Undergraduate Leaders Program

IonE Undergraduate Leaders: Convergence of Ideas and Action

Sustainability Education’s Undergraduate Leaders Program helps emerging undergraduate leaders become real-world change makers committed to solutions-focused leadership. It encourages holistic thinking and respects the diverse skills and perspectives each leader brings to the table.

Applications open each August for the next cohort. 

What is the Undergraduate Leaders Program?

  • Undergraduate Leaders recognize how equity is integral to sustainability and identify structural inequities in the systems we are part of.
  • Undergraduate Leaders learn from diverse and underrepresented perspectives.
  • Undergraduate Leaders make a tangible contribution to an IonE Impact Goal area.
  • Undergraduate Leaders advance their leadership skills and meet self-identified goals.
  • Undergraduate Leaders form a community and build long-lasting connections with people who are passionate about sustainability and equity. 

Leadership Practice
IonE Undergraduate Leaders will choose an area of leadership practice that they want to develop through their participation in the program. Leaders will select from projects connected to the Institute on the Environment’s Impact Goals around sustainable land use and building a carbon neutral future and be matched into teams of 4-6 students working with a campus or community partner. Students may also propose their own projects.

In 2021-22, we are only accepting applications from Twin Cities students as we are trying to focus on in-person programming where possible. If you are a student from a different UMN campus interested in participating in this program, we still want to know! Please email sustainu@umn.edu if you are interested so we can consider your input and interest when we plan for next year.


Please contact Mary Hannemann at oldha012@umn.edu

Current plans for 2021-2022 cohort meetings includes some in-person activities, but adaptations will be made as needed as we monitor the evolving COVID situation.

Project Management

  • Goal Setting + Planning

  • Logic models + Formative evaluation

  • Systems thinking + Stakeholder analysis

Leadership Development

  • Leadership competencies

  • Communication Skills

  • Personal leadership style


  • Informational interviews

  • Guest speakers (University and community leaders)

  • 1-on-1 coaching with facilitators


  • Off-campus retreats

  • Cohort activities

  • Peer feedback

2021-2022 Cohort Timeline

Applications deadline: 9/16/21
Interviews: Late September 2021

Note on meetings: The cohort will meet in person, unless the situation related to COVID requires that we meet remotely.

Kick Off Event:  ONLINE Saturday 10/09/21 from 1-4pm

Fall Meetings:
Monday Oct. 25th, 6-8pm

Monday Nov. 15th, 6-8pm

Monday Dec. 6th, 6-8pm

Spring Meetings:

Monday Jan. 24th, 6-8pm

Monday Feb. 21st, 6-8pm

Monday Mar. 21st, 6-8pm

Monday Apr. 18th, 6-8pm

Final Retreat:  TBD based on calendars

Mentor Meetings: Leaders also meet with the Cohort Mentor or another team mentor on periodic basis to receive individualized or small group coaching on their project and leadership goals.

Ecolab Student-Initiated Sustainability Leadership Projects Scholarship

Fall 2021 Award: $1,500
Fall 2021:  Applications due September 16 (apply with Undergrad Leaders application), only UMTC students are eligible

These scholarships support students who need funding to free themselves up to spend time leading projects to address environmental grand challenges. Projects can be led on or off campus, but student applicants must identify a UMN faculty or staff person who is able to serve as project advisor. The project advisor will be asked to provide guidance to the student during the project and complete a brief evaluation of the student’s project.

  • Scholarship recipients will receive half the scholarship at the beginning of the leadership project, and half after completing the leadership project

Application Process:

  •  The application for fall 2021 projects will be released August 26

Questions about the scholarship can be sent to IonEscholarship@umn.edu.

  • Cohort of leaders reflecting together on making change in the world.
  • Workshops with sustainability and leadership content and thought-provoking speakers.
  • A collaborative network of peers to take action on sustainability ideas and projects.
  • Funding is available for sustainability projects.

  • Attend all Undergraduate Leaders Meetings.
  • Develop goals and action plans and reflect on your project/leadership practice and meet with mentor as a small group or individually to discuss progress periodically.
  • Work with a network of your peers to take action on a sustainability ideas and projects.
  • The estimated time commitment to work on your leadership project or practice is 10 hours per month in addition to gatherings.

We accept online applications at the start of each school year.

University of Minnesota undergraduate students from all campuses and disciplinary backgrounds with a passion for sustainability and desire to expand their leadership experiences are eligible to apply.

Yes! Leadership is a on-going practice. The workshops and leadership activities vary each year so participants won’t feel that the activities are redundant.  Each cohort has its own characteristics and returning IonE Undergrad Leaders are welcome to re-apply.

The program is from October to April each year. Program participants can expect to commit to one cohort collaborative meeting per month and one small group meeting as well as periodic progress meetings with the Cohort Mentor. There will also be a 3-hour Saturday kick-off event in the beginning of the program and a closing retreat. Participants commit to spending approximately 10 hours of time each month either working or reflecting on their leadership project or practice. This can include leadership activities that Leaders are already engaged in, new projects or ideas, or small group meetings.

Leadership practices or projects can be existing efforts that the Leaders are already doing and would like to focus their efforts on through their participation in the program. Many participants work with others in the cohort on a shared interest area, so you don’t need to have a solidified idea or project. Bring your enthusiasm to participate in the program. We also offer pre-identified projects related to the IonE impact goals. Leaders can select one of these projects in their application and will be placed in teams to work on them.

Don’t fret. We encourage you to apply and bring your passion for sustainability and an open mind to join collaborative projects or develop your own idea of leadership practice.

The 2021 kickoff workshop will be held on Saturday, October 9. Monthly cohort meetings take place on Monday evening once each month.

No, applicants admitted to the program are expected to participate in all scheduled program events. Rare exceptions can be made.