Building a better world

Zachary Hayes studied in Wuppertal, Germany.

As a student majoring in Environmental Science and Sustainability, Zachary Hayes knew he wanted to make a positive impact on real-world environments while earning his degree. He found those opportunities at UM-Flint.

As the president of the student-run FUEL (Future Urban and Environmental Leaders), Zachary helped launch and support a wide range of programs for the local community. The group completes regular river cleanups and landscaping enhancements, introduces community-wide zero-waste efforts, and was recognized by ABC 12’s morning news show for its recycling initiatives.

On campus, Zachary has helped organize food-recovery programs that redirect unused food from catered events to organizations that feed community members in need. He has also been a key part in the collaboration between FUEL and the student-run Social Work Club to create an on-campus food pantry run by students, for students who struggle to afford and access quality, nutritious meals. “This will by far be my proudest achievement with FUEL,” Zachary says. “It’s been over a year’s worth of hard work to get this program up and running, and we know it will make a difference to many students.”

When the water crisis hit Flint, Zachary was selected by his geology professor to assist in the mapping and digitization of Flint's historical water infrastructure records. Zachery’s work on this important project lead him to another research opportunity at U-M Ann Arbor, where he studied the effects of aging service lines on drinking water quality. Zachary joined a team of student researches as they went door-to-door, collecting water samples, and returning them to the lab for analysis. He and his fellow researchers plan to publish the study’s results so that other communities may learn about and avoid the risks of aging infrastructure.

Zachary and other members of the student group "Future Urban and Environmental Leaders" (FUEL) clean up near the Flint River.

Most recently, Zachary completed a two-month at the Bergische Universitat Wuppertal in Germany, where he studied the impact of congested road conditions on bicyclists’ stress levels. His research provides city planners with vital information in promoting safer cycling strategies for urban locations with heavy traffic.

“Research at UM-Flint is an awesome opportunity for students, especially those involved in the science fields,” he explains. “To be able to add these experiences to my résumé will help me stand out in the job market.”

Zachary’s commitment to supporting cleaner, safer, more beautiful, and sustainable community environments recently earned him the Newman Civic Fellowship from the state of Michigan. Awarded to civically engaged students attending Michigan universities, the Fellowship provides training, learning experiences, and resources for students who actively purse social change. Zachary plans to put his Fellowship to good use, supporting student projects that make a positive impact.

“UM-Flint does a great job encouraging students to pursue service opportunities that better the community,” said Zachary. “There are so many classes that integrate community engagement so students are exposed to real-world issues and encouraged to find creative solutions. Attending UM-Flint has been the best decision of my life.”