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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.

2023 Sherpa Recipients

“Where did all the water come from?”: Causes and consequences of extreme flooding in Alberta, Canada

Sherpa Community Engagement Fellowship

Student: Julianne Davis

Area of study: Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences

Community partner: Barbara Grandjambe and Robert Grandjambe, Mikisew Cree First Nation

Faculty advisor: Tamlin Pavelsky

Spring flooding is an annual occurrence in Ft. Chipewyan, Canada, as snow melt and ice jams raise water levels. However, 2020 was different: the spring floodwaters were higher and did not recede with summer. This project, initiated by questions from residents of Ft. Chipewyan, seeks to discover what made the 2020 flood so damaging. In partnership with members of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, we are using community descriptions of the flood and damages as well as publicly available data from satellites, river flow monitoring stations and climate reanalysis models to identify and understand the unique characteristics of this extreme event. We will compare the 2020 flood against an earlier large flood in 1997, described by our community partners as the most similar flood in memory. By comparing environmental data over time and space, our goal is to distinguish local- and watershed-scale flood contributions with the hope of identifying key hydrological and climatological factors that might predict extreme flood events. As we interpret these data and findings with residents of Ft. Chipewyan, we will also assess how the data fit with local knowledge and identify effective ways to share what we learn to ensure the information is available, relevant, and helpful to the community.

Environmental health education and well water quality testing for youth in Warren County

Student: Andromede Uwase

Area of study: Master in Public Health, Environmental Health Concentration

Community partner: Living and Learning Youth Center in Warren County

Faculty advisors: Amanda Northcross and Mike Fisher

The primary goal of this project is to provide environmental health education on well water quality to youth in Warren County. I am a part of the ECUIPP Lab at UNC in the environmental science and engineering department. The lab has been working to develop low-cost water quality testing toolkits and resources to provide more access to communities in North Carolina and private wells.  For the fellowship projects, I will work with our community partners and ECUIPP lab team to create an innovative learning module and activities to introduce youth in warren county to water quality testing and the environmental health education field during the summer camp. After the summer camp, I will evaluate the materials and experience working on this innovative program to design materials that can be used annually and applicable to other communities to introduce to youth water quality basic education, testing, careers in environmental health, and environmental health in general. With this innovative program, we want to introduce to youth in Warren County citizen science tools, advocacy, environmental justice, and how they can help their communities to improve well water quality.  We hope to publicly share the evaluation materials of this program so that other communities can use it as a reference to promote environmental health education to youth.