Robert and Judy Marans/Kan and Lillian Chen Dissertation Award in Sustainability and Survey Methodology

The Robert and Judith Marans/Kan and Lillian Chen Dissertation Award in Sustainability and Survey Research (Marans/Chen Award) will support a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who is completing a dissertation dealing with human aspects of environmental sustainability. The Marans/Chen Award fund is intended to support the collection and analysis of survey data.


Bob, Judy, Lillian, and Kan (c. 1990)

The Marans/Chen Dissertation Award is based on the belief that the answers to complex sustainability challenges can only be developed through technology solutions that incorporate an understanding of human behavior. The Award linking the Graham Sustainability Institute (Graham) and the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is one way to be sure that interdisciplinary problem solving occurs.

The purpose of this award is to provide support for a doctoral candidate from any unit at the University of Michigan who intends to conduct a survey on environmental sustainability problem that is central to their dissertation. The Award will support a student who demonstrates a strong commitment to fostering sustainability using survey research methods in combination with creativity and other disciplinary specific technical skills.

Application Process

The Marans/Chen Dissertation Award will provide funding for relevant data collection and training. Please see the Fellowships & Awards Homepage for award amounts and application deadlines, updated at the beginning of each calendar year. The application for the Marans/Chen Award can be accessed here:
The application includes:

  1. Submit a three-page description of the proposed activity that includes:
    • A detailed description of the problem related to sustainability that is being studied, with sufficient details about the theory, hypotheses, and methods
    • A justification for the need for collecting data using surveys
    • A detailed description of the approach for analyzing the data
    • A description of the nature of the questions, data collection methods, sampling, etc.
    • Implications of the findings for policy
    • A one-page budget with description of the proposed uses of the funding and how these uses will assist in meeting the project goals
  2. A letter of nomination from your advisor, department chair, dissertation advisor or committee member stating the strengths of the application and vouchsafing the candidate’s eligibility as well as supporting the likelihood of completing the proposed research.
  3. Curriculum Vitae

As part of the application, there is also a form with several questions about the project to be supported, including project, methodology, timeline, deliverables, etc. Answers to these are expected to be brief, around 3 sentences.

If you have any questions or concerns about the award process, please email

Additional Expectations:

  • At one year mark, you will be asked to share an update about the status of your research.
  • Acknowledge ISR and this award’s support in publications and presentations.


Robert W. Marans is a research professor at the Institute for Social Research Survey Research Center and of professor emeritus of architecture and urban planning in U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Since the 1970s, Dr. Marans has conducted evaluative studies and research dealing with various aspects of communities, neighborhoods, housing, and parks and recreation and recreational facilities. His current research considers the impact of the built and natural environments on quality of life, the role of a neighborhood in the health of Detroit residents, and issues of sustainability and energy conservation in institutional settings.

Prior to his retirement, Kan Chen was a professor of electrical engineering in U-M’s College of Engineering and computer science and is known for his efforts to apply systems engineering principles to societal problems. Both Chen and Marans served consecutively, as directors of the University-wide interdisciplinary doctoral program in urban, technological and environmental planning between 1980 and 1992.

Marans/Chen Fellows

Aubrey Langeland – Informal Electronic Waste Recycling
Sooji Kim – Sustainability in Higher Education
James Erbaugh – Logging and conservation: Two sides of the same coin
Sarah Mills – Examining wind turbines as a farmland preservation tool
Alexandra Cohen – Sustainability Challenges, Judgments, and Decision Support

To support this fund and make future awards possible, please visit our Next Generation Giving Page.