Architecture Professor Shares Environmental Stewardship Recognition

The OU Environmental Concerns Committee (ECC) recently named the Environmental Sustainability Working Group (ESWG), co-led by led by Dr. Randy Peppler (above left, OU Dept. of Geography & Environmental Sustainability) and Dr. Angela Person (above right, OU Architecture) the 2021 recipients of the ECC’s Environmental Stewardship recognition for Student Groups.

Since the summer of 2017, the Environmental Sustainability Working Group has been awarded over $20,000 in funding to provide opportunities for 16 undergraduate students from across campus to carry out mentored research relating to environmental stewardship. Current members of the group include Sonia Merkel, Julie Bahr, Gabrielle Bittner, Noah Brown, Kathlyn Dannewald, Brooke Foster and Attie Marshall.

Under the direction of Peppler and Person, the ESWG’s student-led research on climate change risk perception, communication and organizational responses has been presented at national and regional conferences, including the Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference (DOPE), American Association of Geographers’ (AAG) annual meeting, American Meteorological Society (AMS) annual meeting, and others.

This interdisciplinary research has also begun moving into the publication pipeline, with the recent publication of “Climate Change Communication” ( in Social Science Quarterly, with ESWG student Sonia Merkel as lead author, and “Community Education and Perceptions of Water Reuse” published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (, with ESWG student Madeline Wade as lead author. Recently, their paper “Tornado Climatology and Risk Perception in Central Oklahoma,” led by ESWG alumna Victoria Johnson, was accepted by Weather, Climate and Society. A fourth paper, “Practical Rural Recycling: Intersections of Municipalities, Providers, and Residents,” (Sarah Melcher) was recently submitted to the Journal of Rural Studies, with seven additional student-led papers being prepared.

The Environmental Sustainability Working Group has helped student researchers chart career paths in environmental stewardship and emerge as leaders early in their research careers. A testament to this impact, ESWG student researchers have been honored with a number of external awards relating to this work, including a Udall Scholar Award, which recognizes sophomore or junior college students committed to careers related to the environment, a Solid Waste Association of North America-Oklahoma Scholarship, an AMS Best Student Presenter honorable mention, the Southwest AAG Best Student Poster Award, the DOPE Best Student Poster Award, the OU Undergraduate Research Day Grand Prize, and the OU Environmental Concerns Committee’s Environmental Stewardship award.

In April 2021, an ESWG researcher shared her research on Norman residents’ perceptions of wastewater recycling to City of Norman Mayor Breea Clark, as well as the Utilities Manager, and other key city personnel to help inform city water recycling policy.

Learn more about the ESWG: