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The annual Mingma Norbu Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship provides $2,500 to graduate and professional students to support field study and engaged research in environmental areas at field sites. 

The fellowship is named for the late Mingma Norbu Sherpa, a pioneering conservationist in the Himalaya who served as an official with the World Wildlife Fund. A protégé of Sir Edmund Hillary, Mr. Sherpa believed that “saving nature need not take place at the expense of the people,” and as example of that, he developed an 800-square-mile conservation area surrounding the 28,169 foot tall Kangchenjunga (behind Everest and K2 in height). He and 23 others died in a 2006 helicopter crash just after they left a ceremony giving control of the area to the local residents. Carolina alumni Donald and Karen Wagoner, both Carolina M.B.A.s in the class of 1977, created this fellowship in his memory.

Application Guidelines

Recipients of the Mingma Norbu Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship will be part of the larger Community Engagement Fellowship cohort and participate in cohort sessions. Interested students should apply through the Community Engagement Fellowship application process, indicating within their application the environmental focus of their proposal and their interest in being considered for the Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship.

Applications open in November and close in February. Apply online through the CCPS Application and Nomination Portal.

2022 Sherpa Recipients

Landscape Analysis of Environmental Justice Organizing and Advocacy in North Carolina

Students: Caylin Luebeck and Lindsay Savelli

Area of study: Health Equity

Community partner: Għanja O’Flaherty, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network

Faculty advisor: Courtney Woods

Since the birth of the environmental justice (EJ) movement in 1982s, North Carolina has remained a fertile ground for organizing around environmental health issues. Research shows that community organizers play a crucial role in obtaining knowledge directly from those impacted by a public health issue. With most grassroots organizing, the work is decentralized and not often tracked in a systematic way that would allow organizers to assess, over a long period of time, what practices and strategies were most effective.  Also, across communities, organizers may be duplicating efforts. Conversely, the need for an amplification of effort may remain lesser known. Given the number and range of environmental issues impacting North Carolina’s communities, we believe a systematic analysis of the landscape of EJ work will open opportunities for organizers/organizations to work more effectively, enhance cohesion and partnership across communities and organizations, and build greater potential to drive systems change.


Canary in the Coal Mine: Dogs as sentinels of an emerging Lyme Disease epidemic in Watauga County

Student: Katherine Tyrlik

Area of study: Applied Epidemiology

Community partner: Stephanie van der Weshuizen

Faculty advisor: Ross Boyce

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. In 2019, the CDC reported a 4% increase from 2018 with 34,945 reported cases of Lyme disease. The number of Lyme disease cases are predicted to only increase in the coming years due to factors such as climate change and increased globalization. Over the years, the state of North Carolina has been at the crossroads of the vector-borne illness epidemic. However, Lyme disease remains severely underreported. In the most recent year of Lyme surveillance, Watauga county, in North Carolina, reported no human cases of Lyme disease. This is particularly surprising since the number of Lyme disease cases in domestic dogs have been on the rise in this county. This disparity in cases implies that the human data is not an accurate representation of the Lyme disease problem in Watauga county. There is evidence that there is a correlation between Lyme disease incident cases in dogs and humans. Therefore, using domestic dogs as sentimental animals in Lyme surveillance could act as an early detection method of high-risk areas.