Where They’re Headed: Matt Willig ’18

This fall, the geology major will be pursuing a master’s of science in sustainable systems at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability.

Geology major Matt Willig ’18 is trading in his red Haverford gear to “go blue” this fall.

“In September, I’ll be starting my first of two years in a master’s of science program on the sustainable systems track at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS),” he says. “At SEAS, as a school within the University, you get the resources and connections of a big institution, but day-to-day you’re still learning in a smaller, close-knit community, not unlike Haverford.”

And as at Haverford, where he was required to complete a senior thesis, Willig’s time at SEAS will culminate in an exhaustive capstone experience: participation in a collaborative initiative known as a “master’s project.”

“Basically, a master’s project is where three students work together with a client of SEAS to solve real-world environmental problems that the client has,” Willig explains. “Getting to translate what you learn in the classroom directly into the workplace really allows you to make the most of your time there.”

Over the course of the two-year program, Willig will develop a sound understanding of “ecological principles, the capabilities of technology, and the mechanisms that reshape social and economic progress,” expertise that he plans to channel into a career in sustainability planning. It’s a professional goal that’s been in the works for a while, since the spring of his junior year at Haverford.

“I was first drawn to studying sustainable design back then, when I was taking two courses, one on acid mine drainage systems and another on the development of petroleum networks, that strongly highlighted the dire environmental and sociocultural consequences of mismanaged non-renewable resource development,” he says. “At SEAS, I intend to study how to design sustainable water systems that ensure public access to clean and safe water, focusing my research on rehabilitating water infrastructures that have been degraded by industrial activity.”

That degradation, as manifest in the water crisis that has ravaged Flint, Mich., in recent years, demands a solution, one that Willig, a soon-to-be sustainable architect, could theoretically provide.

“After all,” he says wryly, “an M.S. in sustainable systems is all learning how to use resources efficiently and find an equitable balance between industrial and community needs.”


“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.


Photo: Sporting a U of M sweatshirt, Matt Willig ’18 stands on the shores of Lake Huron. Photo courtesy of Matt Willig ’18.