Undergraduate Leaders Program

The 2020-2021 cohort application deadline has passed.

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. New in 2020, we are excited to welcome all undergraduates from any UMN campus to apply.

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, clean drinking water, and building a carbon neutral future. Students may work in teams on projects or individually. Read about project descriptions at z.umn.edu/IonE_Leader_ProjectsStudents may also propose their own projects.


Please contact Fatima Tufail at tufai002@umn.edu.

Due to concerns around COVID-19, the program will be delivered completely online. Students will be able to access cohort meetings and resources from wherever they are.

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

2020-2021 Cohort Timeline

Applications deadline: 9/15/20
Interviews: Late September 2020

Note on meetings: Due to the current situation with COVID-19, cohort meetings are scheduled to be hosted online.

Kick Off Event: 10/10/20 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Fall Meetings:
Monday Oct. 26th, 6-8pm

Monday Nov. 16th, 6-8pm

Monday Dec. 7th, 6-8pm

Spring Meetings:

Monday Jan. 25th, 6-8pm

Monday Feb. 22nd, 6-8pm

Monday Mar. 22nd, 6-8pm

Monday Apr. 19th, 6-8pm

Final Retreat: 5/14/2021, 1-4pm

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 2020 Award: $1,500
Fall 2020:  Applications due September 15 (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 2020 projects will be released August 15

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 4-6 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 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. All programming for 2020-21 will be virtual.

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 2020 kickoff workshop will be held on Saturday, October 10. 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.