• “As the director of Chiwara Permaculture Research & Education, and founding advisor to the UM Permaculture Design Team, I have been the sponsor and lead facilitator for Permaculture research and education at UM. My vision for Permaculture at UM entails interdisciplinary research and education programming, with permaculture ultimately finding a “home” within a specific University department. In my experience, permaculture combines ecology, systems thinking, engineering, design and education to create a new pedagogy, based on bio mimicry. UM is in a position to not only offer permaculture courses, field research, and internships to students hungry for this new curriculum, but lead the world in permaculture based systems thinking and innovation.”

Nathan Ayers Chiwara Permaculture Research & Education L3C

  • “My name is Neha Shah.  I am an ecological and social justice advocate, urban gardener and fifth grade teacher at King Elementary School in the Ann Arbor Public School District. Last year, I spearheaded the King Learning Garden, which is a 5,000 square foot school garden on campus.  Over the years, I have developed many community partnerships, and one of those partnerships include the University of Michigan Permaculture Design Team.  Our partnership allows us to create permaculture awareness with students and families in elementary school culture.  Having an permaculture site in the garden shows students that living sustainably is achievable and exciting.  I believe in educating and empowering students with knowledge about the local and sustainable food systems, community interconnection and collaboration, place-based education and eco-activism.”

Neha Shah Fifth Grade Teacher at King School shahn@aaps.k12.mi.us

  • “I am a Professor in the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies and in the Residential College (RC), of which I currently serve as Director. I am also a historian who specializes in intellectual and political history, especially in the context of US social movements. In addition I am a member of the Social Theory & Practice program at the RC. It’s in the latter capacity that I first met Madeline, who is a STP major. I don’t actually know a whole lot about permaculture, but have been very happy to be schooled in the trade and philosophy by Madeline. I’ve come to understand that permaculture is a fascinating social and political movement in its own right with dimensions at once international, national, and local. When she first came to me with the idea of creating a garden at the East Quad, which was then still undergoing renovation, I was intrigued mostly on the local level. In the period from our first conversation to the various stages of planning and — soon, we hope — implementation I have benefitted from Madeline’s insights, passion, and dedication to creating campus gardens that reflect the spaces that surround them. Devising a garden quirky, dynamic, artistic and creative enough to fully reflect and amplify the educational mission of the RC has been a deeply fulling experience. We hope to break ground on the project this Spring and to have the garden in full swing by Fall 2014!”

Angela D. Dillard Director & Professor  in The Residential College at the University of Michigan

  • “As a member of the Housing Senior Leadership Team, working with Madeline helped to confirm 2 important things for me and my role with her thesis. 1) Our mutual belief that we must do a better job as an institution in finding ways to have the university be a learning laboratory for students and find ways to make the classroom experience come alive by using the campus environment to reinforce classroom learning and finding ways to take what are co-curricular passions and find ways to take courses that are mutually reinforcing… and 2) With her teaching me about permaculture allowed me to see ways where Housing could leverage an existing project in the newly renovated East quad to develop a garden with these principles being implemented as we design and develop something in this courtyard where we could begin to educate every resident who visits East Quad as new student orientation happens every summer there. I wish her the best for the future and thank her for her wonderful efforts in moving a campus culture!”

“The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn and create new things (mastery), and to do better by ourselves and our world (purpose).”;”Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement”  Daniel Pink www.danpink.com

“Many of the familiar principles of Quality Management amount to an elaboration of this simple truth: an innovative, healthy organization requires that we work WITH people rather than do things TO them.” Alfie Kohn www.alfiekohn.org

Greg Merritt, PhD | Sr. Associate Director University Housing | University of Michigan  734.764.8515 | housing.umich.edu

  • “I am a Residential College Lecturer IV in Literature, and teach Growing Up Near the Great Lakes: Reading and Writing Landscapes of Childhood; Earth-Centered Children in the Virtual Age; and Seeding the Future in Children’s Literature. These courses and my books (Secret Spaces of Childhood; Under Fire: Childhood in the Shadow of War; Where Do the Children Play?: A Study Guide to the Film; Children’s Literature and Violence; and A Place for Play) investigate childhood trauma and recovery, place-making, and universal access to natural resources. Studying conceptions of childhood in a changing global order, my courses focus on how children and their cultures can germinate a future to sustain living things. Stewardship of the earth must be nourished from infancy through the five senses, safe parks, foot/bike travel, and inter-species relations. Outreach for award-winning PBS documentary Where Do the Children Play? challenge educational practices such as the demise of recess, arts, and gardening. My books offer practical strategies to rebuild school, neighborhood, and urban communities through experiential learning and sustainability initiatives. Soundscapes of Childhood, an exhibition of her students’ audiowalks, moves from Hatcher Library to C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital in 2014. I am also helping develop a U-M Water Minor.”

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs

Dr. Elizabeth Goodenough

  • “Permaculture just makes sense to me. I’ve always believed that living sustainably is both important and possible, but before permaculture I didn’t see how it was possible. While many other environmental classes and movements, even, focus on what we’re doing wrong in the world on a grand scale, permaculture focuses on what we can do right on a small, personal, tangible, understandable, and doable scale. It shows us how we personally can live sustainably in a simple way: by understanding the world around us. To me, permaculture is like the first step towards a truly sustainable world. But it’s a step few people will realize they can take unless education systems, like the University of Michigan, start teaching permaculture as a path toward sustainability. To me, permaculture education just means teaching students in the context of the world that they live in. It means showing students nature’s realities and how they can live in the same, waste-less, sustainable way that nature does. It just makes so much sense.”

Lindsey Scullen Comparative Literature Major Class of 2017

  • “As part of my master’s degree in conservation ecology, I helped to develop the Sustainable Food Program and Campus Farm.  One of the organizations that was started while the Sustainable Food Program was being developed was the Permaculture Design Team, which has become a thriving organization within the Sustainable Food Program.  It is fantastic that permaculture principles have been incorporated into the Campus Farm.  I also helped support permaculture in action at the University of Michigan as the graduate student instructor for a course in which a team of students explored permaculture possibilities at UM.  I’m excited to see permaculture continue to grow into the future at the University.”

Lindsey MacDonald M.S. School of Natural Resources and Environment University of Michigan

  • “As a founding member of the UM Campus Farm and a Program Manager for the UM Sustainable Food Program, I agreed to act as an advisor for a student permaculture research project during the fall semester of 2012. I was excited about the prospect, and as preparation, started reading further into permaculture over the preceding summer. It was all fascinating to me. Those books I read, and later my training with Chiwara Permaculture and work with the students made more sense to me than most other things I’ve learned. The pieces fit together in such a seamless way that I felt like talking about permaculture with everyone I met on the street. Later, I ended up writing my final essay for a different class on the science behind permaculture. I’m so grateful to that project for introducing me to this complex and inspiring topic.”

Elizabeth E. Dengate SNRE Class of 2013

  • “Permaculture has taught me to think about the bigger picture. It has taught me about looking at the potential that is around you; whether it is a rock that can make a wall stronger or people that can be the agents of sustainable change, there is potential in the resources around us. Not just potential for us to use and harvest, but also potential to create and renew. With the little permaculture training I have had, I feel that I am more equipped to make a difference in the world.”

Michelle Busch Class of 2014

  • “Permaculture unites all of the concepts surrounding sustainability that I learned through my environment major and relates these ideas to other facets of my life. I worked on the permaculture startup project through Env 391 and we met with Nate early on in the semester. I told him that I was interested in medicine as a career, but I knew that it was only loosely related, if at all, to the work we were about to do for the satellite gardens. His response had a major effect on me: he assured me that these seemingly distinct fields are certainly connected, and referred me to doctors he knew who had sustainable principles at the forefront of their medical practice. The permaculture principles have since become guidelines for how I live my daily life. The work that Ms. Dunn has done is inspiring and gives me hope for the future of sustainability at Michigan.”

Please see this letter to the editor written by Lexi Targan in the Fall 2012 semester of ENVIRON 391.

Lexi Targan,Class of 2013

  • “My experience with permaculture has encouraged me to be a whole-systems thinker. I’ve learned to think beyond the basics, to challenge contemporary ideology, and to explore and engage with practical solutions. I view permaculture as a sincere and long-sought-after answer to many of the challenges we face today. Permaculture thinking is the most conscious kind of thinking, genuinely considering multiple facets of life and operation. Its detailed observation of nature, responsiveness to change, and implementation of functional designs and systems makes permaculture recognizably distinct. As a world class institution, the University of Michigan should have a vested interest in such a comprehensive style of thought and practice.”

Rebekah Kreckman Class of 2015

  • “The class Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture has taught me about another lifestyle that is beneficial to the planet and ourselves.​ It would be amazing for the world if we could incorporate a long-standing permaculture program into the U-M experience and add it to the Michigan Difference. It would definitely impact the future in a positive way and help us all better understand how the world works to support itself and in turn, incorporate that into our own lifestyles!”

Julie Nguyen Class of 2017


  • “When I enrolled in Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture, I had never even heard the word “permaculture” before. I came in with an environmental science course under my belt, and in interest in sustainability, but little more. The permaculture class taught me, in very general terms, that the environmental movement should not be about sustaining the earth at the level it is now, but improving it, by using design and technology to create a more regenerative society. Though I still don’t understand it fully, learning about permaculture has altered my thought process, and while I think of it as mostly an environmental/agriculture idea, I truly understand its applications to other fields, and find myself using phrases like “stacking functions” and “creating a disturbance” in my daily life. I don’t quite know how I see permaculture influencing the university over the next several years, but I plan on staying informed and involved with its progression. I think all university students would benefit from learning about permaculture, and I hope to see a permanent permaculture class while I’m still here.”

Kaitlyn Benedek Class of 2017

  • “I took a permaculture mini-course through the UM Honors Program, and though it only met once a week, it was my favorite course of the semester!  I’ve always been interested in the environment and sustainability, but – especially as I begin to live on my own for the first time and define my values and lifestyle – I was unsure of how to best help the planet.  My experience with the permaculture course was very helpful in shaping these views.  We weren’t just lectured at, but rather got to explore in a very hands-on way.  We observed permaculture design and identified plants in the Arboretum, visited a permaculture design lab and the campus farm, and had discussions with permaculture entrepreneurs.  “Homework” involved visiting the local farmers market and food co-op and submitting op-ed pieces to national publications.   I was sad to see the class end, but I’ve found that what I’ve learned continues to impact my daily life.  I’ve made small but important changes, like not taking paper towels in public restrooms, cutting my shower time in half, joining the university’s Food Recovery Network (which recovers and donates the thousands of pounds of uneaten food from the dining halls!).  Even more importantly, I’ve become more conscientious of the impact my decisions have on my community and my planet.”

Kelly Hall Class of 2017