McCourt Student Matt Van Deren’s Research Wins First Place in Sustainability Competition

April 2017 -- Second-year McCourt student Matt Van Deren (MPP) has returned to the Hilltop from Augusta, Maine, having been awarded first place for the Graduate Student Poster Competition at the 2017 Maine Sustainability & Water Conference.

Matt distilled his thesis, which creates a model that estimates the economic impact of combined sewer overflows throughout the U.S., onto a research poster that examined the problem as it relates specifically to Maine – namely, the economic impact of combined sewer overflows on local housing markets.

A committee of water and sustainability  experts awarded  Matt’s poster first place  for its analytic rigor and conclusions, which, among other things, confirmed a link between changes in water quality and residential property values; predicted a significant economic impact from hypothetical increases in combined sewer discharge; and provided additional evidence that cities should expand their efforts to reduce sewer overflows.  

Upon invitation to the Conference, Matt applied for and received stipends from the McCourt School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to support his travel.

The Conference provided an invaluable opportunity for Matt to interface with water researchers, promote his work, learn from others, and drive informed policy change on an issue with which hundred of cities are grappling.

Former Senator George Mitchell established the Maine Sustainability & Water Conference nearly 25 years ago as a forum for sustainability experts to share innovative solutions to pressing challenges in the energy, environmental, and urban planning fields.

Matt’s study broke new ground among water researchers by using overflow volume from combined sewer systems as the variable of interest. Having solicited feedback from subject matter experts at the Conference, he now plans to hone his seminal work for submission to peer review journals.

Dr. Andreas Kern, Assistant Teaching Professor at McCourt, has served as an advisor to Matt throughout his year’s worth of independent research and analysis.