2017 Straubel Leadership Award Winners

Straubel Impact Leader Award

Rebecca Hui

Rebecca Hui, a sustainability innovator and visionary urban planner, is the co-founder of Roots Studio. Roots is a digital marketplace helping to preserve rural cultures and heritage through the power of technology.  An effective social enterprise, it connects rural artisans in developing economies with opportunities in the U.S. consumer market. “Rurban,” another of her impactful initiatives, enables villagers to strengthen their skills and assets and to deploy those in their local economies, without having to migrate to cities.  Rebecca holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate degree in City Planning, City Design and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Supported by National Geographic and a Fulbright Scholarship, she has researched India’s complex urban infrastructure and labor market architecture. Rebecca is also a TATA Fellow and a recipient of a prestigious Echoing Green fellowship. Roots Studio is affiliated with and supported by the Stanford Center for Social Innovation, the Girlboss Foundation, The Unreasonable Institute, StartX, and MIT100K.  Rebecca is a 2017 recipient of the Straubel Impact Leader Award because of her innovative endeavors that elegantly further adoption of technology to decongest cities in developing countries, to empower communities, and to preserve culture.



Danielle is a Management Science & Engineering undergraduate student at Stanford University.  Combining her technical education with a focus on business and global impacts, she is active as a Board Member for the Stanford Consulting Student Group, an intern for the MBA Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a volunteer with Unforgotten Faces, a nonprofit in Ethiopia.  Her long-term goal is to make a lasting and global impact in the corporate social responsibility sector through systematized strategic networking between corporations and non-profits.  Raised, along with her siblings, in low-income housing by a single mother, Danielle has faced and overcome much adversity.  Danielle’s message resonated with us at the Straubel Foundation: she stated “that the higher you rise, the more you owe to society, and I’m motivated by the idea of rising high enough to influence as many people as I can.  I’m motivated by the fact that every accomplishment of mine contradicts where I came from.  I’m motivated by the fact that one day, a poor girl from a bad neighborhood may hear my name and know that I stand for the ability to rise above circumstances.”  Dr Pamela Hinds, Director of the Center on Work, Technology, and Organization in the Department of MS&E is Danielles' Advisor on campus.  Dr. Hinds noted: “I am impressed with Danielle's strength of character, her ability to navigate two very different worlds, and her grace in doing so.  Danielle is an excellent candidate for this award.  She has all the markings of a great leader, including compassion and a desire to make a difference for those less fortunate.”  The Straubel Foundation Awards Committee selected Danielle as a 2017 Straubel Rising Leader because of her strength, thoughtfulness, and vision. We are deeply inspired by her positive leadership potential and look forward to supporting her journey.   



Ashley is a Mechanical Engineering student working on renewable energy projects, including self-cleaning coatings for improving solar panel efficiency and wind turbine installation.  An inspiring academic and community leader in high school, she is now focused on transferring from her community college to a 4-year program to complete her degree without accruing any outstanding debt.  Ashley works full time and her strong work ethic plays a prominent role in her academic success, leadership experience, and future promise.  Her determination has been recognized by many, including Dr. Kenneth Walz, Ashley’s professor and mentor.  Walz is a Chemistry and Engineering Instructor at Madison Area Technical College, Director for the Consortium for Education in Renewable Energy Technology, Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the K-12 Energy Education Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  Dr. Walz noted that Ashley approaches her engineering studies with interest and vigor and has established herself as a leader among her teammates. She promptly volunteers for leadership roles and serves as the point of contact for all client interaction on group projects.  Ashley is now part of her school’s honors program based on her spectacular body of work.  Ashley was chosen as a 2017 Straubel Engineer of the Future because of her unwavering work ethic, undeviating hard work, and bright talent in the field of sustainable energy engineering.



Zachary Koop focuses his current work and research efforts in the solar and energy sustainability fields, seeking technological ways to increase solar module efficiency while also developing off-grid photovoltaic systems for a rural hospital in Liberia and other domestic and international communities in need.  His own narrative began in energy poverty: Zach had to overcome immense socioeconomic adversity to achieve the knowledge and tools necessary to make an impact in the field of energy sustainability.  He received his B.S.E.E., magna cum laude with Distinction, from the University of Minnesota Duluth and his Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  Zach is a Tau Beta Phi National Scholar, a YP4 National Fellow, and a member of IEEE and the American Physical Society.  Zach is a 2017 recipient of the Straubel Engineer of the Future award because of his passionate pursuits: alleviating energy poverty and building resources that communities need to empower themselves.