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Sustainability Fellowships

The Trienens Institute and sustainNU oversee a project fellowship program, with funding support from Ameresco, a leading cleantech integrator and renewable energy asset developer, owner, and operator.

Facts & Figures

Fellowships Offered Annually
15 Hours
Amount of time students spend on projects per week
Tuition Grant

Approximately 10 fellowships (x5 per quarter) are offered annually to Northwestern students to gain real-world experience in energy management and sustainability, furthering the University’s mission to support hands-on experiential learning and contribute to thought leadership, while also enabling students to engage with the physical environment and grow as leaders in these dynamic fields.

Project teams are selected through a competitive application process for ten-week fellowships during the fall and winter academic quarters. Undergraduate seniors, and all graduate students, are eligible to apply during each application cycle (rising seniors and fall-matriculating incoming graduate students are eligible to apply for the summer projects; students must be enrolled in courses during the period of their fellowship to be eligible).

The selection committee aspires to have one energy-focused project, and one sustainability-focused project annually. Preference is usually given to projects that support community needs in the Evanston, Chicago, and broader Midwest areas.

Selected students will spend approximately 15 hours per week on their project, working closely with a faculty advisor. The project client will meet weekly with student project teams to provide data, answer questions, and help manage project scope and deliverables.

Students will receive a $5,000 tuition grant to their student account the quarter following the completion of their fellowship (e.g. posted in the winter for fall projects, and in the spring for winter projects).

Upcoming Project

Winter 2024

Project Topic: Project Basement Garden

APPLY (by Nov. 19)

Project Synopsis: This project aims to create a comprehensive framework for evaluating technical aspects of vertical farming aligned with community needs and resource availability. The project involves developing financial models, grant guidance for Chicago nonprofits, and streamlined decision-making tools to assess and support the implementation of vertical farming.

Project Client: Moises (Moy) Mendez, Executive Director, Hope Center of Blue Island; Nikita Sieker, Hydroponics Specialist; Rocio Arevalo, Director of Hope Garden

Key Questions:

  • Which crops are best suited for vertical farming in the specific environment?
  • How can the chosen technical elements be aligned with the needs of the local community?
  • What are the initial infrastructure costs and ongoing operational expenses?
  • What incentives, grants or funding can support this effort?
  • What are the next steps if the project should proceed?

Important Dates:

  • Monday, November 6, 2023 – application opens at 9:00 a.m. CT​
  • Sunday, November 19, 2023 – application due by 11:59 p.m. CT​
  • Wednesday, December 6, 2023 – fellowship teams notified​


Contact Information

For more information, please email

News Coverage

Past Projects

Looking for past sustainability fellowship projects? Visit the past projects page to explore previous projects. 

Past Projects