News Staff Writer
The McCullough Fellows of 2017 introduced urban agriculture projects and researched the reintroduction of the American chestnut to Appalachian forests.
The Fellowship Program is now looking for students to create new research projects focused on one of the four areas of the McCullough Institute.
“We’re allowing students to do an applied research project in one or more of the four focus areas of the McCollough Institute: land use and conservation, urban planning, sustainable agriculture or resilience in environmental sustainability,” said Sonia Marcus, director of sustainability for the McCollough Institute.
The projects proposed must have a clear environmental sustainability component. Applicants must also conduct academic research during their project, and should have a specific focus on addressing a community.
“You’ve got to be passionate about your project, and you have to make sure that it is responding to a real need in the community,” Marcus said. “If there is nobody in the community who can support you and say that they need this, then it is not responding to a need.”
The program was launched at UNC Asheville in 2015 after the late Charles T. McCullough Jr. and his wife Shirley Anne McCullough gifted $1 million to the university to create the McCollough Institute for Conservation, Land Use and Environmental Resiliency.
The total project budget can be up to $5,000 in order to fund students, material support and a faculty advisor.
Students from all disciplines are encouraged to take part, as the program takes an interest in ensuring that every cohort of students represent a different disciplinary diversity.
“In our 2017 class, we had two people from environmental studies who had very different focuses within their field, an engineering student, a biology student and a media student,” Marcus said. “All the disciplines are relevant to the McCullough Fellowship program.”
Dylan Ryals-Hamilton, a senior environmental studies student, was a Fellow in 2017. Ryals-Hamilton worked with the City of Asheville Office of Sustainability on a project based on food cultivation in urban spaces.
“The main focus was on the idea of community engagement with these different edible parks,” Ryals-Hamilton said. “I developed some strategies, mostly partnerships, to increase volunteer turnout for workdays at the parks. I also worked with members in our greater Asheville community to organize some of those workdays and together we got a lot done.”
The Fellowship Program grants students the opportunity to gain both professional and academic development opportunities, with the intention of connecting UNCA with the wider community.
“Applying is a great thing to do. We have had a number of students in both iterations in the past of this program who have gotten jobs with their partner organization after they were not selected by the McCullough Fellowship,” Marcus said. “Because they had developed the ideas with them, the partner organization were kind of excited about the whole thing.”
Samuel Stanley, an UNCA alumnus who studied environmental studies, worked with the American Chestnut Foundation to screen American chestnuts for resistance to blight and wood rot in order to prepare for their reintroduction to southern Appalachian forests.
“I did a good deal of my most time-consuming work over the summer before classes started. Balancing time was definitely a challenge, but it made me apply time management skills in my life a bit more aggressively than I would have otherwise,” Stanley said. “Adding the McCullough experience onto my last semester definitely added an element of stress but at the same time gave me an opportunity to engage with an organization in the real world that dealt with the subject matter I had been studying in school.”
The program provides an opportunity for Fellows to present their final projects at a luncheon in December, where partner organizations and faculty are the guests and audience.
The program requires students to be currently enrolled and will continue to be so in fall, with a minimum overall 3.0 GPA. McCullough Fellows must also commit to a minimum of 20 hours per week in the summer and a minimum of four hours per week in the fall.
“I was definitely challenged at times, and of course dealt with the kinds of frustrations that come with any meaningful project in the real world,” Ryals-Hamilton said. “I really enjoyed myself overall and would recommend the experience to anyone who is self-motivated and passionate about making a positive impact in the community and in the world.”
The deadline for applications to be a 2018 McCullough Fellow is March 1.