Campus Sustainable Impact Fellowship

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Program Overview

Campus Sustainable Impact Fellows are a highly self-selected cohort of undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines across Lehigh University, focused on addressing challenges tied to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals on Lehigh University's campus. CSIFs advance multi-year Inquiry to Impact (I2I) projects with local partners through Creative Inquiry (CINQ) courses for a total of six credits (three each semester). The courses, workshops, retreats, and immersive experiences of this program integrate experiential learning, research, and entrepreneurial engagement with students leading original and ambitious projects with partners on campus and in the local region. A select number of CSIFs will have the opportunity to participate in the Mountaintop Summer Experience to accelerate their project.

Through engaging in such meaningful, authentic, and incredibly alive projects, Fellows develop skillsets, mindsets, and portfolios to address complex sustainability challenges. Fellows build sustainable enterprises, publish their works in peer-reviewed journals, integrate their insights into campus policies, and champion sustainability practices that will influence present and future generations of Lehigh students, faculty, and staff. The quest for sustainable impact drives the philosophy, pedagogy, and operations of this program with the objective of preparing students to lead lives of impact.

Program Benefits: What’s In It for Me?
An opportunity to work collaboratively with the most driven students from across the university on ambitious multi-year projects striving to enhance Lehigh's sustainability commitment.

  1. Work in an interdisciplinary manner with campus peers and partners to develop practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions that will create tangible, systemic changes to university operations.
  2. Further your university's goals of being a model sustainable campus adhering to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Engage in hands-on fieldwork with faculty mentors with decades of experience conducting research, designing solutions, and building systems.
  4. Conduct original research and get your work published in journals and conference proceedings. Travel to conferences to present your work and build your professional network.
  5. Develop your life skills and build life-long friendships with peers at Lehigh and with some amazing people on our campus.
  6. Distinguish yourself and become more competitive for prestigious fellowships and awards, graduate / professional schools, or that dream job.
  7. Impact! Conducting research, developing and effecting policy solutions, and jumpstarting new sustainability practices is incredibly difficult but also deeply rewarding.

Campus Sustainable Impact Fellowship Logistics:


***Unless marked as optional, CSIFs are expected to participate in all courses, seminars, and workshops. No exceptions.

  • CINQ 388: Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series [1 Credit]: Weekly hands-on workshops and interactive seminars for all Fellows across all the CSIF projects.
  • CINQ 389: Inquiry to Impact Projects [2-6 Credits]: Separate sections for each project team. The team typically meets with the faculty mentor once a week; all project work is done outside of regular class times.

All full-day workshops will be held on weekends or holidays; meals will be provided if events are held in-person.

Each team has the option of having a two-person team take a deep dive into the project for the Mountaintop Summer Experience. Additional students might be funded depending on project needs and availability of funds.

Application Process

  • We don’t expect applicants to know how to do these things. Just come prepared to learn.
  • Certain skills matter and are needed, but what we are looking for is passion, deep commitment, and work ethic. GPAs don’t matter...much.
  • You should have the time in your academic and personal schedule for this commitment - don't overload just to do it.

2022 Campus Sustainable Impact Fellowship Projects

EcoRealm Environments: Creating Wellness through Nature (PIs: Nicholas Sawicki, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Art Architecture & Design; Brian Slocum, Managing Director, Design Labs)

Imagine for a moment taking a hike through the forest.  Above and all around, the lush vegetation and green hues instill in you a sense of peace.  Now imagine if you could study for your next exam feeling that same calm and focus. That’s exactly what EcoRealm aims to provide. What began as the desire to build a Living Wall on Lehigh’s campus has turned into a project to reduce stress through immersing people in nature. In year one, the team has successfully created a functional prototype of an autonomous hydroponic system and is testing a version of the immersive environment partitions on campus in FML. As the project continues in its second year, the aim is to continue the development of the more comprehensive prototype system, plan a psychological study to determine the impact on student stress, and build out the business model and opportunity. All majors are welcome, but of particular interest are students with a passion for biology, psychology, business, marketing, and mechanical engineering. In addition, an entrepreneurial spirit is a must as the team works to bring a product to market.

Thinking Holistically About Energy: WATT Can Lehigh Do? (PI: Carlos Romero, Energy Research Center)

This project aims to have students think more efficiently and sustainably about energy management within Lehigh’s facilities and research spaces.  Students will explore various energy management options including use of renewable energy and energy storage.  Students will explore and test out various options that could be implemented in future campus construction and research projects. Specific areas of interest include latent heat storage using phase change materials, and solar heat collection using parabolic trough collectors. All majors welcome.

Thinking Outside the (Lunch) Box: Establishing a Food Carbon and Water Footprint (PIs: Don Morris, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Katharine Targett Gross, Office of Sustainability; Lauren Sleeger, Lehigh Dining Services / Sodexo)

Have you ever thought about the carbon and water footprints of the foods you eat at Lehigh?  In this project, students will add a water footprint calculator component while continuing to work on an existing food carbon footprint calculator, as well as expand the carbon portion. This will allow Lehigh Dining to provide a water footprint (red - high, yellow - medium, green - low) for key menu items at dining locations across campus. This will encourage students, faculty, and staff to choose to alter their food choices based on the water impact of the menu item. The students will also determine how to expand the calculator to make it more sophisticated, how to transition away from national averages, and how to make this a national, open source model for other colleges and universities to use.  We specifically need students with 1) marketing / graphic design skills, 2) data management and analysis skills, 3) coding skills, and 4) business / operations and systems engineering skills.

An Energy and Water Dashboard (PIs: Debra Kreider and Ed Yeakel, CSB)

Different campus buildings use different amounts of energy and water.  Lehigh is driven to understand its buildings so that we can increase energy efficiency, conserve water, promote data-driven decisions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money. The 2021 Energy and Water Dashboard team has started building the dashboard using smart electric meter data (where available), ArcGIS for the building map and React for the web application. The 2022 Team will build upon these features and implement new features including: IoT (Internet of Things) concepts, Energy and Water Data from utility invoices,  presentation of Energy Equivalency information, and ability to download data sets. Through this project, the student team will finish creating a public-facing energy dashboard, will add a water usage component, and will work to make the overall dashboard more sophisticated.  The project team will modify and refine several key attributes including: an interactive campus map where one can filter by building type and show building attributes and energy usage/EUI and water usage, show smart electric meter data (when available), monthly and annual usage graphs for each building, downloadable data sets, relatable comparisons to put data into perspective, GHG emissions associated with energy usage etc. This dashboard will provide easily accessible building energy and water data for faculty and students for course projects. All majors welcome, but students with skills in programming/coding and communications/marketing are particularly encouraged. Other important interests include a curiosity about the operational structure of Lehigh University, experience with energy engineering and energy systems, and an inclination to creating tangible, sustainability-focused, impactful solutions.

PlasTech Ventures – Transforming Lehigh’s Plastic Recycling Stream (Co-Pis: Brian Slocum, Design Labs; Ganesh Balasubramanian, Mechanical Engineering)

This project aims to transform Lehigh’s plastic recycling on campus through awareness and education campaigns, striving for an 60% reduction in the contamination levels of Lehigh’s recycling streams.  Students would develop marketing signage to test methods of educating the campus community about contamination, including an understanding of the different ways that recycling loads can become contaminated and therefore become useless for recycling, and implement them throughout campus. All majors welcome, but we have specific needs for students with an understanding of computer science, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science, and/or supply chain management.

Echo Hawks (PI: Nathan Urban, Provost; Co-PIs: Ilena Key, LTS; Yenny Anderson, Institutional Research; Eric Zematis, LTS) 

 Lehigh students have lots of questions. Most of them, of course, require a faculty or staff member to answer them. But many don’t! We envision a campus where Amazon’s Alexa system can be utilized to answer some of the most frequently asked and easy-to-answer questions, especially for students new to our university and trying to get oriented. This is a brand-new project and the student team will engage with Lehigh students and relevant offices to identify the best questions that Alexa can answer with a “human in the loop,” conducting focus groups, interviews, surveys etc. to determine the best way to implement such a system at Lehigh, making information-finding more efficient, effective, and ultimately, creating a more sustainable campus economy.