Howard University and Drexel University Collaborate on Department of Energy Project for Clean Energy Education

The two institutions have already received an initial installment of $100,000 to develop a cross-university exchange program related to the design of low-carbon environments.
Four people standing in a line

Some of the Howard and Drexel collaborators, from left to right: Carlton Waterhouse, Nea Maloo, Janelle Burke and Mathy Stanislaus. Photo credit: Nea Maloo.

Howard University, a recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s inaugural Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Clean Energy Education Prize Partnerships Track, has partnered with Drexel University on a cross-university exchange program and workshop series related to the design of low-carbon environments.

Originally brought together through pre-existing relationships and collaborations, the Drexel and Howard teams are working on a project called “Howard/Drexel University Partnership to Foster Diverse Leadership in Clean and Just Energy Transition.” Students and faculty from multiple colleges and schools at each university will collaborate through experiential learning activities in fields related to clean energy and buildings.

“This award is a testament to the value of the Howard and Drexel partnership that aims to create more diverse leadership opportunities in the clean energy industry,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “This innovative program will help equip students with the skills needed to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

The Howard-Drexel plans will “help motivate students to pursue careers in clean energy and develop innovative students for today’s and tomorrow’s energy challenges,” said Carlton Waterhouse, JD, PhD, professor of law at Howard University’s School of Law and director of Howard’s Environmental and Climate Justice Center, in a video produced by the collaborators.

In February, Howard was named one of 10 winners of the prize’s first phase and received $100,000 to develop plans with Drexel. The universities will enter a second phase and round of funding in June, with all recipients splitting $4 million to continue developing plans. Next, three of the 10 winners will enter the third phase this coming winter, based on implementation of the programming, and receive an equal part of $1.75 million in funding.

Drexel and Howard faculty members are devising workshops and experiential learning activities for students and educators from multiple colleges and schools from each institution, and industry experts. Both Drexel’s Bachelor of Architecture program and Howard’s Master of Architecture degree with an equitable high-performance energy design concentration have received the DOE’s Zero Energy Design Designation (ZEDD). Additionally, Drexel and Howard law students engaged in community-facing work can collaborate while exchanging case studies and resources; at Drexel, the Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic physically located within the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships can also be used for recruiting students for the workshops and activities.

The project’s intended goals and expected outcomes will all relate to environmental justice, equity work and civil rights work, said Mathy Stanislaus, Esq, vice provost and the inaugural executive director of The Environmental Collaboratory at Drexel.

“I believe that the result of this will be transcending because when I look at the landscape of universities, educating in energy space, no one is centering that on justice and climate justice. It’s a unique opportunity to build out a unique curriculum that I believe all those would look at as a model,” said Stanislaus. “Really, it's benefiting the communities that are most vulnerable from climate impacts and could benefit from clean energy opportunities. And it’s essential to foster students, particularly from HBCUs and students of color, to be able to be a participant in careers in this space.”

Students will gain hands-on experience with building decarbonization, clean energy and smart building resiliency and electrification. There will be two workshops in the fall and one in the first of the new year, with one in-person event held at Drexel and two virtually; each workshop will involve students as well as faculty and keynote speakers. The first virtual workshop will involve about 150–200 students, with the second virtual workshop and third in-person workshop including about 50 students each.

To devise the structure of the workshops and collaboration, Antonio Martinez-Molina, PhD, an associate professor of architectural technology and sustainability in the Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, is collaborating with Nea Maloo, assistant professor of clean energy and architectural building technology in the College of Engineering and Architecture at Howard University.

“It's great to have this partnership with Howard on the curriculum-based scenario because we have strong pedagogical expertise here in clean energy design, and they have curricular strengths on decarbonization. Therefore, both institutions will greatly benefit from this collaboration. With this partnership with students, we can reach both pools of students with a much more robust knowledge and curriculum,” said Martinez-Molina, one of the main Drexel principal investigators on the project.

Drexel and Howard students and faculty will be recruited through the concentrated efforts of Mira Olson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and faculty liaison to The Environmental Collaboratory at Drexel, and Amy Yeboah Quarkume, PhD, associate professor of African American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, graduate director of the Center for Applied Data Science and Analytics and director of student engagement in the Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership. Student participants will be recruited from diverse disciplines and academic programs at both universities.

“It's rare to get opportunities like this to develop programs that sit outside of curricula, across different universities and that work on projects that are not standard in industry. We're able to create a design space for students that hopefully will mimic the workplace of the future, and that they can’t necessarily access through standard curricula,” said Olson, who is one of the main Drexel PIs involved.

The collaboration started when Stanislaus heard about the opportunity after The Environmental Collaboratory received a Department of Energy grant to address energy justice in North Philly and reached out to Waterhouse; the two had served as assistant administrators for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Land & Emergency Management for the Obama Administration (Stanislaus) and the Biden Administration (Waterhouse). Stanislaus as well as Martinez-Molina had previous collaborations with faculty at Howard as well. For example, Martinez had served on the board of the national Building Technology Educators’ Society when Maloo had served as president of the national organization. 

At Drexel, this project directly relates to the University’s Areas of Excellence & Opportunity (AEOs) in Sustainability and Climate Resilience and Urban Futures, which are forward-thinking, transdisciplinary clusters related to Drexel programs that will create opportunities internal and external collaboration.

Hugh Johnson, senior director for research strategy and development in The Environmental Collaboratory, is also involved in this effort at Drexel. Howard collaborators also include Janelle Burke, PhD, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Earth, Environment and Equity in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program.