student in sociology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, to work on Future Earth’s Global Food Program. Gay studied land use change using global remote sensing data analysis. The results of his study will help push for policy that is backed up by data, Gay said.

“I appreciated the chance to study something that I’m interested in that also will be hopefully extremely helpful in policy change,” Gay said. “It was a great opportunity.”

Other students and their projects included:

Arvind Geetha Christo, doctoral student in sociology, worked on conservation and environmental justice in South Asia, partnering with the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security program.

Ashton Rohmer, doctoral student in conflict analysis and resolution at the Carter School, tackled the sustainability aspects of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill with the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Stacy Lynn Yike, master’s student in environmental science and policy, looked at solid waste reduction strategies in the context of Fairfax County’s climate action plan with the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions.

Shawn Smith, doctoral student in environmental science and policy, researched air and water pollution, environmental health, and public policy, with the Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter.

Dhruv Deepak, doctoral student in sociology, worked on globally diverse forms of community-level sustainability paradigms as part of Future Earth’s Program on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production.