Congrats to the ’21-’22 Geodesign Fellows

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The MWD Meymouth Treatment Plant is one of the largest water treatment facilities in the U.S. Photo courtesy of the MWD.

The Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has announced that Eileen Chen, Chioma Okonkwo and Eytan Stanton have been selected as the SSI 2021-2022 Geodesign Fellows.

The 2021-2022 Geodesign Fellows Project

As participants in the SSI Geodesign Fellows Program, Chen, Okonkwo and Stanton will work together in the Fall 2021, Spring 2022, and Summer 2022 semesters as a multi-disciplinary honors team to help the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) develop an Energy Sustainability Hub as part of the MWD’s implementation of its Energy Sustainability Plan.

The MWD is a regional wholesaler providing a reliable supply of high-quality water to its 26-member public agencies. It collectively serves nearly 19 million residents in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties. The MWD’s mission is to provide its service area with an adequate and reliable supply of high-quality water to meet present and future needs in environmentally and economically responsible ways. The conveyance, treatment and distribution of water is an energy-intensive and energy-dependent process. As such, the MWD seeks to control operational costs and conserve valuable natural resources.

In 2020 the MWD developed and published a new Energy Sustainability Plan (ESP) to formulate actions and strategies that best position MWD to adapt to future wholesale and retail energy market changes and their impact on its operations. The ESP’s purpose is to foster informed energy management decisions by MWD through the development of a framework of sustainable actions focused on energy cost containment, reliability, affordability conservation and adaptation—now and into the future.

Under the direction of Dr. John P. Wilson, SSI founding director and professor, this year’s fellows will develop an ArcGIS Hub application. This platform will include a story map as an interactive, visual tool to communicate and share MWD’s ESP goals, objectives and implementation roadmap.  The Energy Sustainability Hub design will have to capacity to add additional functionalities over time, such as roadmap progress status and real-time energy tracking dashboards and analytics.

Introducing the 2021-2022 Geodesign Fellows

Eileen Chen, from Hefei, Anhui province, China, is a junior. She has double majors in the B.A. in Journalism and B.S. in Environmental Studies programs, with a minor in GIS and Sustainability Science. She has been designated as a USC Renaissance Scholar and a 2019-2020 Innovation Scholar with the USC Ahmanson Lab, researching global water conflicts. Eileen has been an environmental policy intern with the China Clean Air Policy Partnership in Beijing, China, and a product development intern with Stylebot Inc. in Los Angeles. She also is a data reporter for Crosstown and producer for JOVRNALISM, an award-winning immersive journalism initiative.

A junior in the B.S. in Civil Engineering, Building Science program, Chioma is from Temecula, California. She is proficient in AutoCAD and design development and sees engineering skills as a vital way to achieve effective and efficient systems in the built environment to improve the quality of life. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. A sprinter on the USC women’s track and field team, Chioma competes in the 400m, 200m and 4x400m races.


Eytan has been a leader in food, environmental and social justice initiatives. As a member of the board of advisors of the James Baldwin Outdoor Learning Center (JBOLC) in Bronx, New York, Stanton organized the first farmers market in Kingsbridge, New York, and coordinated food drives. He also has worked in Israel on environmental issues and in permaculture design and ecological systems construction. He is a sophomore in the B.S. in GeoDesign program.


The Geodesign Fellows Program

Wilson said, “On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Spatial Sciences Institute, we welcome Eileen, Chioma and Eytan to the Geodesign Fellows program. They are to be congratulated that the SSI leadership committee selected them for this honor through a competitive application process. Every year, we have to make tough decisions to select a team out of a field of qualified applicants. Nevertheless, we were impressed that as individuals and as a team, they will bring together their varied backgrounds and skill sets to work in complementary ways. Clearly, they share a passion for improving our planet’s climate resiliency.”

The Priority on Sustainability

Ha Nguyen leads the initiative to position MWD as a leader in energy sustainability. She will be a key liaison between the MWD and the Geodesign Fellows team. Nguyen said, “The work of the Geodesign Fellows will support the Metropolitan Water District in making informed decisions as it undertakes actions to contain energy costs, improve system reliability and affordability, and conserve resources.”

“It was thrilling to hear Ms. Nguyen introduce this proposed effort of environmental urban transformation,” said Stanton. “I’m so excited to contribute my passion for multidisciplinary, collaborative and environmental change-making to this project,” he added. Okonkwo also looks forward to making a difference as a Geodesign Fellow: “Thank you so much for this opportunity to work with a special team,” she said.

Chen envisions contributing to a radical but feasible revamp of an energy infrastructure. “I would like to develop humanistic solutions powered by technology and environmental knowledge to boldly envision and empower sustainable cities with climate resilience,” she said.

Geodesign Fellows ProgramThe 2019-2020 Geodesign Fellows proposed traffic mitigation techniques to improve health in LA.

Wilson added, “The inaugural Geodesign Fellows worked to improve air quality and livability in densely-populated areas of Los Angeles near high-traffic areas through implementation of transit malls, people-first streets and ‘superblocks,’ an urban design concept that reduces vehicular traffic in favor of increased pedestrian access, open space and streetscape amenities. The second cohort of Geodesign Fellows is bringing geodesign innovations to the development of housing and services for the homeless. The opportunity to work on energy sustainability systems is a great opportunity for the third cohort of Geodesign Fellows.”

To learn more about the SSI Geodesign Program, visit or contact Susan Kamei, SSI managing director, at

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