Featured Profiles

Student Profiles

Kenneth-baby-cropKenneth Johnson Redeploys His Afghanistan Military Experience in America to Create Sustainable Solutions

As a U.S. Army Fire Support officer stationed in northeastern Afghanistan, Kenneth Johnson, Erb ’15, witnessed the power of sustainable solutions to uplift poverty-stricken residents, transform remote villages and build greater trust and respect. Now, as an Erb Institute student, he is redeploying his Afghanistan military experience in America to create sustainable solutions that would make healthy food accessible to underserved populations, bootstrap troubled inner-city neighborhoods and create hope and prosperity for the future.

“I saw the impact that sustainable solutions had in Afghanistan, and I wanted to dive deeper and refine some of the skills I developed in the military,” explains Johnson, a West Point graduate who earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal with Valor for actions in combat. “Pursuing a career in the sustainability space would allow me to serve, do something interesting and make an impact on people and the environment from a business point of view.” Read more


Julia Ruedig, Erb ’15, Sows the Seeds for a Career in Food System Sustainability

Julia Ruedig, Erb ’15, believes more can be done to reduce inefficiencies and improve the sustainability of America’s food system. “Food waste is a big problem that occurs in many areas, including our agricultural supply chains, retail sales outlets ─ and even our own homes,” she says. “Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for solving this sustainability problem. The solution will require a widespread approach.”

Putting food on America’s dinner tables consumes 10 percent of the nation’s total energy budget, 50 percent of its land and 80 percent of its potable freshwater. Yet 40 percent of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten ─ the equivalent of more than 20 pounds per person every month, according to a 2012 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The increasing amount of waste is particularly troubling at a time when one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food. Read more


Alumni Profiles


Leah Zimmerman, Erb ’14, Charts a New Course toward a Sustainable Future

Leah Zimmerman, Erb ’14, could not have predicted the dramatic shift in her career goal that occurred during her second year at the Erb Institute.

“I came to the University of Michigan to study Great Lakes ecology,” says Zimmerman, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, who spent her childhood summers vacationing along the Lake Michigan gold coast and later worked overseas for six years with Pacific Environment, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the living environment of the Pacific Rim.  “During my first year at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, I took on courses in Conservation Ecology and Behavior, Education and Communication.”  Read more


Laura Rubin, MBA/MS ’95, Spearheads a River Renaissance Along the Huron

A decade ago, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and other southeastern Michigan communities located within the seven-county, 900-square-mile Huron River watershed had a disparaging view of the meandering waterway, which flows more than 125 miles from its headwaters at Big Lake, near Pontiac, to its mouth at Lake Erie. Today, those same communities, representing a half-million residents, are celebrating a “river renaissance,” spearheaded by Laura Rubin, MBA/MS ’95, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council, or HRWC.  Established in 1965, the HRWC is Michigan’s oldest watershed council and works with a network of 500 volunteers to inspire attitudes, behaviors and economies that protect, rehabilitate and sustain the Huron River system. Read more