Sustainability Challenge 2023

Sustainability Challenge 2023

For the 2022-23 academic year, SGAP Leaders adapted our Sustainability Challenge from a 1-day in-person activity to a longitudinal hybrid model which included a 8 week climate action clinics with virtual guest speakers and in-person and virtual facilitator. Our program implemented a series of 8 sessions, each lasting .1 – 1.5  hours per week.  The hybrid sessions utilized a combination of large group and fun, interactive small group activities that addressed Climate (In)Justice, Carbon Footprint, Food Waste, Solar Energy, Transportation, Climate Advocacy, and Hone Your Presentation Skills.

Net Zero Carbon case study prepared students for the final Challenge activity: a 5-hour Sustainability Challenge workshop hosted at the Catholic University – School of Engineering. 

The hybrid program is designed to preserve the critical elements of the Sustainability Challenge that distinguish this signature SGAP Leaders program:

  • High level of student engagement
  • Interactive small groups and teamwork
  • Real-world applications of critical analysis and problem solving
  • 21st century skill development (critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving & empathy building)
  • Access to diverse professionals working in STEM-related fields


Friday, January 20, 2023
8:30am – 2:00pm


The Catholic University of America

Pryzbyla Center Rooms 321, 323 and
Pangborn – School of Engineering (2nd floor)
620 Michigan Ave,
NE, Washington DC 20064

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“I learned about all the ways every item or action I (we) do has a carbon footprint. One thing I can do now is just be more green with my life.”
Rosemarie S.
9th grade, LTI - J. F. Kennedy High School
“It (the Climate Change Curriculum & Sustainability Challenge Workshop)taught me how to focus and summarize numbers and big ideas.”
Ricardo S.
9th grade, LTI - J. F. Kennedy High School
“The (Sustainability Challenge)workshop made me look and study careers in environmental justice.”
Samriddi B.
9th grade, LTI - J. F. Kennedy High School


Event Location & Directions

Pryzbyla Center  –  # 32 on the map
Pangborn  –  #34 on the map
Columbus Law School  –  #30 on the map (parking) – 3600 John McCormack Rd. NE, Washington DC

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There is significant construction near Pangborn Building and the entrance is blocked by construction.

We recommend that attendees park on McCormack Street (one way) near the Law School (#30 – underground paid parking lot option). The Pryzbyla Center is behind the Law School.

Another option is metered parking in front of the Mullen Library and University Mall. The campus meters are currently in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Saturday. The cost to park at the meters is $2/hour for a maximum of 3 hours. Major credit cards and bills in $1 and $5 denominations are accepted.

Parking Label Colors:

  • Sky Blue – Metered parking

  • Red – Admission visitor parking

  • Navy Blue – Guest permit required

Please complete the Admission Visitor Parking Form to register.

Sustainability Challenge Workshop Agenda

Updated Schedule (below)

08:30 AM – Students Arrive / Check-In (Name Badges)
08:45 AM – Continental Breakfast (Pre-Workshop Survey)
09:00 AM –
Welcome Remarks – Dean John Judge, School of Engineering
Michele Joseph, CEO, Student Global Ambassador Program
Otto Wilson, Ph.D., Associate Professor,School Engineering (Biomedical)

09:20 AM –  Subject Matter Expert – Introduction 

9:30 AM – 9:40 AM Walk to Pangborn 2nd Floor (Access Computers)

9:45 AM – Overview of Challenge
10:10 AM – Work in Groups of 4-5 with Facilitators/Practice Presentations

11:45 AM – 11:55 AM Walk to Pryzbyla Center room 321, 323

12:00 PM – Working Lunch
12:30 PM – Group Presentations
01:00 PM – Group Evaluations, Judges deliberate
01:30 PM – Feedback, Awards, Wrap- up
02:00 PM – Students Depart

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UCES Leadership Team

Liana Abbott, MBA & M.Ed

Liana Abbott, MBA & M.Ed

Liana Abbott is a Finance Manager at Microsoft. Prior to her role at Microsoft, she was a Business Intelligence Analyst and Project Manager specializing in data management and data engineering.  She holds an MBA from the Darden School of Business and a Masters of Education from the School of Education and Human Development both at the University of Virginia. While at UVA, she continued to strengthen on her project management skills and design thinking skills, while building a deeper understanding of financial planning and analysis, curriculum building, and educational innovation. Liana splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Helene M. Ferm, PE, CEM, LEED AP

Helene M. Ferm, PE, CEM, LEED AP

Helene M. Ferm is the Resource Efficiency Manager at Picatinny Arsenal. Helene comes to the team with extensive experience in water conservation, environmental engineering, campus energy management, energy conservation consulting,  HVAC design and controls (including laboratory, pharmaceutical, and data center applications), building-construction project management, and campus sustainability program leadership.
From a technical standpoint, Helene is an expert in identifying and implementing energy conservation opportunities in buildings and utility systems, especially in pharmaceutical laboratories and manufacturing plants. Her strong analytical skills span system commissioning, project management,  LEED certification, HVAC and BAS design and specification (including load calculations), state-, local- and utility-based incentive procurement ($2 million+ since 2016), ASHRAE level I, II, III energy studies, demand response program management, energy and greenhouse gas accounting, and corporate energy program management.

Throughout her career, Helene has managed energy studies and multi-discipline architectural/engineering projects for pharmaceutical and university campus clients. She has also led several high-performing cross-functional teams. Recognized as a leader in energy management and energy engineering, Helene has presented at engineering conferences (including AEE World Energy Engineering Congress) and authored multiple award-winning ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year applications.

Helene is a Professional Engineer, Certified Energy Manager, LEED Accredited Professional, and Sigma Green Belt. She earned her BSE from Princeton University and her MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. Helene is also a Fulbright Scholar. understanding of curriculum building, educational innovation, and financial planning and analysis. Liana splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jill Foster, MD

Jill Foster, MD

As the Grant Development and Reporting Lead at SGAP Leaders, Jill Foster has a track record of mining, synthesizing, and packaging data from diverse sources to uncover needs, evaluate outcomes, guide decision-making, and promote clinical best practices. She has over 10 years in academia. She earned her masters in public health from the University of Alabama, and also earned a medical degree from Duke University.

Otto Wilson, PhD

Otto Wilson, PhD

Dr. Otto C. Wilson Jr. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Wilson earned a B.S. (1988), M.S. (1991) and Ph.D. in Ceramic Science and Engineering at Rutgers University. He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Maryland on enhanced machinability of dental ceramic materials (1995-1996) and was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins in 1996 prior to joining the Materials Science and Engineering faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Wilson became a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Catholic University in 2003 and established the Biomimetics, Orthopedics, and Nanomaterials Education/Composite Research for Advanced Biomaterials (BONE/CRAB) Lab. The research vision of the BONE/CRAB Lab is to develop nanophase materials to enhance the healing and remodeling of hard tissue at the whole tissue, cellular, and subcellular levels. Dr. Wilson’s research Interests include biomineralization phenomena, nanomaterials chemistry, biological liquid crystals, and the synthesis and surface modification of hydroxyapatite.

Dr Wilson was awarded a NSF CAREER Award (DMR-0645675) in 2007 for his work involving bone inspiration in research and education. He is very active in K-12 educational outreach and developing tools and teaching methodologies to encourage young people to excel in STEM education.