Sustainability Challenge Grants


The Sustainability Challenge Grant program is designed to engage multidisciplinary teams from the University community in the creation and implementation of ideas that will promote sustainability by simultaneously advancing economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity. In the first four years of the program 26 projects have been awarded a total of $700,000 to pursue transformational, sustainability-driven projects on our campus and beyond. Learn more about these projects below. The call for proposals for the 2018 Sustainability Challenge Grant Program has closed. 

The program is a collaborative effort of the President’s Sustainability Advisory CommitteeThe Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and the Office of Sustainability.

Funding support for the program provided by the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Provost, the Vice President for Research and the Student Sustainability Council. 

2018 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Sustainability Guidelines for Historic Campus Buildings ($32,715) Project Abstract

Engaging Elementary Students in Horticulture ($19,272) Project Abstract

Developing a KY Master Naturalist Program ($14,257) Project Abstract

Root to Branches ($38,890) Project Abstract

S.KYBLUE at the UK Organic Unit ($47,118) Project Abstract

Teaching Sustainability + Teaching Sustainably ($47,085) Project Abstract 

2017 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Community Engaged Sustainability Education in the First Year Experience ($24,040) Project Abstract

Connectivity Promotes Community ($20,000) Project Abstract

Enhancing Student Development ($38,996) Project Abstract

Gathering at the Table (24,111.98) Project Abstract

Measuring Up ($42,990) Project Abstract

Mobilizing Tree Ambassadors ($49,774) Project Abstract


2016 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Building an Inclusive Community by Empowering Youth through Sustainability Education ($27,455) Project Abstract 

Creating Tree Ambassadors ($32,636) Project Abstract

Establishing Native Forest on Surface Mines ($18,175) Project Abstract

From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM ($25,184) Project Abstract

Point of Departure ($49,991) Project Abstract

Solar Powered Tractor ($25,000) Project Abstract

The Arboretums Children's Garden Patio and Wet Meadow Demonstration Area ($21,000) Project Abstract

2015 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients:

University of Kentucky Food Summit ($6690) Project Abstract 

Big Blue Impact: Making Sustainability Visible ($10,000) Project Abstract

Development of Sustainable Bus Stops ($18,200) Project Abstract

Campus Tree Initiative ($17,760) Project Abstract

Arboretum Drive BioSwale Demonstration ($15,000) Project Abstract

Empowerment for North Limestone Neighborhood Sustainability ($17,350) Project Abstract

Cultivating Place for a Sustainable Community: Revitalizing the Shawneetown Community Garden ($15,000) Project Abstract

2015 Project Abstracts


University of Kentucky Food Summit - Awarded $6690 

In Collaboration with the UK Food Connection, the Food Systems Initiative of the Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment (TFISE_FSI) will use this funding to host the University of Kentucky's first Food Summit in the fall of 2015. The UK Food Summit will bring community food advocates from across the state together with students, faculty and employees on the campus to explore ways to build a sustainable, healthy and socially-just food system. Planning and coordination of the summit will involve two primary components: 1) A study to evaluate concerns and attitudes toward food-related issues among faculty, staff and students and 2) organizing and hosting the summit. Our long-term vision for the UK Food Summit is to develop a blueprint for developing the University of Kentucky as a national leader in research, instruction and engagement initiatives centered on building a sustainable, healthy and socially-just food system.

Team members: Krista Jacobsen and Mark Williamson, Horticulture; Keiko Tanaka, Community and Leadership Development; Scott Smith, UK Food Connection; Walter Brown and Jordan Bressler, Campus Pantry & Dietetics; Lisa Higgins-Hord, Office of Community Engagement; Janet Mullins, Dietetics & Human Nutrition; Sarah Lyon, Anthropology: Tad Mutersbaugh, Geography; Michael Pennell, Instructional Communication and Research; Doug Slaymaker, Modern & Classical Languages & Literature; and Mark Swanson, College of Public Health.

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Big Blue Impact: Making Sustainability Visible - Awarded $10,000 

Our project,Big Blue Impact (BBI) | Making Sustainability Visible, is an emerging pluridisciplinary collaboration inherently crossing the fields of design—architecture, learning, psychology, statistics, fine arts, physics, building engineering, and biotechnology. This proof-of-concept pilot study aims at collecting data about sustainability behaviors that can be captured, analyzed, and integrated into comprehensive models that can support visualizations that can serve as rapid feedback to shape sustainable behavior. The vision of the project is rooted in documenting an individual’s impact on the campus sustainability agenda demonstrating how learning can lead to new modes of creativity based on the use of a novel, multi-modal display. Participant students will be issued a small "wearable" microcomputer, about the size of an SD memory card, to monitor and collect both autonomous data and self reported data of student activity related to sustainability. In some cases self-reported activity will be collected via a smart-phone enabled web interface. The wearable microcomputer is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and will report individual performance data to web-enabled beacons for collection and aggregation of data. A further means of investigation, the BBI team will evaluate the data through statistical analysis and then connect the data into behavior models that can visualize the data on a variety of arduino-based inscribed surfaces whereby, translating decision-making into art.

Team members: Gregory Luhan, School of Architecture ; Derek Eggers, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching; Melody Carswell, Psychology; Adam Lindstrom, UKAT; Noah Adler, Communications; Cathy Emery, Psychology.

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Development of Sustainable Bus Stops - Awarded $18,200 

The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and the College of Design (CoD) see an opportunity to advance the University of Kentucky’s sustainability agenda by developing real world projects—critically placed high-performance bus shelters—that plug into a campus transportation system. As demonstration of emerging, cross-disciplinary research that integrates energy-generation, our team will diversify the University of Kentucky energy portfolio and contribute to its sustainability program by synthesizing forward-looking approaches developing new bus shelters or replacing those in poor condition. Our designs will integrate high-performance architectural skins, sustainable construction materials (ex: high strength concretes sourced from industrial by-products), bike share hubs, and photovoltaic systems with new ideas of what a shelter can be. This high-tech/low-tech, multi-modal solution will contribute to a “Sustainable Campus Exemplar” [1] that positions the University of Kentucky as a standard bearer for the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure and sustainability programs.
Although this project is ongoing, this challenge grant will transform the effort from a theoretical exercise to a path towards real-world implementation. This is an ideal opportunity to leverage the impact of on campus research to engage students in a dialogue about sustainability, alternate transportation, the impact of design, and the possibilities of collaborative research at UK.

Team members: Michael Wilson, CAER; Martin Summers, College of Design;Phillip White, Electrical Engineering; Regina Hannemann, Electrical Engineering; Robert Royalty; Kentucky Utilities; Robert Hieronymus; Electrical Engineering; Donnie Spencer, Schneider Electric; Stephen Hardy and Ian Gibson, Electrical Engineering;Thompson Burry, Owen Duross, Hans Koesters and Ari Sogin, College of Design.

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Campus Tree Initiative: Enhancing sustainability through engagement with the urban tree canopy on UK campus and beyond - Awarded $17,760

Urban trees contribute substantially to environmental, economic, and social sustainability, significantly enhancing quality of life in urban environments. At less than 17% canopy cover, the UK campus has considerably less tree cover than that of Lexington, which at 25% is well below that of neighboring cities (Cincinnati 39%, Nashville 47%). Clearly, our UK community has a tremendous opportunity to enhance the campus tree canopy and its associated benefits, especially during this period of intensive construction. Our overarching goal is to amplify the perception, value and function of the urban forest on campus and in Lexington by marshaling partnerships across academic and operations interests of the campus community, along with local, state and federal governments and local organizations. Our project will enhance sustainability on campus and regionally by increasing visibility and awareness of the campus tree canopy and its contributions to campus sustainability. This will be done primarily via implementation of a discrete campus tree project, development of a dedicated website and Adopt-a-Tree program, creating curricular linkages including development of an Urban Forestry Certificate, and building an interdisciplinary, collaborative working group comprised of students, faculty, staff and outside professionals to impact outreach, operations, academics and research relative to urban trees. The success of the Campus Tree Initiative will be measured in terms of direct involvement of students, faculty and staff; engagement with campus tree educational materials and social media; development of an undergraduate urban forestry certificate; and successful engagement of the urban forestry community on campus and in the surrounding community.

Team members: Mary Arthur and Nic Williamson, Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Jerry Hart; PPD Grounds; Mercedes Murphy, Forestry; and Mariah Lewis, Natural Resources and Environmental Science.

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Arboretum Drive BioSwale Demonstration - Awarded $15,000

The entrance to The Arboretum is currently characterized by a rip‐rap lined ditch that is a classic example of the rapid water conveyance that impairs urban‐affected streams in Fayette County. A restructuring of this highly visible drainageway as a bioswale will transform it into an attractive, functional, and educational contribution to water quality in one of Kentucky’s premier venues for environmental education. The project partners propose to use in‐kind services along with funding from a Sustainability Challenge Grant to design and
reconstruct the current ditch into a bioswale for runoff infiltration and conveyance. The new bioswale will have a broadened cross‐section, a series of low weirs constructed from recycled rip‐rap, and will be planted with native grasses and wildflowers.The process for design and construction of the swale will involve the work of multiple participants: (1) data collection, design,
and construction detailing by students in the Landscape Architecture course Water in Urbanizing Landscapes; (2) technical leadership for hydrologic design and plant selection and establishment methods by faculty and staff in Landscape
Architecture, Horticulture and the Arboretum; (3) propagation of plant material by the UK Horticulture Club; (4) construction by the UK Student Chapter, American Society of Landscape Architects, with the guidance of faculty and staff and in cooperation with PPD; (5) planting by SC/ASLA, the Horticulture Club, and Arboretum Volunteers with the guidance of faculty and Arboretum staff; and (4) longer‐term monitoring by UKLA. The result will be both functional and beautiful, demonstrating that using ecological principles to manage water and
landscapes creates more desirable human environments.

Team members: Molly Davis and Todd Rounsaville, UK Arboretum; Chris Sass, Ned Crankshaw and Travis Klondike, Landscape Architecture; Richard Durham and Mark Williams, Horticulture; George Riddle, PPD Grounds; and Jesse Dahl, Arboretum.

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Empowerment for North Limestone Neighborhood Sustainability: Establishing Public Spaces and Arts - Awarded $17,350 

The North Limestone Neighborhood (NoLi)in Lexington is actively working on improving the lives of its community members. Moving forward with their creative placemaking initiatives, this sustainability project will assist in preparing for the leadership, collaboration, and participation of stakeholders through facilitator training, empowerment of youth and the physical planning and design phases of ideation for shared public spaces and arts in NoLi. Currently, the community has several interested parties and a diverse group of constituents that can work more effectively through a systematic facilitation of effort. Through this project, NOLi will increase the ecological integrity of their existing environmental conditions and identify public space needs and visions. By working with diverse groups, the community will be able to increase their social capacity through training of facilitated leadership, improve inter generational communication and develop a stronger sense of space. Potential community leaders wil be trained in how to lead walking tours and gather information from the the diverse interest groups. Youth in the community will be taught skills to empower and motivate themselves to be healthier and more effective contributors. The students in the UK Landscape Architecture department will learn how to lead design workshop(s) with community youth and graphically represent the dreams and visions of the NoLi youth into actionable endeavors.

Team members: Ron Hustedde, Community and Leadership Development; Jayoung Koo, Landscape Architecture; and Richard Young, North Limestone Community Development Corporation.

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Cultivating Place for a Sustainable Community: Revitalizing the Shawneetown Community Garden - Awarded $15,000 

The Shawneetown Gardens began as a student initiative in 2009, and has grown from a gardening space for 20 residents to over 70 plots currently. Although the gardens are heavily utilized by Graduate and Family housing residents, a crumbling infrastructure, lack of organized design, and isolation keep it from functioning to its full potential as a sustainable initiative on the
University of Kentucky campus. While closely linked to minimizing impact on the ecosystem and promoting ecoliteracy, a sustainable community garden can also generate physical, ecological, and socio-cultural sustainability. Such diverse components of sustainability carry implications for plants and people which this project aims to explore through a synergy between students from the School of Interiors, the College of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, and associated student organizations to revitalize the Shawneetown Community Garden. Following the research and framework developed by Bethany Turner in the article “Embodied
Connections: Sustainability, Food Systems and Community Gardens”, faculty will mentor students in each department as well as student organizations through evidence based research, design thinking, project-based learning and campus engagement to transform the existing community garden to evoke a sense of ‘place’. Success as it relates to both the plants and the people will be measured by different means at various points throughout the project, which will
enable the Shawneetown Community Garden to act as a pilot for a potential network of community gardens on the University of Kentucky campus.

Team members: Helen Turner, School of Interiors; Krista Jacobsen, Horticulture; Michael Blum and Alaina Bauer.

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2016 Project Abstracts


Building an Inclusive Community by Empowering Youth through Sustainability Education - Awarded $27,455 

The Smithtown Neighborhood of downtown Lexington has been undergoing gentrification for some time now due to the expansion of Transylvania University and establishment of multiple new small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The settling of new families in the area has contributed to a shift in the demographics of what was previously considered a low-income and impoverished community. The Breadbox, located on the corner of Jefferson Street and West 6th Street, is home to multiple nonprofit organizations that have worked effortlessly to bridge the inclusion gap that exists between the settled community and its new members. We believe that implementing a program that incorporates sustainable agriculture, experiential education, and community education could bridge the opportunity and inclusion gap that exists in the neighborhood simultaneously. The Youth Empowerment Through Sustainability Education Program will consist of three components: sustainability and sustainable agricultural education, applied community engagement through community awareness and community service, and professional development and personal succession planning of each participant. The multidisciplinary components of this program contribute simultaneously to the economic vitality, ecological integrity, and social equity pillars of sustainability. This project will increase the ecological integrity of the youth through teaching about the importance of sustainability and how to practice it regularly in their daily lives through the sustainability education component. We are contributing to economic vitality by providing personal and professional development education, connecting students with organizations that provide youth of this demographic with resources and opportunities to gain organizational involvement experience, and resources to keep students engaged and concerned with their future success and the role their actions play in them building economically sustainable futures for themselves. Lastly we are contributing to social equity by engaging youth in community awareness and service opportunities that teach them the importance of community development.

Team members: Roger Brown, Agricultural Economics; Kristina Ricketts Community and Leadership Development; Thaiieasha Beard, Agricultural Biotechnology; Xavia Gantz, Retail Management and Tourism; Bryan Haines, Community and Leadership Development.

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Creating Tree Ambassadors - Awarded $32,636 

Urban trees contribute substantially to ecological, economic, and social sustainability. However, at <17% canopy cover, the UK campus has less cover than Lexington (25%) which has much less than Cincinnati (39%). Founded in September 2014 and partially funded by a Sustainability Challenge Grant, the goals of the Urban Forest Initiative are to amplify the perception, value and function of the urban forest on campus and beyond. We created an interdisciplinary and collaborative working group of on- and off-campus professionals to impact outreach, operations, and academics with relevance to urban trees; developed a website to support urban tree education and outreach; created and piloted an Adopt-a-Tree program for K-college; and developed on-campus curricular linkages to engage students.

With these successes propelling us, we propose two novel pilot projects while enhancing ongoing efforts. First, working with local schools and organizations, we will pilot a community-based program of Tree Ambassadors to enhance awareness, appreciation, and ultimately the care, of our urban trees. Second, we will use the campus tree assessment as a springboard to engage the UK community in documenting tree status, health, and planting/site conditions, providing opportunities for students and ‘citizen scientists’ to make positive contributions to our campus tree canopy. Our project enhances sustainability by engaging diverse campus and local communities in urban tree care. The success of these Tree Ambassador projects will be measured in direct involvement of K-12 and UK students and community members, collection of urban tree data linked to enhanced tree care, and engagement with outreach mechanisms.

Final Report

Team Members: Mary Arthur, Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Nic Williamson, Forestry; Amanda Williams, Forestry; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Restoration and Education Center; Jerry Hart, UK Physical Plant Grounds Department.

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Establishing Native Forest on Surface Mines - Awarded $18,175 

Our proposed project will establish shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) on a portion of the surface mined tract of Robinson Forest. Reforestation provides an opportunity to sequester carbon, providing a carbon offset for the university. Shortleaf pine is a species of concern across the Southeast; the species has declined due to a combination of poor management, overharvesting, pests and pathogens. On reclaimed surface mines, native forest establishment is hindered by adaptability and colonization of non-native species. Migration and establishment of southern pine species in this region due to climate change is of particular concern on these disturbed sites. This project will help restore this species as well as provide habitat for bird, bat, and invertebrate species of concern that rely on shortleaf pine. To understand the carbon sequestration benefits of shortleaf pine, we will assess baseline carbon levels in aboveground biomass and soil. We will also examine the ability of a native pine to compete with migratory and non-native southern pine species. A long-term project goal could include wildlife utilization of shortleaf pine habitat. In addition to ecological benefits, shortleaf pine is an important timber species. This project will be a partnership of among the UK Appalachian Center, UK Department of Forestry, and Green Forests Work. Green Forests Work engages university students and students from local communities in volunteering at tree planting events, providing important outreach opportunities and a sense of accomplishment, ownership, and ecological responsibility.

Final Report

Team Members: Chris Barton, Forestry and Appalachian Center; Kenton Sena, Forestry; Michael French, Green Forests Work.

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From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM - Awarded $25,184 

In this project, UK science, engineering, entrepreneurship, education & design – SEE(E)D – students, faculty and staff will work together to develop a system for the production of didactic tools to be used in outreach efforts designed to promote sustainability, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – (S)STEM – to underserved K-12 students. This will be done utilizing as a case study a game that has been conceived and used to teach K-12 students about complex and often misunderstood energy and sustainability issues. While the science behind this game and the relationship between the latter and the K-12 curriculum are solid, the presentation can be improved to make the game more effective. We will improve the game by having educators and designers strengthen the graphical and pedagogical aspects of the game to ultimately facilitate and deepen the understanding of K-12 students of the important sustainability issues presented. In addition, this effort will be made sustainable from an economic standpoint through a business plan – to be developed by UK student entrepreneurs – in which any profits from the game constituting the case study can be reinvested in the development of additional didactic tools, thus translating this work into a sustainable model through which other tools can be developed. Notably, this work will also serve to advance social equity not only because the K-12 institutions involved have high percentages of minority and/or free and reduced lunch students, but also because minority engineering students will be involved in taking the didactic tool to be developed to these K-12 institutions.

Final Report

Team Members: Eduardo Santillian-Jimenez, UK CAER; Rebekah Radtke, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Margaret Mohr-Schoeder, College of Education-Department of STEM Education.  

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Point of Departure - Awarded $49,991 

The College of Design (CoD) & The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) continue on a path to construct critically placed high-performance transit shelters—plugging into campus transportation to physically manifest the University of Kentucky’s sustainability and transportation agendas. Our designs integrate sustainable site strategies, context specificity, high-performance architectural skins, sustainable materials, photovoltaic systems, storm water management, high-efficiency lighting and infographic displays to reimagine what a shelter can be. This project will contribute to a “Sustainable Campus Exemplar” [1] that positions the University of Kentucky as a standard bearer for the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure and sustainability programs.
The UKSCG Committee funded the project last year, allowing us to deliver on our stated goals – plus much more.  We analyzed the campus and integrated our analysis with the master plans, designed new graphics for the system, designed four site-specific shelters, constructed a solar mock-up, started a publication and presented this work to stakeholders and President Capilouto.  We are in dialogue with UK Administration earlier than imagined and are now in position to deliver our first constructed shelter.  While there is likely to be a budget for construction, it will not be enough to ensure all opportunities for sustainability in the design are realized.  This grant will catalyze the integration of sustainability and educational aspects within the design as it transitions toward real world implementation, leveraging the impact of campus research to engage students in a dialogue about sustainability, alternate transportation, the value of design, and the possibilities of collaborative research at UK.

Final Report

Team Members: Martin Summers, College of Design-School of Architecture; Michael Wilson, Center for Applied Energy Research; Regina Hannemann, College of Engineering-Electrical Engineering; Owen Duross, College of Design-School of Architecture; Thompson Burry, College of Design-School of Architecture.

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Solar Powered Tractor - Awarded $25,000 

The end result of this project will be the ability to produce vegetables for the UK Horticulture Research Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ( program using only solar power for field machine work. Switching from fossil fuel diesel to electrical energy would greatly increase energy efficiency and would enable utilization of sustainable sources like solar. This project will require two parts: a PV solar system and a tractor capable of using this electricity.
The BAE department has constructed a small 20-horsepower diesel-electric hybrid tractor that will be switched to all electric. This tractor will be charged using energy generated from a solar system to be built on the UK Horticulture Research Farm. The CSA will use this machine to produce crops using only solar energy. Excess solar energy will be used to offset other energy demands on the farm.

Students (BAE/EE 599) will design the PV solar system. Student employees and graduate students in the BAE department will switch the tractor to all electric and install the charging system. Student apprentices (SAG397 Apprenticeship in Sustainable Agriculture) and employees on the CSA will use the tractor to produce crops. Finally, the shareholders in the CSA will have produce made using solar energy.

Success of this system can be measured by the amount of produce grown using only solar energy for field work. Other measurable outcomes include the energy production of the solar system, operating time and efficiency of an electrically powered tractor, and farm demonstration visitors.

Team Members: Joseph Dvorak, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Mark Williams, Horticulture; Don Colliver, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

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The Arboretums Children's Garden Patio and Wet Meadow Demonstration Area - Awarded $21,000 

The Arboretum was established as a place to learn, serve the community, and demonstrate research on the environment and conservation issues for Lexington residents and beyond. As an experiential education feature of the Arboretum, the Kentucky Children’s Garden (KCG) is uniquely positioned to demonstrate these principles.

This project’s partners propose to use in-kind services, along with funding from the Sustainability Challenge Grant, to design and construct a wet meadow and permeable ADA accessible patio entrance for the newly constructed bathroom facilities near the KCG. This area will infiltrate rainwater and enhance the treatment train process already established in The Arboretum. The project will require a new landform design, seed and established plant material, tree protection, recycled pavers, and educational signage. The process for design and construction will require the expertise of multiple participants: (1) pre and post-construction data collection, design and construction detailing by students in the Landscape Architecture program; (2) technical leadership regarding hydrology and plant selection and establishment methods by faculty and staff in Landscape Architecture, Horticulture and the Arboretum; (3) propagation of plant material by the UK Horticulture Club; (4) construction by the UK Student Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects, Arboretum staff and PPD; and (5) planting and seeding by the UK-SCASLA, Horticulture Club, and Arboretum volunteers with guidance from faculty and Arboretum staff.

The result will be functional, beautiful and an educational demonstration that uses ecological principles to manage water in the landscape while creating habitat and a pleasing aesthetic.

Final Report

Christopher Sass, Landscape Architecture; Molly Davis, The Arboretum; Richard Durham, Extension Horticulture; Mark Williams, Horticulture; George Riddle, UK Physical Plant Division Grounds Department; Jesse Dahl, The Arboretum; Emma Trester-Wilson, The Arboretum; Ned Crankshaw, Landscape Architecture; Reginald Souleyrette, Civil Engineering.

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2017 Project Abstracts



Community Engaged Sustainability Education in the First Year Experience ($24,040)

GEN100 is a required course for all first-semester freshmen in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. The program will be doubling in enrollment Fall 2017 for a total of 700 students, 28 sections of 25 students each. This project will allow the instructor of each section to choose from several options that will facilitate student-led research that leads to a hands-on community service project. This project will serve as a major course assignment.

Option 1: “Local UK Dining.” Research local farms and locally-grown products. Obtain, process, and present a product (with Food Connection assistance). Draft a flyer about the farm, the product, and the recipe. Run a stand in the 90 Dining Hall and give out food & information.

Option 2: “Growing Forests in Cities” Research urban forestry with the help of Nic Williamson and the Urban Forestry Initiative. Calculate ecosystem services of various trees. Draft a flyer about urban forests. Identify a location that could use trees. Obtain trees. Plant trees and distribute flyers.

Option 3: “Better School Lunches” Research school lunch options and the origins of the school lunch program. Plan and present a hands-on cooking session on nutrition and “better” school lunches in underserved Fayette County schools.

Option 4: “Get in the Garden.” Research the socio-economic history, costs & benefits of community gardens – with a special focus on economic inequality and food insecurity. Research environmental issues associated with gardening approaches - compost, beneficial insects, etc. Spend a work day in a Seedleaf community garden in Lexington.

Possible additional, unconfirmed options: Rain Garden clean-up project with Tracy Farmer Institute during water week investigate storm water management issues; Children’s Garden/Arboretum –environmental education service project; Glean KY – community food security service project.

Final Report

Team Members: Ali Rossi, Community and Leadership Development; Brooke Gentile, Community and Leadership Development; Larry Grabou, Center for Student Success

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Connectivity Promotes Community ($20,000)

Most of the UK community use cars to access campus, parking in relatively remote areas some distance from their work/study places and either walking or shuttling to their final destinations. In 2015 UK paved ~13 acres on the northwest corner of Alumni and University Drives to create a parking area (the Orange Lot) for ~1,500 cars. A reliable and free shuttle system was installed to facilitate campus access, but many Orange Lot users opt to complete their commute on foot. However, a safe, convenient, and attractive pedestrian walkway connecting the Orange Lot to work places north of Cooper Drive is lacking. The tunnel beneath Cooper is the primary conduit and accommodates many hundreds of commuters daily. In spite of recent lighting improvements, the tunnel is dark and damp, and the north and south approaches are visually unappealing. This commuting experience could be substantially enhanced by improving the connectivity of this remote parking lot to more central work/study places on south campus, contributing significantly to campus sustainability and quality of life. We have assembled a team from three UK Colleges and with input from UK Operations, we propose to use art, design, lighting, and streetscaping to refurbish this important connector, creating a safe, convenient, aesthetically pleasing, walkable conduit to facilitate campus access, while generating a legacy project that honors Kentucky’s heritage. The ‘Tunnel Experience’ will enhance walkability, connectivity, and engagement in a neglected area of south campus, and contribute to economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity in our campus community.

Team Members: Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Garry Bibbs, Art and Visual Studies; Rebekah Radtke Ison, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Carolina Segura, Landscape Architecture; Kelly Webber, Dietetics and Human Nutrition

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Enhancing Student Development ($38,996)

This project aims to create a novel interdisciplinary research program for undergraduate students which will combine a broad range of disciplines and provide unique opportunities for educational and professional development.  In addition to being directly involved in the day-to-day execution of research both on campus and at CAER, this cadre of up to 5 students (recruited from engineering, chemistry, sustainability and design) will be exposed to regular scientific seminars, in depth lab tours, design thinking/iteration, and professional development opportunities that will include resume formatting and interview etiquette.  This project will generate meaningful data not only on the research goals outlined below, but also serve to develop educational assessment tools which can be brought to bear to evaluate the academic progress of the students as well as evaluating their knowledge of the importance of research, design processes and sustainability. Finally, continuation of this endeavor will be facilitated by harnessing the preliminary data generated during the summer of 2017 to prepare a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the goal of developing a more formal Research Experience for Undergraduates program centered around applied energy research. 

Final Report

Team Members: Michael Wilsom, Center for Applied Energy Research; Sarah West, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Robert Pace III, Center for Applied Energy Research; Heather Hacker, Center for Applied Energy Research

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Gathering at the Table (24,111.98)

Food production and consumption is a core component of sustainable communities; its impacts extend from the livelihoods of those who produce food, the ecosystems that support agricultural production, and the health and wellbeing of our community. Through preparing and eating sustainably sourced food, Gathering at the Table brings together food systems experts from University of Kentucky, passionate student leaders from Campus Kitchen, food justice advocates from Fresh Stop Markets, and eaters of all kinds from the community to grow a sustainable, community food system.

Gathering at the Table includes a two-fold approach:

1. Chef Tanya Whitehouse of The Food Connection will train both student and community leaders as “Emersion Chefs” with the skills, knowledge and strategies to deliver cooking demonstrations with local, sustainably sourced ingredients, and thereby spread that knowledge to others.

2. These culinary leaders will partner with the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky to host a series of Food Justice dinners in which attendees 'pay what they can' for a local, sustainably sourced and healthful meal accompanied by dialogue related to food justice and security. Revenue from dinners will serve as seed money to fund for future purchases of produce from farms that would otherwise go to waste; thereby enriching the farm economy.

By engaging a diversity of on- and off-campus community members in experiential learning and informed dialogue, Gathering at the Table ‘connects the dots’ between sustainable food production, vibrant food economies, and social justice to establish leaders of a thriving community food system.

Final Report

Team Members: Tanya Whitehouse, The Food Connection; Lilian Brislen, The Food Connection; Amanda Hege, Dietetics and Human Nutrition; Connor VanMeter, Agricultural Biotechnology; Erin Casey, Dietetics and Human Nutrition

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Measuring Up: Sustainability Assessment of Campus Buildings at the University of Kentucky

This project seeks to provide campus stakeholders with a toolkit for assessing the

sustainability of campus buildings at the University of Kentucky. Consisting of state-of-the-art hardware and software, the toolkit is designed to collect environmental, social, and economic data of the built environment and perform a data-driven assessment of its triple bottom line impacts using a comprehensive set of sustainability metrics. Using the campus as a living laboratory to test the toolkit, we will conduct a pilot study of the new Gatton College of Business and Economics building, and complete a prototype sustainability assessment and reporting system to evaluate the its effectiveness in promoting a sustainable campus for academic excellence. In addition, students in undergraduate and graduate courses in architecture, interiors, and economics will use the toolkit in course assignments, and after completing the pilot study, we will establish a lending library to house the toolkit for use by students and faculty in future sustainability assessments. Plans for a new graduate degree in building science are currently underway, and will benefit from the toolkit and resources developed in this project. Ongoing progress and results will be accessible on a dedicated project website, and the completion of the project will serve as an impetus for the team to seek external funding from NSF’s Smart and Connected Communities program. The project is co-led by a multidisciplinary team of faculty from the School of Architecture, School of Interiors, Department of Economics, and Department of Marketing and Supply Chain.

Team Members: Anita Lee-Post, UK Department of Marketing & Supply Chain; Brent Sturlaugson & Bruce Swetnam, UK School of Architecture; Rebekah Radtke, UK School of Interiors; Yoonbai Kim, UK Department of Economics

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Mobilizing Tree Ambassadors Through Campus and Community Engagement, Teaching and Research

Since its inception in 2014 the Urban Forest Initiative (UFI) has raised awareness of the urban forest by working collaboratively with UK students and others to engage people on campus, in the community, and in K-12 schools. Through outreach, education and service opportunities, UFI activities have enhanced understanding of the contributions urban trees can make to the ecological integrity, economic vitality, and social equity of our communities. The success of UFI is evident in the ‘creation’ of campus Tree Ambassadors, including the student-led UK Urban Forestry Club, service fraternities requesting to collaborate on service events, six undergraduate students trained as UFI interns and research fellows to develop different facets of campus and community projects, and successful community tree care workshops and events. Here we propose to ‘mobilize’ campus Tree Ambassadors with three key projects that build strongly on these initial efforts:

  • Integrate campus service projects and volunteer events into research, with feedback to campus operations, management, and cost savings.
  • Expand a community tree workshop program piloted by a UK undergraduate in 2016 into a Train-the-Trainer program to train students to deliver community tree workshops and tree care events on campus, in Lexington, and in other Bluegrass communities.
  • Leverage delivery of UFI-developed urban forestry curriculum into K-12 and university classrooms through collaborations with existing student-led organizations.

The success of this project will be measured in research results and outcomes, direct involvement of UK students in program delivery, and engagement with campus and community members.

Team Members: Mary Arthur, Nic Williamson, and Grace Coy, UK Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, UK Entomology; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Research & Education Center; Jerry Hart, UK PPD

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2018 Project Abstracts



Sustainability Guidelines for Historic Campus Buildings ($32,715)

This project will direct College of Design faculty expertise to Facilities Management’s concerns with the historic buildings in campus’ core through detailed analyses of six buildings. The subject buildings will be determined through consultation with facilities staff before work begins. Based on conversations University Architect Warren Denny, they are likely to include Lafferty Hall, McVey Hall, Kastle Hall, Scovell Hall, Miller Hall, and the Margaret I. King Memorial Library. All are expected to undergo substantial renovations in the near future. Investigations will generate: (1) guidelines concerning treatment, maintenance, and upkeep; (2) recommendations regarding potential improvements to reduce energy costs, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and achieve more efficient usage; (3) identification of near‐ and long‐term needs; and (4) a database of comparable buildings that have been rehabilitated to serve modern needs and that meet sustainability standards. Recommendations will based on detailed historical and case study research; assessment of current conditions; and the collection and analysis of data reflecting environmental conditions and energy use. This project will provide information Facilities Management personnel needs to make informed decisions about maintenance, operations, and adaptive design. Keeping existing buildings operational and maintaining their historical character meets several sustainability goals. “Recycling” this existing infrastructure, increases efficiency, reduces operating costs, and avoids the costly, carbon‐intensive sequence associated with demolition and new construction. Historic buildings possess a quality of construction generally not seen in new buildings. Moreover, they are markers of tradition, evidencing institutional longevity and growth, and underscoring UK’s role as the Commonwealth’s flagship higher education institution.

Team members: Julie Riesenweber, Daniel Vivian, Doug Appler and Robert Travis Rose from Historic Preservation; Chris Birkentall, Interiors; Brent Sturlaugson, Architecture

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Engaging Elementary Students in Horticulture ($19,272) 

The UKREC Botanical Garden is a 5-acre setting located at the University of Kentucky-Research and Education Center, Princeton. It was created in 1980 to evaluate and select superior environmentally sustainable plants for enhancing Kentucky's environments and landscapes. The garden is visited by master gardeners, extension county agents, students and residents of nearby communities. Being an enclave in a rural region, with limited resources; the garden has the potential as a learning center to teach science based knowledge and outreach. This project will offer hands-on activities for fourth and fifth grade students of Caldwell County and Lyon County Schools. Teaching will be focused on plant diversity in different categories (natives, invasive, ornamentals, small-fruit crops, and vegetables), insect-plant and plant-soil interactions, and the importance of environmental protection for a sustainable future. Science teachers will work with us to prepare, organize and deliver planned activities. These events will be scheduled in March- May, and August-October to coincide with the school year. The students will be aware of how plants affect their lives and vice versa. Extension agents and master gardeners will collaborate during the students’ visits. Also, training classes will be offered to enhance Master Gardeners’ knowledge. The botanical garden scenery offers students an open classroom to learn through a direct contact with the different stages of plant development and interactions with its surrounding. We expect to foster scientific interest and curiosity in elementary students’ minds to explore and protect their environments and be active executor of demonstration gardens in their schools. 

Team members: Zenaida Viloria, Winston Dunwell, and Daniel Becker from Horticulture; Ric Bessin and Raul Villanueva, Entomology; Edwin Ritchey, Plant and Soil Science; Amanda Martin, Regulatory Services

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KY Master Naturalist Program

We propose piloting a Master Naturalist program for Kentucky with UK students that will then be expanded across the state. The mission of the Kentucky Master Naturalist (KNM) program will be to develop a community of well-informed citizen-volunteers to advance education, research, and outreach efforts dedicated to the conservation and management of Kentucky’s natural resources and areas. Kentucky is one of only five states without such a program and the creation of the KNMs will help fulfill a sustainability need.

Specifically, this project will:

1. Develop the KMN curriculum

2. Develop a KMN website and social media presence

3. Train two cohorts of KMNs (one UK student, one UK students and community)

4. Develop a statewide network for the KMN program that helps connect trained citizen-volunteers with communities and organizations in need

We envision training two cohorts in this initial phase of the proposed KMN program. Individuals in each cohort will attend 40 hours of classroom and field instruction, 40 hours of approved volunteer service, and 8 hours of advanced training. The first cohort will consist of UK students participating through a for-credit course. The second cohort will target community members as well as students, and will be open to all, regardless of prior science or environmental training, with diversity sought out and encouraged. Modeled after the highly successful Master Gardener program, the KMN program will utilize the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service (UK CES) network to gain and maintain a presence at the county-level. 

Team members: Carmen Agouridis and Donald Stamper, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Ellen Crocker, Laurie Thomas, and Matt Springer, Forestry; Wayne Sanderson, Public Health; Amanda Gumbert, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Chris Barton, Appalachian Center/Forestry; Corinne Belton, Shelby County Extension Service; Wayne Long, Jefferson County Extension Service

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Roots to Branches

Urban trees provide a key vehicle for addressing sustainability issues in cities, but only if people champion and build on those connections. UFI has successfully raised awareness of the connections between sustainability and urban trees through outreach, education, research, and service, working collaboratively with UK students, staff, and faculty to engage campus and Lexington communities. UFI’s success is evident in signs that urban forestry is increasingly embedded on campus, including the development of student organizations, sustained collaborations through service learning events, and the incorporation of urban forestry content into UK courses. Here we propose three new projects that build on these successes with new, substantive, and potentially transformative programs:

  • Re-envision UK as a living-laboratory by training students to serve on a Collegiate Arborist Team (TreeCATs) to conduct campus tree care and mapping, extended to local neighborhoods and a KY town, thus enhancing tree-based ecosystem services.
  • Extend the self-guided mindfulness tree walks into a series of in-person mindfulness programs in partnership with UK Integrative Medicine and Health (IMH) and Nursing for faculty, staff, students and patients on campus and K-12 schools.
  •  Develop and replicate UFI tree campus models for successful urban forestry programming to college/university and K-12 campuses through development of a Tree Campus Toolkit coupled with direct collaboration with individual campuses.

Successes will be measured in direct involvement of UK students (TreeCATs) and community members (mindfulness programs), increased awareness of UK’s Tree Campus USA status, and the replication of successful UFI programming by other campuses and communities. 

Mary Arthur, Nic Williamson, and Grace Coy, Forestry and Natural Resources; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Brianna Damron, Nursing; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Resource and Education Center; Stacy Borden, PPD Grounds; Connie Jennings and Ann Powell, Integrative Medicine

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S.KYBLUE at UK Organic Unit

This multidisciplinary project will relocate the blue Solar House from its Farm Road campus site to the Organic Farming Unit (OFU) on the SW corner of Nicholasville and Man O War Roads. The award-winning blue house ( was built to compete in the 2009 Solar Decathlon International Competition in Washington DC. blue is optimized for

energy and water efficiency ( Since its inception, blue has been used as the visitor’s center for the FEI World Equestrian Games, and as a learning laboratory to study energy generation. Once relocated and all utilities are connected and grid-tied, the house will substantially contribute to the reduction of the carbon footprint of the farm through its 13-kW photovoltaic system, and be used to combine learning with living. This integration will demonstrate how technological solutions can be used to optimize efficiency in home design, and will

directly embrace the three pillars of sustainability by: reducing energy costs through solar power and geothermal climate control; reducing negative environmental impacts by embracing alternative and environmentally sound technologies; and by expanding awareness of these technologies through student educational activities and extension programming. Area stakeholder and student participation will be woven into each part of this project and will include classes from Architecture,

Landscape Architecture, Biosystems and Agriculture Engineering, and Sustainable Agriculture, working collaboratively under the direction of the Challenge-funded faculty team. Measurable outcomes will include: lower electric bills, student and stakeholder learning, and a robust data set documenting the functionality of each house component.

Team members: Mark Williams, Horticulture; Greg Luhan, Architecture; Joe Dvorak, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Carolina Segura, Landscape Architecture

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Teaching Sustainability + Teaching Sustainably

In November 2016, Provost Tracy created the Faculty Sustainability Council (FSC) and gave it a three-fold charge: (1) review sustainability related academic policies and culture at our benchmarks, (2) identify our areas of strength and weakness relative to the academic aspects of sustainability, and (3) propose short, medium and long run goals. The proposal for this project stems from these three charges. While the University of Kentucky has made great strides to increase campus sustainability in its operations, the advances on the curricular front are murkier. The FSC has discovered there is little awareness amongst UK faculty about sustainability curricula at UK, who is teaching such curricula, or how this is taught. A need exists for the creation of a network of faculty which can harness the native wealth of talent and information throughout the University and which can facilitate the exchange of ideas and practices about sustainability. Aiming to untap this potential, this project will create a sustainability pedagogies workshop of participating faculty from across the University and at a variety of scales across campus. This workshop will be both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. However, beyond merely teaching about sustainability,

the workshop will attempt to push the needle by focusing on the ways which faculty can implement sustainable methods of teaching into their curricula. Hence the aim is to maximize understanding of sustainability by modelling it at the classroom level through a network of faculty to act as agents of change by transforming educational practices across the colleges. Accepting applications through February 12, 2018.

Team members: Helen Turner, Interiors; Bob Sandmeyer, Philosophy 

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The Sustainability Challenge Grant Program was developed as a collaborative effort of the President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, The Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment and the Office of Sustainability.

Funding for the Challenge Grant Program provided by the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Vice President for Research and the Student Sustainability Council.