Sustainability Education

The Ohio State University emphasizes energy education by making students more aware of how energy affects their day-to-day lives and how they can influence change.

Energy Education: Ohio State Students Travel to Gain Knowledge on Sustainability

Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment offers financial assistance to Ohio State students to attend or participate in conferences or seminars related to energy, the environment or sustainability, as well as to conduct research in sustainability issues.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, 12 students received travel funds to study energy, environment or sustainability issues. Students traveled across the country and around the globe, where they gave presentations, networked with professionals in their industry and gained new knowledge in their fields. 

Some of the students who were awarded travel funding share their experiences below:

Julia Elmer and Angel Arroyo-Rodriguez

City and Regional Planning doctoral students Julia Elmer and Angel Arroyo-Rodriguez sought a hands-on experience to develop their environmental planning skills. They applied for a travel-grant from Ohio State’s Office of Energy and Environment and were awarded funding to attend “Designing Inclusion: Co-producing ecological urbanism for inclusive housing transformation workshop” in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Designing Inclusion was called to address the environmental and economic concerns on the coasts of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s economic capital and home to 3 million people. A diverse team of 50 professionals from 20 countries gathered this summer to brainstorm housing and ecological infrastructure to support Guayaquil’s major urbanization during the past 50 years. Arroyo-Rodriguez explains the population increase has contributed to a depletion of natural vegetation and an increase of trash entering the ocean.

“A lot of housing is bare-minimum, self-made structures built near the water,” Arroyo-Rodriguez said. “Sea levels are expected to rise over the next several decades, so the problem will only get worse. It was important to look for solutions now.”

Solutions had to be carefully crafted to consider hundreds of families who sell goods out of their homes for survival. Over the 10-day workshop, Elmer and Arroyo-Rodriguez met with locals to discuss their concerns.Workshop participants used the locals’ feedback to brainstorm environmental remedies while keeping the people’s needs in mind. While the efforts in Guayaquil are a work in progress, Elmer and Arroyo-Rodriguez’s research and interactions with locals are essential for improvement in the future. Arroyo-Rodriguez says his time in Ecuador was an experience he will never forget.

“I had no idea how much it would impact me,” Arroyo-Rodriguez said. “It was great to work with people from different countries with unique expertise.”

Reflecting on her experience, Elmer encourages other students to take advantage of the resources available at Ohio State.

“Traveling changes your life and shapes who you are,” Elmer said. “Ohio State offers so many opportunities that need to be taken.”

The Office of Energy and Environment offers Ohio State students the option to apply for travel grants to attend or participate in conferences related to energy, environment or sustainability. As a former travel grant recipient, Elmer advises students to simply begin researching workshops and funding resources that match their interests.

“It’s like a kid in a candy shop here. Just search for the right opportunities and then start looking for funding,” Elmer said. “If you find the right opportunity, the sky is limitless.”

Christine Chen

Christine Chen, Ph.D. candidate in the School of Earth Sciences researching the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet lakes, attended and presented her research at Ilulissat Climate Days in Greenland, June 2-5, 2015.

The conference, which focuses on observations that confirm the accelerating changes of the Greenland and Arctic cryosphere, attracts scientists and researchers from around the world interested in climate change. Being a graduate student and one of the youngest presenters there, Chen became motivated by other research and has identified what she wants to explore with later research. She also received feedback and questions that helped her clarify her current research.

“Climate change is affecting everyday life,” said Chen. “I want to show what the change in elevation of the lakes means for us and the world.”

Since returning from Greenland, Chen began writing her research for publication. After graduation, she plans to work in a postdoctoral position and continue her research.

Sammie Keitlen

Sammie Keitlen, a senior majoring in Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability, recently returned from a study abroad trip on sustaining human societies and the environment. 

For three weeks in May 2015, Keitlen to traveled the south island of New Zealand researching how the native people preserve their “100% Pure” reputation. Their sustainability goals have a focus on pollution, saving their endemic species and protecting the land in order to keep their island beautiful, even with high amounts of tourism.

“The people there appreciate their country, what they have and the resources they use more than we do here,” said Keitlen. “I learned and, hopefully, will be able to lessen my impact on the environment and help other people do so too.”

Keitlen also said she will take what she learned in New Zealand to work on one of her major projects this fall, analyzing how cities use sustainability efforts to attract businesses. After graduation, Keitlen plans to work in government or the private sector incorporating business sustainability practices to lessen the impact cities have on the environment.

Ryan Trexler and Michael Brooker

Ryan Trexler and Michael Brooker, both graduate students in environmental science, attended the American Geophysical Union Annual Conference in San Francisco, Dec. 14-19, 2014.

“It would have been more difficult to go to this event without OEE’s support,” Trexler said. “It was a big reason why I was able to attend.”

The event had over 30,000 people in attendance and included a poster session and networking opportunities. Trexler presented on his research in shale ecosystems, and Brooker presented on his research in agricultural runoffs. Both hope to continue this research.

Michael J. Addams, Bin He, Arati Prakash, Sarah Watzman

Michael Addams, Bin He, Arati Prakash and Sarah Watzman, all graduate students in mechanical engineering, attended the Materials Research Society’s fall meeting in Boston Nov. 30-Dec. 5, 2014. The students presented technical talks and exhibited at the poster session about thermoelectric materials, specifically related to waste heat recovery.

“The poster session was fun,” Addams said. “We got to walk around to see others’ work and network with the other students and professors.”

Megan Fuerst

Megan Fuerst, a second-year majoring in environment, economy, development and sustainability, attended the "Teens Turning Green: Green U" event in San Francisco Nov. 20-25, 2014. Fuerst served as a mentor to the 13 finalists of the Project Green Challenge. Fuerst has worked with Teens Turning Green, a sustainability nonprofit, for over a year. Currently, she is the outreach coordinator for Teens Turning Green and she has been voted president of the Youth Advisory Board for next year.

“I was a finalist last year and it was scary,” Fuerst said. “My favorite part was being there on the other end and being a mentor. I was able to see [the finalists’] passion grow.”

The event included a green spa day with organic clothes and beauty products, a presentation from the CEO of Whole Foods, and more.

Minghui Chen

Minghui Chen, a graduate student in nuclear engineering, attended the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting and Tech Expo in Anaheim, California, Nov. 9-13, 2014. Chen presented a paper he wrote on nuclear energy to over 50 people at the event. Chen’s favorite part was the ability to network with the 1,000 professionals and students in the industry and to learn from their experiences.

Full-time students can apply for the Office of Energy and Environment travel funding year-round at

See more Sustainability Education stories