Derek H. Kanwischer

I am a seasoned sustainability professional with ten years of project management and community organizing experience that I have employed in a variety of settings including various non-profits, consulting firms, and universities in the West and Upper Midwest. 


Western Michigan University


Project Manager and Coordinator of Sustainability Projects
September 2013 – Present

Member of the leadership team for Office for Sustainability. Manage projects and mentor student employees, interns, and researchers for nationally recognized university sustainability program. Lead development and management of Office’s Sustainability Studio and the Gibbs Farm, a two-acre living-learning permaculture demonstration site. Administer annual Student Sustainability Grant of $75,000 to support student research, initiatives, and events to improve the culture of sustainability at WMU. Advise and mentor student organizations, senior projects, and honors’ theses. Assist the Executive Director with research, report writing, grant development, and program evaluation.

  • Oversees and directs the daily operations of the Office for Sustainability related to student interns and student workers.
  • Develops and manages programs for mentoring interns, researchers, and student workers.
  • Supervises and trains employees including the hiring and firing of employees while forecasting and keeping budgets for all projects and programs. Advises and mentors student organizations, senior projects, and honors’ theses.
  • Leads development and management of Office’s Sustainability Studio, manages the 2-acre Gibbs residential living, learning permaculture development plan and on-site programming.
  • Leads best-practice research, develops, pilots, prototypes, and implements new initiatives.
  • Administers and directs the Student Sustainability Grant Program (SSG) that offers up to $75,000 per year with two grant periods per academic year.
  • Manages project pages on Office for Sustainability webpage and assists the Executive Director with research, report writing, grant development, and evaluation of programs.

University of Montana


ASUM Theme Home Coordinator | February – July 2013

Advised and led an effort funded by the Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) to develop a theme housing program utilizing university owned rental homes. Developed program specifics and worked closely with the university executive offices to ensure program success and sustainability.  Created website, budgets, application process, earned media, and coordinated the administrative logistics.

Founder and Director, UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology (UM FLAT)August 2007 – July 2010

Conceived and implemented an on-campus living-learning residential program to promote sustainable living and urban agriculture at the University of Montana and in the Missoula community. Attracted national and local media attention and secured financial and material donations from the University and more than 30 local businesses valued over $200,000. This project was the capstone of my graduate career and resulted in the creation of a course and programming that is an ongoing fixture of the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies department.

Co-Instructor, Environmental Studies Program | September 2009 – May 2010
EVST204: Sustainable Technology Applications was a result of my graduate work on the UM FLAT project and addressed the practical and technical features of sustainable living and how that is manifested in the built environment. Responsibilities included course design, delivery, workshops, speakers, assignments, and evaluations.

Additional Leadership Experience

Executive Director, MontPIRG | August 2012 – January 2013
Served as the single professional employee of a student-funded organization that seeks to give students at the University of Montana opportunities to gain citizenship skills through hands-on organizing and campaign work. During a period of transition for the organization, I hired and mentored 8+ student employees and worked with the Board of Directors to manage budgets and overarching goals for the 2012 political campaign season.


Board of Directors, Homeword| February 2011 – July 2013
Served this organization dedicated to providing efficient and sustainable housing through financing strategies and education programs (financial literary and homebuyer bootcamp) that enable low income individuals and families to develop the means and agency to own their own home at a reasonable cost.


Campaign Organizer, M+R Strategic Services | April 2012 – August 2012
Served as the Missoula Organizer for a Montana state-wide ballot Initiative 166 stating that “Corporations are not People and Money is not Free Speech.” We were able to successfully qualify this initiative for the November election and the ballot initiative passed with 75% of the vote. This position provided me with the connections and campaign experience to pursue my next position as an interim Executive Director.


M.S. Environmental Studies

2010 | University of Montana, Missoula MT

Awards/Honors: Presidential Leadership Award, 2010 SBS Sustainability Advocate of the Year, Graduate Assistantship, Presidential and Department funding.

Permaculture Design Certificate

2010 | University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA

72-hour intensive certificate, Sirius Community: Living Routes.

B.S. Earth Sciences, Physical and Human Geography

2003 | Montana State University, Bozeman MT

Awards/Honors: Undergraduate Scholars Program Award; Dean’s List.

Project Management Certificate

Expected 2017 | University of California, Irvine

Online study in preparation to pass the Project Management Exam from the Project Management Institute (PMI).


For more information about my work, browse the these featured projects where you can view related reports, videos, and publications.

Publications and presentations
  • The Gibbs Farm: A Permaculture Learning Lab, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, October 2015.
  • Building Transition Communities Alternative Energy Resource Organization workshop, April, 2012.
  • Building a Transition Community, NW Permaculture Convergence, November 2012.
  • Reclaiming Human Health by Restoring the Planet, Pats Turning the Tide Conference, March 2012.
  • Building Effective Environmental Organizations, Rocky Mountain Power-shift Conference, February 2012.
  • Building a Model for Sustainability, Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, Miami FL, April 2010.
  • The Living Demonstration: The Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology”, Rocky Mountain Sustainability Summit, Boulder CO, February 2009.
  • Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum,” UM Green Thread Workshop, May 2009.
  • Creating a Culture for Sustainability, UM Graduate Student and Faculty Research Conference, April 2009.
  • “Making Biodiesel: Brew Your Own Biofuel,” Mother Earth News, June 2008
  • “Oilseeds for the Future: Food, Fuel, and the Future,” Presentation and publication for the National Center for Appropriate Technology, September 2008.